Follow Vogue Arabia

Here’s How to Get Rid of Your Cystic Acne


If you’ve been experiencing large, painful breakouts that unlike whiteheads and blackheads never seem to rise to the surface, then you may have cystic acne. Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne and is characterized as raised, large, and deep under-the-skin breakouts that are often painful to touch. Cystic pimples rarely come to a head, so they are very difficult to drain, and if left untreated may linger under the dermis for up to a month.


Generally, cystic acne is considered to be a genetic condition. Like most acne, cystic breakouts result from hormones. Overactive oil glands produce excess sebum—an oily substance produced by the body to lubricate the skin—and in turn, oil glands become inflamed, swollen, and harden with excess. The gland then ruptures underneath the skin and results in the large, swollen mass known as the cyst.


Unfortunately, cystic acne is one of the most difficult forms of acne to treat. Topically applied, over-the-counter products are not effective against cystic acne since the breakouts occur at a level beyond the reach of anti-acne products. While there is no effective way to completely prevent cystic acne (if you are prone to it), there are various ways you can minimize its appearance and occurrences.

1. Use gentle cleansers. Avoid foaming cleansers—these dry out the skin and cause oil glands to overproduce sebum, which makes matters worse. The problem that non-foaming cleansers pose is that they aren’t effective in removing makeup. Opt for a product that contains makeup-dissolving ingredients such as the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm (US $29; AED/SAR 107). The cream contains a plant oil that cleanses the skin without stripping it of any moisture.

2. Exfoliate once a day with a salicylic acid-based formula to remove dead skin cells and bacteria build up in order to promote oil flow and prevent clogging. We suggest the Korres Wild Rose Daily Brightening & Refining Buff Cleanser (US $28; AED/SAR 103). The gentle cleansing exfoliator comprises rice grain and sugar extract to naturally exfoliate the skin, making it safe for daily use.

3. Slathering on thick, creamy moisturizers is a recipe for clogged pores so stick to gel or lotion moisturizers, which are very lightweight. The Shiseido Ibuki Refining Moisturizer (US $45; AED/SAR 165) absorbs into the skin almost instantly and provides a boost of hydration, without looking or feeling greasy.

4. Benzoyl Peroxide is known to kill acne-causing bacteria and clear blemishes. Use a pimple spot-fighting treatment like the Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Vanishing Treatment Cream (US $9; AED/SAR 33) directly on the cyst to destroy the bacteria that is causing the inflammation. The dermatologist-recommended treatment is promising, and provides results in as little as four hours.

5. An injection of corticosteroid directly into the cyst is administered by a dermatologist and instantly reduces inflammation and prevents scarring. Dermatologists may also offer incision and draining of the cyst, but it is not recommended that you attempt this on your own as you may worsen the blemish and cause a deeper skin infection.

6. If over-the-counter options are no help, and you are still experiencing severe bouts of cystic acne, then you may want to consider a visit to a dermatologist. In most cases, skincare experts will offer permanent solutions that include hormone therapy and oral medications, such as Roaccutane—which works by reducing the production of the skin’s natural sebum. It is important to note that prescription medication is not without side effects and should be discussed with your physician.

—Khaoula Ghanem

View All
Vogue Collection