Cystic Acne

Hands Off the Cystic Acne! – and Other Helpful Tips

Posted by Anita Mehta, M.D. on Aug 15, 2015, 9:51:00 AM

Acne can be tough to deal with at any age. Between diagnosing the problem and finding a skin routine that works for your individual skin type, combatting acne sometimes feels like an uphill battle. This battle can be all the more difficult if you find out you’re dealing with cystic acne. The good news is, cystic acne is not a life sentence. It’s treatable, and if you see a doctor early, it is likely that you won’t see permanent scarring.  

Severest Type of Acne

Cystic acne is a painful skin condition where the pores in your skin can become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This buildup occurs within hair follicles. The result is a tender, boil-like cyst. These cysts can burst leaving permanent scarring. Cystic acne is considered the most severe form of acne. 

acne_breakout-141571823Small Red Pumps May Be an Early Sign

Cystic acne is most common among teens or young adults in their early 20s, although patients can have it at any age. The condition is not necessarily localized to the face and can also be found on the neck, chest, back or upper arms. Typically, cystic acne is characterized by large cysts, redness around the skin eruptions because of the inflammation and swelling and irritation of the skin. Small red bumps, called papules, often indicate a problem within the skin pores and can be early signs of cystic acne. The best way to know whether you have cystic acne is to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, who will be able to diagnose your skin condition.  

Early Treatment May Prevent Scarring

For many patients, cystic acne is a troubling condition that can affect self-confidence and quality of life.  The cysts can be painful and can leave permanent scarring after they’re gone, so it is important to see a dermatologist as soon as you notice an issue. Early treatment may prevent scarring. Another reason to see a dermatologist early is because over-the-counter medicine typically has little, if any, effect on cystic acne. Your physician will likely have to prescribe an antibiotic to help reduce the inflammation, or a cream, lotion or gel to treat your skin. It is also possible that cystic acne in women can be treated with birth control, if the physician feels that the underlying cause is hormonal.  

Some Things to Remember

Treating cystic acne can be difficult and it’s often frustrating for the patient. Here are some things to remember during treatment.

  • Do not touch or pick at the cysts or blemishes. 
  • Talk to your dermatologist to see if it’s ok to wear makeup and, if it is, what kind is OK to wear.
  • Do not share makeup brushes with anyone. 
  • If you can wear makeup and use makeup brushes, make sure you are cleaning them thoroughly after each use.
  • Try to reduce your stress level. Stress can cause an increase in hormones which can make breakouts worse or more frequent.


Mehta_Anita   Dr. Anita Mehta is a board-certified dermatologist who works at Kelsey-Seybold’s Main Campus. Her clinical interests include skin cancer, psoriasis, acne and eczema, among others. 

Topics: acne, cystic acne, pimples, scarring, acne treatment, blemishes

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