I’ve always believed that pimples have a mind of their own; and a very diabolic one at that. How else can you explain how they know to pop up right before important events? We’ve all woken up to a mini mountain-like zit on our faces, and hoped it would just disappear. But it doesn’t usually work like that; the universe is kind but not so much. However, if you think normal pimples are stubborn and painful, you’ve never had an encounter with their grandfather—cystic acne.
Unlike regular acne that is caused due to clogged pores, periods or hormonal changes, cystic acne flare-ups consist of numerous small pus-filled pimples that are formed deep under the surface of the skin. The bacteria trapped in your pores cause inflammation and swell into painful cysts. Since these pimples live under the skin, they are difficult to pop and eventually lead to a face covered with red bumps. Dr Madhuri Agarwal, founder and medical director of Yavana Aesthetics Clinic, explains, “This type of severe breakout is extremely painful as compared to regular breakouts. While regular breakouts are often self-resolving, cystic acne is prolonged and tends to leave behind nasty scars.”
The scariest part is that cystic acne can pop up anywhere on the face, arms and back. It has a tendency to strike over and over again on the same spots. So unless you’ve gotten your breakouts medically treated, those red bumps on your chin will not be your last.
What causes cystic acne?
According to Dr Agarwal, cystic acne is caused by certain foods, stress, and medications. But those aren’t the only reasons. She says, “Genetics may cause this type of acne as well as a hormone imbalance. Higher testosterone increases oil production leading to congested pores and deep cystic acne. You must also be wary of food with a high glycemic index. Sugary foods and whey proteins can also trigger cystic acne.”
Making some lifestyle changes can help get rid of these persistent cysts. For instance, eating healthier by cutting out all the excess sugar. Yep, that means no mid-week brownies or late-night ice cream binges.
How do you treat cystic acne?
According to Dr Agarwal, “Cystic acne is treated with prescription-based topical and oral medications by dermatologists. Some may require drainage and steroid injections. At times, cystic acne can be linked to other health disorders too.”
However, there are a few options you can do at home to ensure your acne-ridden skin is well taken care of. These options include using oil-free products and some over-the-counter medication. Dr Agarwal recommends using 2-3 active ingredients in a synergetic manner. She says, “Salicylic acid and sulphur-based formulations are effective. During the initial stages, benzyl peroxide and prescription dapsone are also helpful. Do keep in mind to always use a moisturiser as these anti-acne products can dry out your skin.”
You’ll also have to modify your skincare routine to include products that have the power to wage war on these little red irritants. Include a mild oil-free cleanser that preferably contains salicylic acid, a non-comedogenic gel moisturiser with ceramides and niacinamide and a broad spectrum sunscreen.
And remember, no matter how tempted you are, never pick or try to pop cystic acne. That only leads to more scarring and irritation. We understand that all this is easier said than done. But at the end of it all, your skin will be better for it.