Cystic Acne And What You Need To Know
Pimple, zits, blemishes and the list of names you can call them should not be said within the range of pure ears. There is probably no such thing as one kind is better then another as a single pimple can ruin the home coming queen’s decade. This is all relative of course but what about the truly humungous cystic-acne ones? These are probably the most traumatic. Read below as skincare expert Joanna Vargas and a few others weigh in on what to do about them and how to get rid of them for good. Also, see what products Ms. Vargas recommends all the way at the bottom.
Source: Teen Vogue
By Tina Ferraro
We’ve all woken up to the horrifying sight of a pimple (even with our comprehensive array of acne products and carefully crafted skincare routines!), and prayed that it would disappear within a few days. There is, however, a certain skin condition that doesn’t go away on its own and can last for up to a few (painful, miserable) weeks: cystic acne. “This particular breed leaves scars and needs to be treated correctly,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Founder & Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center. “Most tend to treat cysts as they would a standard blemish, which will only serve to further irritate already-sensitive skin,” she notes.
Instead, help clear up those angry bumps with tips from the pros — and take solace in knowing that even celebs suffer from bad breakouts. After all, it took Lucy Hale a number of tries before she finally solved her cystic acne.
So, what exactly is cystic acne?
Unlike standard zits, cystic acne is deeply embedded in the skin tissue, so it never actually comes to a poppable head. “It’s essentially an infection of the skin, exactly like when you scrape your knee and it gets red and infected,” says celebrity skin care expert and esthetician Renée Rouleau. Large, fluid-filled cysts form layers under the surface of the skin, and are often painful to the touch.
What’s causing it in the first place?
As with anything acne-related, there’s no easy way to pinpoint one specific cause. You may notice cysts popping up after a stress-filled few weeks, or that they tend to appear during that time of month. “Cystic acne can be triggered by the surge of hormones associated with your period,” Renée says. Essentially, when your body’s hormone levels shift, it sends oil-producing glands into overdrive. “An oil gland itself can become engorged or swollen because it’s filled with hardened excess oil,” Renée adds. Cysts are most likely to affect your chin and jawline since this area has a large number oil glands — which means a higher probability of breakouts and clogged pores.
There’s also a chance that your diet could be to blame. Renée suggests taking a step back and examining your eating habits so you can attempt to pinpoint the culprit foods behind cyst formation. Try eliminating certain food groups and documenting how each one affects the condition of your skin — daily intake of certain foods can affect the natural balance of your skin and cause inflammation, which actually speeds up the formation of cysts. (In fact, that turned out to be just the case for one Teen Vogue writer who gave up dairy to see what it would do to her complexion. A diet that ranks high on the glycemic index scale is likely to blame for your underground blemishes, says Carl Thornfeldt, M.D., an Idaho-based dermatologist and founder of Epionce. “Studies have consistently shown that a high-glycemic diet can activate acne because sugars are so inflammatory.” That means it may be time to give up some of your favorite guilty pleasures for the sake of your skin. Some of the worst perpetrators include white bread, Gatorade, and Fruit Roll-ups, according to this study.
Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skincare Collection agrees that you probably need to reevaluate your diet. “The best thing you can do for cystic acne is become mindful of what you are doing to cause it including, lack of sleep, [too much] sugar and caffeine,” she says. “When you pay attention to the habits you have, it is very easy to figure out what you are doing that isn’t agreeing with your skin.”
How can I make it go away?
As we said before, a cyst is not a zit. So seriously, resist the urge to touch it! “Everyone thinks that if they have any kind of pimple, they should pop it,” says Joanna. “But you need to leave cysts alone, because all that aggression only makes it worse.” Cyst-like breakouts actually damage healthy tissue, so picking only exacerbates the skin and inhibits its self-healing abilities. Also? If you do succeed in breaking the cyst, you’re just spreading the infection, which can cause more breakouts. Not to mention, you’re more likely to develop scars from trying to pop something so deep down.
Also, since cysts form on the inner layers of the skin, they can’t be treated as easily as typical surface acne. “A lot of my clients use traditional spot treatments and end up with dry, flaky bumps, and nothing gets healed because these products aren’t designed to penetrate so many of the skin’s layers,” Renée says. These treatments are actually formulated to kill bacteria on the surface, helping to reduce the infection. A cyst, however, needs a product that can be absorbed deep down. One of the few available on the market is Renée Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment, a lactic acid-based formula that acts as an anti-inflammatory. Another plus: It cuts recovery time from those nasty eruptions in half. (Seriously.) Another one that Charlotte Cho, the founder of K-beauty megasite Soko Glam swears by is the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, and says it’s one of the only products she’s ever used that noticeably soothed her cystic acne.
You can also treat your current cystic acne while preventing future mountains with LED lights. “Blue LED light is awesome for killing bacteria underneath the skin, so even an at-home device works great,” Joanna says. The Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask uses blue light to kill bacteria and red light to fight signs of inflammation. And, even better, it’s available at the drugstore and doesn’t come with a hefty price tag.
Another big key in preventing cyst formation is to focus on proper lymphatic drainage, which ensures liquids beneath the skin don’t get trapped, or build up. The easiest way to do this is by incorporating sonic cleansing into your routine. A face brush, like the Clarisonic Cleansing Device, helps stimulates the cells and promote proper circulation — plus it encourages gentle exfoliation.
What if they won’t go away?
Finally, it’s important to know that, unlike typical surface acne, cysts struggle to heal themselves over time, so it may be wise to consult a dermatologist if this is a recurring issue. “Derms can help you explore different treatment options, from over-the-counter medication to cortisone shots, and find the one that works best for you,” Dr. Tanzi says. Renée suggests you exhaust all at-home treatments first. “Cortisone shots are expensive, and they can actually cause temporary indentations on the face,” she notes. “It’s better to explore all your options before heading to the doctor’s.” However, if multiple eruptions show up at once or tend to occur frequently, a visit to the derm is definitely in order.