- Cystic acne forms when dead skin cells and bacteria clog pores and cause boil-like lesions on the skin
- Home remedies may help ease some cystic acne symptoms
- Before trying home remedies, such as essential oils, consult with a dermatologist
- Oral antibiotics and spot treatments are often necessary to completely treat cystic acne
How to Tell if You Have Cystic Acne
What start as pimples emerging from clogged hair follicles can worsen as bacteria build up in the pores. And as a result, blemishes that look like cysts or pustules appear. This kind of severe acne can cause large, painful breakouts that can leave deep psychological scars as well as acne scars that may require treatment down the road.
Cystic acne usually forms on the face, neck and back. Hormonally triggered cystic acne tends to appear along the jawline.
Cystic acne causes
Just below the surface of the skin are oil glands that produce sebum, an oily substance that keeps the skin moisturized. Too little sebum leads to dry skin, while excess sebum can clog pores. When this happens, bacteria can be trapped, triggering an inflammatory response. A bacterial infection deep in the skin causes the affected areas to turn red and swollen. Cystic pimples can emerge, some of which may be filled with pus.
Causes of excess oil production include:
- Hormonal changes, such as the start of puberty
- Oily cosmetics and skincare products
- Excessive sweating
- Genetics; a family history of acne flare-ups may raise your risk
The role of diet in triggering acne breakouts is somewhat controversial, but there is some evidence to suggest that the consumption of dairy or high-glycemic foods may be contributing factors. If you observe a connection between eating or drinking certain items and subsequent acne breakouts, try to limit your consumption of those products or remove them from your diet altogether.
Do Home Remedies Work for Cystic Acne?
Home remedies may be most effective in treating cystic acne in its earliest stages. Research into the use of medicinal plants, such as tea tree oil and aloe vera, has produced mixed results, including some positive findings that may support their use, at least in the short term.
However, home remedies may be best suited as complementary therapy for a more comprehensive treatment plan supervised by your dermatologist. Typically, oral antibiotics and other prescription medications are needed to reverse a cystic acne breakout and clear up your skin.
How fast will they work?
On their own, home remedies and your daily hygiene routine could make a difference in your cystic acne within a few weeks or sooner, depending on the severity of the breakout. But if you have several cysts, rather than just routine pimples, you’ll need to add a dermatologist’s care to whatever you’re doing at home.
Best Home Remedies for Cystic Acne
Home remedies for cystic acne haven’t gotten the kind of extensive study as FDA-regulated pharmaceuticals. But there has been some encouraging research, as well as anecdotal evidence that home treatments may be helpful.
Understand, however, that you may need antibacterial acne medications and oral, topical, or injectable medications with anti-inflammatory properties to achieve clear skin again. Also note that some home remedies can cause irritation and dry skin, so be ready to stop your treatment if you experience side effects.
Aspirin face mask
Aspirin is a derivative salicylic acid, which is used in many skincare products to help unclog pores and reduce sebum production in your oil glands. To use aspirin on your cystic acne, crush a few aspirin tablets (or use aspirin powder) and mix it with about a tablespoon of warm water. Add a little aloe gel to make the mixture into a paste. Gently spread the mix onto affected areas or on your entire face, being careful around your eyes. Leave the aspirin face mask on for about 10 or 15 minutes and then rinse.
Tea tree oil
Applying tea tree oil to outbreaks has been shown to be effective with mild to moderate acne. But it may also be helpful in treating more severe acne too, especially if it’s part of a broader treatment program. Tea tree oil products are available over the counter and may be used once or twice a day, depending on the concentration.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains several types of organic acids, such as acetic acid, which may help kill bacteria and help clear away dead skin cells. But because it’s so acidic, apple cider vinegar can irritate and even burn your skin if it’s not diluted. Start with one part vinegar to four or five parts water. Use a cotton ball to applying the mixture to the affected areas. You should try putting the vinegar-and-water mix on an area of clear skin to see if you have any reaction. If you do, then skip this home remedy. If you want to try it, dab some on and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes and then rinse it off. Do this once or twice a week and see how your skin responds.
Alternative Over the Counter Treatments
Effectively treating cystic acne usually involves the use of over-the-counter products to complement prescription medications, such as isotretinoin, which and works by reducing sebum production in the oil glands. Over-the-counter cleansers and moisturizers may help you maintain clear skin after your cystic acne has been treated.
Among the over-the-counter treatment options recommended for severe acne treatment are:
- Benzoyl peroxide helps destroy bacteria and encourage the turnover of skin cells
- Salicylic acid helps exfoliate the skin by causing skin cells to unstick from each other
- Azelaic acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help eliminate pimples and swelling and redness that can accompany a cystic acne flare-up
Home remedies may not be enough on their own to combat cystic acne, but they may play an important role in complementing treatments recommended by your dermatologist. Responding to initial acne breakouts with home remedies and regular skin care may also be enough to keep cystic acne from developing in the first place.
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