How to treat and prevent those aching lumps
– aka cystic acne – the correct way
What Are They?
Those agonizing pimples buried underneath the skin that appear out of nowhere, seemingly just to torture us, are overly clogged pores filled with dead skin and oil that has become inflamed. When the pore ruptures under the skin, the oil and dead skin turns into cystic acne which causes the inflammation to spill out into the tissue around it. Your skin’s reaction is to create a cyst to halt the inflammation from spreading any further. These pimples hurt because the swelling stimulates adjacent nerve fibers which triggers pain.
These small pimples of pain look like red bumps, similar to a bug bite. They don’t form any visible characteristics like a white head or black head, other than an irritating redness. These pimples live underneath the skin, so it makes them harder to pop.
It’s important to note that cystic acne requires special care and can easily leave scars if left untreated or if improperly treated. For example, trying to pop them yourself can lead to you spreading the inflammation even further below the surface or throughout surrounding areas by trying to squeeze it.
What Causes Them?
The two main factors that cause these demon pimples are hormones and stress.
Androgen hormones can make your body produce so much oil that it gets stuck in your pores and traps bacteria by overstimulating the sebaceous (oil) glands. The cystic pimple is caused by inflammation from the bacteria multiplying. The times when these hormones surge are when you’re most likely to get this type of acne: first during puberty, and then a couple days before each period. Androgens also skyrocket when you lose a lot of weight.
When you find yourself under pressure and your stress levels rise, your body will respond by producing cortisol, another hormone that overstimulates your oil glands.
Tip: Birth control pills may help if you develop cystic pimples. They control most kinds of breakout-causing hormones. Talk to your doctor and ask if this option is right for you.
How to Treat Them?
At home, under your own control, there are some ways you can take care of your cystic acne to treat them. Multivitamins are filled with zinc which can reduce skin inflammation, while vitamin E can help to heal your skin. Make sure to take one every day with food. Spot treatment is another way you can heal your skin. Three times a day for five minutes, apply a warm compress to bring the head of the pimple from underneath your skin. Dab some acne gel on twice a day to dry it up.
For those desperate hours when you find yourself developing a cystic pimple right before a big event, you can go to your skincare provider. They can inject the pimple with cortisone, which is a steroid that reduces inflammation under the skin and shrinks swelling around the infection. The pimple should disappear within 6 hours.
How to Prevent Them?
To keep your skin free of these hidden pimples, take preventative action and follow these few blemish-fighting methods. At home care includes controlling what you eat, and what you use.
Food: To help keep your skin clear, every day eat one serving of foods that contain vitamin B6 (a bowl of whole grain cereal or one banana), to level hormone imbalances. To give your skin a smoother texture, add in a food with beta-carotene into a meal (two medium carrots contains a good amount of beta carotene). Products: To clear your pores of debris and oils, use a product that contains salicylic acid or a deep cleaning wash twice a day.
If the at home remedies fail, and for severe cases, you can seek medical assistance. Talk to your doctor or skincare provider about tetracycline. Tetracycline is for moderate to severe cases and is an antibiotic that kills infection-causing bacteria. Another medication is Accutane, which decreases the amount of oil that your sebaceous glands produce. We also have an alternative to Accutane that has proven to be safe and is very effective.
*Warning: Accutane is a potent medication that can have serious side effects and should only be taken if your cystic acne doesn’t respond to other remedies.