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How To Battle Cystic Acne

Written by James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by Photograph by ZOLTAN TOMBOR

We’ve all been there before—you’ve got a big event, party, or date on the brain when you notice a bright, red pimple coming in on your face. And by pimple, we mean a huge, scary, marble-like mass burrowed deep under the skin’s surface that goes by the name of cystic acne. Aside from the horrific appearance, these savage bumps come with intense pain and frustration. Of course, you can always run to a dermatologist’s office to have them work their magic, but that can be a hassle and cost a pretty penny. So if you’re looking for an alternative route, you’re in the right place. We went ahead did the dirty work for you and collected all the whats, whys, and hows of cystic acne to help you understand, conquer, and prevent them in the future.

What It Is. Simply put, cystic acne is the most severe form of acne. On a regular basis, sebum (aka oil), dead skin cells, and sometimes even bacteria collect deep in your hair follicles, causing everyday acne. After a while, an infection sets in causing a red, tender, pus-filled bump. “What differentiates a cyst from other types of acne is not the infection itself, but the fact that the follicle wall becomes so engorged with matter that it ruptures and causes inflammation deep in the layers of the skin.” says Esthetician and Founder of AES Acne Clinic, Kimmy Pigliucci. It’s this inflammation that causes all the swelling, pain, redness, and pus. These bumps can measure up to an inch or more, usually linger under the skin for weeks or months, and can eventually harden and leave dark, lasting scars if not treated properly.

Why It Happens. While there is no confirmed cause of cystic acne as of yet, everything from hormones, diet, medication, and skincare routine (or lack thereof) are thought to contribute. Generally, you’re more likely to suffer from cystic acne in your teens or early 20s, but many men and women struggle with it well into their thirties and beyond. Females can develop it around their menstrual cycles or along with pregnancy, menopause, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Also, if one of your parents experienced cystic acne, you have a greater chance of developing it at some point.

How To Treat. First of all, hands off!  That’s right, do not touch—or pop! These painful bumps are nestled so deep into the skin that if you do end up squeezing, you will end up making them more swollen, red, and painful—and even worse, the infection can spread causing more cysts! (Nope—no thank you!) Not to mention, messing with it can result in a permanent scar. Prescription medications can be scary, and sometimes over-the-counter relief can do the trick. For those who have zero time and need a quick, temporary fix, ice is said to be a great solution, as it constricts small blood vessels that support the cyst, reducing size and redness. Others looking for more deeper, regular treatment, there are some great products known to help speed up the process, you just want to make sure they don’t contain any pore-clogging ingredients that could temporarily reduce, but create more comedones in the long run. We’ve gathered a few in the gallery below.

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