Cystic Acne – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Cystic Acne

Cystic Acne is a severe acne type that happens as a result of blocked pores. Cystic acne usually leads to skin inflammation and infection. Although acne is a common type of skin condition, cystic acne normally affects very few people.

What Causes of Cystic Acne

young girl with cystic acne face and back

Cystic acne is caused by overproduction of oil i.e. sebum as well as clogging of the skin pores as a result of dirt, dead skin cells or bacteria. A cystic acne is usually inflamed and also ruptured. One of the most common factors that trigger acne is hormonal changes during puberty. It’s because of this that most adolescents end up experiencing acne. However, acne can also be experienced by anybody regardless of their age. Common causes of cystic acne include:

  • Changes in hormones which could be as a result of birth control, menses, stress, pregnancy, and application of hormone therapy.
  • Sweating or humid environment.
  • Genetics which means that some people may inherit acne.
  • Oily lotions, cleansers or makeups.
  • Chemicals and drugs such as lithium, isoniazid, corticosteroids etc.

Symptoms of Cystic Acne

A girl with cystic acne in her face

The symptoms of cystic acne are usually visible because this is a severe type of inflammatory acne. Normally, there are nodules and cysts as well as pustules and papules. The most common symptoms of cystic acne are large pits, small pits which are deep under the skin, red and raised scars. In addition to those, some people may end up with shallow skin depressions.

Cystic acne, just like all acne types can affect mood and the self-esteem of a person. The affected person may end up experiencing psychological stress because of their appearance. Cystic acne, for instance, usually leads to a higher emotional distress and the cysts are usually painful. This is why it’s important to treat this skin condition at the onset in order to reduce the risk of permeant scarring.

Cystic Acne Treatment

young girls shock of her acne

Cystic acne treatment can be in form of pills, injections, creams as well as therapies. The treatment is usually administered depending on the different type of acne. Besides that, the severity of acne also plays an important role in determining the best type of cystic acne treatment. Common types of cystic acne treatment include:

Birth Control Pills

They are usually prescribed to people suffering from hormonal acne. Birth control pills help to suppress the overproduction of hormones. They contain progesterone and estrogen which should be used to suppress rapid hormonal changes. Birth control pills inhibit the production of androgens which usually sparks acne.

Steroid Injections

Directly injecting steroids such as corticosteroid helps to reduce acne inflammation. In addition to that, the injections also prevent scarring. Note that a steroid injection is usually administered by a dermatologist and its benefits can last for a long period of time.


This prescription drug is an effective cystic acne treatment. Isotretinoin is usually sold as Sotret, Absorica, and Claravis etc. However, this drug can be very dangerous and users should be monitored by a doctor. It’s been observed that this drug can cause birth defects.

Home Remedies


Apart from prescription drugs, the symptoms of cystic acne can be controlled by various home remedies. These remedies are normally used as self-care techniques and they should be used consistently for better results. Home remedies for cystic acne include:

  • Applying apple cider vinegar on the affected area. Apple cider vinegar is effective because it helps to kill the bacteria that causes acne.
  • Using cinnamon and honey mask. This combination is highly effective thanks to the high amounts of antioxidants which help to fight bacteria.
  • Drinking Green tea is also good as it contains antioxidants which promote good skin health. Applying green tea directly on the affected skin also helps to reduce inflammation.
  • Moisturize the skin with Aloe Vera gel. Note that Aloe Vera is often safe and more effective than most lotions, creams, and soaps designed for cystic acne treatment.

Other Types of Acne

Apart from cystic acne, there are other acne types which are either inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Examples of inflammatory acne include papules, pustules, and nodules. Non-Inflammatory acne is either a whitehead or a blackhead and they are usually mild and not painful. There is also hormonal acne that’s caused by hormonal changes.

Difference Between Hormonal and Cystic Acne

what type of acne do i have

Just like other acne, hormonal acne can also be very severe. There is a big difference between cystic acne and hormonal acne. Cystic acne stays throughout while hormonal acne occurs during or before menstruation. While the former can be sudden, the latter usually occurs at least once after every menstrual cycle. In addition to that, hormonal acne is caused by hormones while cystic acne is caused by cysts.

Final Thoughts

Cystic acne can be effectively managed. To prevent its occurrence or to reduce its symptoms, always wash the affected area twice daily. Additionally, try and avoid touching that skin and avoid overexposing yourself to sun rays. Cystic acne can be a chronic skin condition hence it should be observed and treated with a lot of care.


Seth Ferguson
Award-winning twitter scholar. Travel evangelist. Devoted bacon junkie. Food ninja.

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