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  5. What Is Cystic Acne And How Do You Treat It?

Struggling with those large, red and painful breakouts on your skin? Cystic acne, which is the most severe form of acne, must be dealt with seriously. The inflammatory condition requires medical intervention.

Read on to know everything about their development, causes, symptoms and treatment options.

1. How Does Cystic Acne Develop?

Our skin consists of sebaceous glands, which produce sebum (natural oil). When excess sebum is produced, it leads to clogged pores. This creates an environment for bacteria (P. acnes) to thrive, which in turn leads to the development of cysts in the deepest layers of the skin. [1]

2. What Causes Cystic Acne?

Although most acne is related to adolescent age, it can develop at a later stage in life too. The following factors trigger cystic acne: [2]

  • Hormones
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Poor hygiene
  • Wrong skin care products
  • Sun
  • Unhealthy Diet

3. How To Identify Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is characterized by:

  • Large pus-filled cysts
  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Pain and tender to touch

4. Who Gets Cystic Acne And Where?

Cystic acne is most common in people with oily skin. It is also common in teens, women and anyone with hormonal imbalances.

The condition can affect your face, chest, back, upper arms and shoulders. It is prevalent in the lower half of women’s faces.

5. Treatments For Cystic Acne

Since cystic acne is the most severe kind of acne, it requires a dermatologist intervention. According to your condition, your doctor may suggest a treatment method or combination therapy. Here are some medical treatment options:

A. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide functions by reducing the bacteria causing cystic acne and thereby reducing inflammation [3]. It can be used in concentrations of 2.5 - 10 %. It comes in the form of cleansers and bars, lotions, creams and gels.

Benzoyl peroxide has a tendency to dry out your skin. Make sure you know your skin type and then use the right concentration of benzoyl peroxide.

B. Retinoids

A derivative of Vitamin A, Isotretinoin can be taken in the form of tablets [4]. This is one of the most effective forms of treating cystic acne. Isotretinoin shows results in 6-8 months of usage.

Although it is very effective, it can have some side effects like mood swings, inflammatory bowel syndrome, bruising, skin inflammation, urine in blood, headaches and muscle pains.

Topical retinoids are also recommended for cystic acne, even though they do not carry the same power as oral retinoids. They come in the form of creams, gels and lotions.

Topical retinoids can make your skin red and make it susceptible to sunburn. Using a sunscreen is a good idea when you are on topical retinoids.

C. Spironolactone

Spironolactone (Aldactone) works by controlling the excess levels of androgen leading to cystic acne. [5]

However, a very high dose of spironolactone can lead to dizziness, fatigue, breast tenderness, high blood pressure, headaches and menstrual problems.

Note: Do not consume spironolactone if you are planning pregnancy as it could lead to birth defects.

D. Triamcinolone

Triamcinolone is a corticosteroid [6] that can be directly injected into the cyst to reduce inflammation and soothe cystic acne. This treatment is done by a certified dermatologist.

E. Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills contain estrogen, which can regulate overall hormone levels and reduce cystic acne [7].

You can’t pop oral contraceptives to cure cystic acne if you are a smoker, have blood clots or are planning a pregnancy.

Incision and draining the cyst is another way to treat it. Make sure you get it done under the supervision of a dermatologist.

6. Home Remedies For Cystic Acne

The following home remedies are not scientifically proven. But people have found relief for cystic acne using them:

  • Ice
  • White vinegar
  • Turmeric
  • Tea tree oil
  • Crushed aspirin and water mask

7. Skin Care Tips To Prevent Cystic Acne

A. Cleanse: Wash your face twice a day in the morning and night to remove all the dirt, makeup residue and excess oils from your face. Make sure to use a gentle cleanser and not scrub too much, which can aggravate cystic acne.

B. Moisturize: Hydrate your skin and let your oily skin repair its natural barrier with a good moisturizer. Make sure it is non comedogenic and oil free so that it does not clog your pores further.

C. Never Sleep With Your Makeup On: No matter how tired you are, make sure to remove your makeup before hitting the bed. Also stick to non-comedogenic and oil-free makeup.

D. Sunscreen: Wear sunscreen before stepping out as this can protect your skin from sunburns. A lot of cystic acne medications tend to make your skin susceptible to sunburn.

E. Kick Away Stress: Practice yoga, meditation or some form of exercise to keep stress at bay. Stress is linked to acne breakouts.

F. Healthy Diet: Avoid foods full of carbs, sugars and fats. Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pro tip: Do not touch, pick or squeeze acne. By doing so, you are only pushing the infection deeper and spreading it.

8. Difference Between Cystic Acne And Regular Acne

Normal acne comprises of a few pimples that are not usually painful. Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne and usually larger than normal acne. It is characterized by red and pus filled breakouts deep in your skin.

While cystic acne is stubborn, you don’t need to live with it. There are advanced treatment options to help you get rid of cystic acne. Visit your dermatologist to find out which of the above treatments might work for you.

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