When it comes to cystic acne, there are several available medical treatment options as well as lifestyle changes you can make to support your treatment plan.
Acne occurs when a pore gets clogged with dead skin cells, trapping normal bacteria in the pore and causing it to multiply. When this occurs, your immune system is triggered and reacts with redness and swelling that eventually results in a pimple.
Cystic acne, however, is more than just your typical pimples.
Cystic acne is caused when inflammation goes deep into the skin, creating a tender red “bump” that is often filled with pus. These painful breakouts can last for years, and when these cysts burst, they can lead to more inflammation — and even permanent scarring.
Medically Treating Cystic Acne
Cystic acne is a serious and sometimes emotionally and physically painful condition that requires the attention of a dermatologist. It won’t respond to most over-the-counter treatments and won’t just go away on its own.
You will need to work with your dermatologist to find a medical treatment that works best for you. These treatments could include:
- Oral antibiotics to control bacteria and lower inflammation.
- Birth control pills to regulate hormones.
- Prescription-strength topical creams, lotions or gels.
- Accutane to reduce the amount of oil released by oil glands.
Accutane (or Isotretinoin) is now available under several other brand names and can be used to treat all kinds of acne. Typically, patients under this treatment take a pill once or twice each day for as long as five months. Often, one treatment round clears acne completely and permanently.
Five Lifestyle and Diet Changes to Combat Cystic Acne
Cystic acne can occur anywhere on your body, including your face, neck, back, shoulders and upper arms. Though genetics and hormones play a role, other factors under your control — such as diet and lifestyle choices — also can contribute in a big way.
The truth is, you can improve your cystic acne by combining medical treatments with some simple everyday lifestyle changes.
#1: Avoid high-glycemic foods.
High-glycemic foods have added sugar or extra starch and include items such as ice cream, soda, candy, potato chips, white bread and pasta (think junk foods and processed foods). These types of foods aren’t good for your body or your skin and can worsen your acne.
#2: Eat less dairy.
Even dairy products can sometimes make acne worse. Changing your daily dairy intake — or substituting almond or coconut milk for cow’s milk, for example — can help improve your acne. But before you throw away all of your milk, make sure the substitutions you choose still have plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Both are good for your body and skin!
#3: Eat more “whole” foods.
As you cut down on processed foods and sweets, increase the number of “whole” foods you eat, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits. These kinds of foods are the basis of a healthy diet, and your skin will visibly improve as you move away from “bad” foods and start eating healthier overall.
#4: Take it easy.
Stress is a proven contributor to acne. When you’re stressed, it literally shows. Stress takes a toll on your body and causes an increase in the hormones released, which can make acne worse. Take a break and lower your stress level by doing activities you enjoy, relaxing and staying calm! This isn’t just good for your skin — it’s good for your heart and overall quality of life.
#5: Keep your hands off!
Picking at cysts and pimples only makes them worse. Even if they are swollen and irritated, fight the urge to touch your acne. Don’t try to “pop” pimples or cysts. This can lead to infections, which can cause acne to deepen and spread and also contributes to scarring.
Want to Learn More About Medical Treatments for Cystic Acne?
If your skin is adversely impacting your overall health, causing discomfort, or you just can’t seem to get flareups and breakouts under control, a dermatologist can help. U.S. Dermatology Partners is here for you with a range of locations to choose from. To get in touch with an office near you to schedule an online teledermatology visit, simply complete our virtual appointment request, and one of our dermatology offices will be in touch soon.
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