There are few things more frustrating than going to bed with clear skin and waking up with a mammoth zit on your face. And if it's a cystic blemish — the kind that's super sore and swollen and never comes to a head — it can be especially maddening, since it seems like all you can do is wait, spackle it with concealer, and tell people it's a mosquito bite. While it's true that nothing short of a dermatologist-administered cortisone shot will get rid of a deep zit, there are some at-home steps you can take to bring down the swelling and redness.
Before we starts let's just talk about why cystic acne develops. You can also read more about everything you need to know about cystic acne and cystic pimple.
Cystic acne is the most serious type of acne. It develops when cysts form deep underneath your skin. This can result from a combination of bacteria, oil, and dry skin cells that get trapped in your pores.
Although anyone can develop acne, cystic acne tends to occur in people with oily skin. It’s also more common in teens, women, and older adults with hormonal imbalances.
Usually, cystic acne can improve with age. However, the stubborn and painful bumps won’t go away on their own.
Aside from being the most serious form of acne, cystic acne also tends to be the largest in size. It’s also deeper within the skin. All other types appear to rest on top of the skin’s surface.
Cystic acne often looks like boils on the skin. Other identifying characteristics include:
- large pus-filled cyst
- large white bump
- tender or painful to the touch
Acne cysts are perhaps most noticeable on a person’s face. But they’re also common on the chest, neck, back, and arms. Cystic acne may even develop on the shoulders and behind the ears.
We have came up with 4 things you can do right now at home to help get rid of a cystic pimple. These steps are best followed at night, since benzoyl peroxide and hydrocortisone creams dry white, and you can't apply makeup over them.
1. Start with salicylic acid or sulfur
Slathering on traditional acne meds won't have the same effect on a cystic pimple, which lives below the surface of your skin. Instead, you want to gently exfoliate the skin with a salicylic cleanser, to get rid of excess oil and create a clean slate for the rest of the products, says Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. If you have dry skin, stick to your normal cleanser and use the salicylic cleanser only on the blemish. You can also try overnight acne spot treatment with salicylic acid.
2. Then tackle the swelling
"Ice-cold temperatures help constrict blood vessels, so wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and hold it against the bump to reduce redness and bring down the swelling a bit," says Zeichner, who recommends icing three times an hour in ten-minute intervals, i.e., ten minutes on, ten minutes off. (You want to do this after you wash your face since washing after icing would warm the skin right back up.)
3. Kill the bacteria
"Benzoyl peroxide destroys the acne-causing bacteria that are trapped within the follicle, causing inflammation," says Zeichner. To prevent irritation, make sure you prime the skin with a light moisturizer first, then spot-treat the cyst with a super thin layer — seriously, less is more here — of the lowest percentage of benzoyl peroxide. "If any burning or stinging occurs when you apply it, you'll know it's too strong and you should wash it off immediately."
If you rather not use benzoyl peroxide, you can also try the sulfur and salicylic acid based acne spot treatment.
4. Reduce the redness
Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream contains a low dose of steroids that can help shrink pimples and soothe redness. The more you pile on and the longer you let it sit, the more effective it will be, says Zeichner. Just wait for the benzoyl peroxide to dry first.