AdvancedMD Aesthetics


How to Treat Cystic Acne

Of all the types of acne, cystic acne is the most difficult to treat. These underground cysts are deep, painful and rarely come to the surface, leaving the skin inflamed, red, and sometimes feeling swollen. If you suffer from cystic acne, you’ll know the ‘pimple heartbeat’ (a.k.a. a deep throbbing or pulsing sensation under the skin) for which cystic acne is infamous. Keep reading for the best ways to treat cystic acne.

Over the years, cystic acne treatment has remained relatively the same. But one of the newest advancements, which includes AviClear, has shown to be highly effective for cystic acne without resorting to messy creams and oral medications that can lead to other problems. If you’re ready to treat and clear up your cystic acne, we’re sharing everything you need to know and do to kick those annoying and painful pimples to the curb once and for all.


What Causes Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is considered multifactorial, meaning there isn’t one reason it occurs on the skin. Several factors can contribute to cystic acne, including:

  • Clogged pores due to a buildup of dead skin cells, trapped dirt, oil, and an overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria
  • Hormones, especially when they are elevated or changing
  • Lifestyle choices, which can include high-stress levels, overexposure to the sun, excessive drinking, and even smoking
  • A poor diet that lacks nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats and oils
  • Genetics, which cannot be controlled or changed


What is the Fastest Way to Treat Cystic Acne Pimples?

Cystic acne treatment is effective, but sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the proper treatment for you. If you need a painful cystic acne blemish wiped away from your skin super fast, you may want to consider a cortisone shot, primarily if the pimple is deep-rooted under the skin and hasn’t come to the surface.

Cortisone shots, which are essentially injections of steroids, shouldn’t be looked at as a regular way of treating large pimples. While they can reduce the size of an acne blemish and clear any redness in just a few days (or in some cases less), constantly injecting cystic acne with cortisone can thin the skin and affect the area. So consider this an as-needed treatment only.


Does Cystic Acne Go Away?

Unfortunately, cystic acne usually doesn’t go away on its own. While some people may notice a decrease in acne lesions with time, most need the interference of cystic acne treatments to help heal the skin and get it on the path to healthy and clear.

On average, acne breakouts can take one to three weeks to heal and even longer if the specific type of acne is cystic. Since cystic acne is deep-rooted and highly inflammatory, a single acne lesion can last months or even years.

Rather than hoping cystic acne will clear up on its own, it’s better to take a proactive approach and seek treatment to reduce the painful lesions and the risk of acne scarring.


Are There Topical Skincare Ingredients to Treat Cystic Acne?

Yes, you can use plenty of topical skincare ingredients to help heal cystic acne, but usually, this type of acne responds best to a combination of topical skin care and in-office treatments. From a topical standpoint, specific ingredients are often recommended to help reduce inflammation, including:

  • Salicylic acid, which targets excess oil production while exfoliating dead skin cells from the surface
  • Benzoyl peroxide, which tackles bacteria within the pores but can have a drying effect if too high of a concentration is used or if the ingredient is overapplied
  • Retinol and retinoids help take down inflammation, speed up skin cell turnover, and unclog the pores


How Do Dermatologists Treat Cystic Acne?

Since cystic acne can be challenging to treat, many patients often have to try various treatment options before finding one that works for them.

Most dermatologists will start by treating cystic acne with antibiotic creams and lotions to help decrease inflammation and kill bacteria in the skin. Oral antibiotics and prescription topical products may also be part of treating cystic acne. Some dermatologists consider light and energy-based treatments, birth control pills, spironolactone, retinoids, and even isotretinoin (commonly known as Accutane) as cystic acne treatment protocols.

Now, a new cystic acne treatment, AviClear, is becoming a dermatologist go-to for shrinking large and painful cysts. AviClear is the first FDA-cleared laser treatment approved to treat several types of acne, including mild, moderate, and severe acne. Since AviClear targets the sebaceous glands, it helps to suppress sebum production and eliminate cystic acne at the source.


What Are the Benefits of AviClear to Treat Cystic Acne?

One of the major benefits of using AviClear for cystic acne treatment is that the laser is safe for all skin types and tones. Like other cystic acne treatments, the results can start to be seen after a few months and will continue for up to one year after the last treatment. AviClear treats active cystic acne breakouts and prevents new ones from forming. It also helps to improve acne scars.

Some of the most noticeable benefits of AviClear include:

  • A reduction in breakouts, their severity, and how long they last
  • Less redness in the skin
  • Ability to treat acne on the face and body
  • Little to no downtime or dryness

By treating cystic acne with AviClear, you can expect an overall improvement in the skin’s appearance and for any future breakouts to be less frequent, painful, and severe. Most patients see visible improvement in their skin as soon as six months and improvement in their acne for the next year.


How Does AviClear Work to Treat Cystic Acne?

The AviClear laser works differently than other cystic acne treatments since it targets and signals the skin’s sebaceous glands to produce less oil and improve acne. The laser utilizes a 1726 nm wavelength of energy to effectively treat acne by suppressing the activity of the sebaceous glands for the long term, keeping acne breakouts to a minimum and the skin clear. With the skin producing less sebum, if cystic acne breakouts still occur, they are less painful, less frequent, and heal much faster than if the skin is not treated with AviClear.

AviClear, which is painless and feels like a little zap on the skin (it has cooling technology), also works for all skin tones, types, and degrees of acne, which isn’t necessarily the case with more traditional acne treatment. It’s also an easy way to keep cystic acne at bay, especially when other forms of medication are not effective.

To reap the benefits of AviClear, you’ll need to complete the entire treatment cycle, which consists of three monthly sessions. Most patients start seeing remarkable skin improvement after the second treatment.


Is It Ever Okay to Squeeze or Pick at Cystic Acne?

No. You should never squeeze, pick or try to pop cystic acne. While it’s difficult to extrude the contents out of a cystic pimple because it is so deep within the skin, attempting to empty a cystic acne pimple will only further inflame the lesion and cause additional discomfort. Plus, picking the skin can cause it to scar easily.


How Can I Prevent Cystic Acne?

Preventing cystic acne is hard, but there are specific steps you can follow to help limit its effects on your skin,

  • Wash with a mild facial cleanser twice per day. Always use tepid or cool water and don’t scrub aggressively.
  • Apply a thin layer of oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizer.
  • Always use noncomedogenic makeup and remove it thoroughly at the end of the day.
  • Don’t pop or pick at your acne; keep your hands and fingers off your face as much as possible.
  • Wash your hair regularly and keep it off your face, especially if it is oily.
  • Follow a clean diet and limit how much sugar you eat to control inflammation.


Can Cystic Acne Cause Scars?

Unfortunately, one of the long-term effects of cystic acne is hard-to-get-rid-of scarring. Some patients with cystic acne are genetically inclined to post-acne scarring, while others who pick at their skin can cause the lingering effects of their acne to live on. Failing to treat cystic acne and collagen damage can also lead to scarring. The more inflammation that persists within the skin from acne, the more likely the skin is to scar.

While many different types of acne scarring can arise from cystic acne, ranging from hyperpigmentation (discoloration) to texture changes that leave the skin looking uneven, bumpy, or indented, there are treatments to help soften scars and reduce their appearance. AviClear is often used to help eliminate the look of acne scars and chemical peels, radiofrequency microneedling and laser facials can also help, depending on the degree of scarring and their age.


How Important Is a Skincare Routine for Skin That Suffers From Cystic Acne?

Following a well-devised skincare routine is essential in clearing up the skin—the same goes for professional treatments. Even though skin affected by cystic acne can be easily irritated and sensitive, it’s important to keep the skin clean and consistently take care of it. While you don’t need to follow a fancy or multi-step skincare routine, regular cleansing, gentle exfoliators, and topical treatments combined with professional treatments are key in getting rid of cystic acne.