How To Treat Cystic Acne And Get Clear Skin

There’s no denying it: acne sucks. It affects everyone, from your standard pimply teens to celebrities. And since acne is so prevalent, it’s almost impossible to sift through the hundreds of thousands of articles on the best acne cures, treating your acne, and the best acne products.

Before slathering every OTC product you can get your hands on all over your face, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of acne. There are three main types of acne: garden-variety pimples (for example, whiteheads); hormonal acne (typically seen in women throughout the course of their menstrual cycle); and cystic acne (deep, under-the-skin pimples). Of all of these types of acne, cystic acne can be the most infuriating, as it can pop up for no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Fortunately, there are ways to treat cystic acne and clear up your skin once and for all. 


  • Cystic Acne Is A Combination Of Bacteria, Genetics, And Unknown Factors


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    Run-of-the-mill acne usually occurs as a whitehead here or there, or exists as annoying blackheads on your nose. Cystic acne exists deep under the skin and can cause painful, red bumps that don't exactly come to a head. Even though there aren't whiteheads on cystic acne, there can still be bacteria and puss brewing underneath the surface of the skin, causing even more inflammation and irritation. 

    While no one knows the exact cause of cystic acne, dermatologists believe it is a mix of genetics, bacteria on the surface of the skin, and hormones called androgens, which increase during your teenage years. Both men and women experience cystic acne, and women who suffer from it tend to experience the most flare-ups during their periods. These under-the-skin bumps pop up on the jawline, chest, upper back, and sometimes upper arms and shoulders as well. 

    Cystic acne usually affects people in their teens and early 20s, and men are more likely to develop bacterial cystic acne. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalances, which many women experience during the course of their menstrual cycle. If your acne is hormonal in nature, you'll likely see under-the-skin bumps pop up along your jawline and chin. 

  • Keep Cystic Acne Swelling Down With Ice


    One of the worst things about cystic acne is the swelling it causes, which can be painful and hard to cover. Luckily, there is a pretty easy way to counteract this swelling: ice. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner instructs, "Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and hold it against the bump to reduce redness and bring down the swelling a bit."

    After 10 minutes, remove the ice and take a 10-minute break. Then, begin the 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off cycle all over again. The ice cold temperature will help constrict blood vessels and take the cystic swelling down like that.

  • Reduce Redness With Hydrocortisone

    Reduce Redness With Hydrocortisone
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    One of the worst parts about cystic acne is how red and inflamed the infected skin becomes. To reduce any irritation or inflammation, grab a hydrocortisone cream. The low-dose of steroids will simultaneously shrink zits and reduce redness, and the longer you leave it on, the harder it will work for you. Cortizone 10 is a favorite on skincare and makeup forums.

    It is important to note that while hydrocortisone treatments can work wonders, they are not a permanent fix. Dermatologist Cynthia Bailey warns that there are dangers of long-term topical cortisone use, like the thinning of skin, cornea damage, and steroid addiction. Cortisone treatments should be used on an emergency-basis only, like before your big presentation at work or a first date.

  • Fight Excess Oil With Salicylic Acid

    Fight Excess Oil With Salicylic Acid
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    Using salicylic acid is an important component of fighting cystic acne, as it whisks away excess oils that can trap bacteria deep in your skin. Opt for a face wash with salicylic acid in it, such as Philosophy's Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Cleanser

  • Kill Bacteria With Benzoyl Peroxide

    Kill Bacteria With Benzoyl Peroxide
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    Cystic acne is partly a result of bacteria getting trapped underneath the skin. Therefore, the most effective way to get rid of cystic acne is to kill the bacteria. Look for products with benzoyl peroxide, like Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Vanishing Treatment Cream, to target and kill bacteria. Be careful, though - a little goes a long way! 

  • Layer Your Acne-Fighting Products Accordingly


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    Sometimes cystic acne can be so frustrating that you feel like you have to wage war on your skin with every product possible. While a small arsenal of products is recommended to fighting cystic acne, it is important to layer them in the order that ensures your skin is getting all of the acne-fighting benefits. 

    Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner recommends the following regimen: "Treat painful undergrounders with this order of medications: a hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation, a 2 percent salicylic acid product to dry out excess oil, and then benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria."