My fight against cystic acne

CysticAcne new My fight against cystic acne photo: we heart this

Trust me, I’ve faced no bigger beauty dilemma than my long, drawn out fight with cystic acne. I was blessed with a clear complexion during my high school years and then suffered the occasional pimple or break out while in college, but it wasn’t until my mid to late 20’s that my skin declared war.  Just when I had begun to really worry about wrinkles and eye creams, the acne appeared with a vengeance. And not just the standard, oily skin variety pimples, but the dreaded cystic acne.

How do you know if you suffer from cystic acne? It makes the standard, pop-able pimple feel like a walk in the park. For starters, they are big! While I only would get one or two at a time, the size made them impossible to cover up. Cystic acne looks and feels as if a pea has been shoved under your skin. To add to the problem, typically cystic pimples do not form a white head. There is no way for the skin to break, letting the pus out to relieve some of the pressure.  That means that these little devils really hurt! The pimple will be inflamed and hot to the touch and almost pulses with pain. (When I have a good cystic pimple raging, and I work out, I can feel my heart beating through the pimple when I cool down – it’s insane).  Cystic acne can also be very itchy (but whatever you do – do not scratch!) Oh, and did I mention the pimple and a good ½ diameter of skin around it will be visibly red as well? Not a pretty picture.

For some time, I tried to cure the problem with some of the common answers for acne. Regular washing and spot treatments with all sorts of harsh chemicals – from drugstore shelves, to high-end beauty lines, to the medicinal washes prescribed by my dermatologist – nothing made a difference. Actually, that’s not true, they made the pimple and skin around it even more irritated and inflamed, with flakey skin and dry patches as an added bonus. Most topical, acne fighters are not made for cystic acne sufferers and can not penetrate deeply enough into the skin to make a difference.

I spent a number of years trying out different types and levels of (expensive) antibiotics. Some people have great success with this method (or using certain birth control pills) but I was never able to find a pill that helped my skin. After three years of being on constant antibiotics, I decided it was an expense I could do without, considering I still would routinely get a cyst or two every month – often in the exact same place as an earlier cyst. This, sadly, is common with cysts and can lead to scars and uneven skin texture in areas that are continually affected.

I did find one almost instantaneous treatment in the form of cortisone shots which my dermatologist injected directly into the pimple. While painful, expensive (my shots ranged from $65 $85 per visit in Los Angeles) and impossible to hide (you’ll bleed a bit and the pimple will be even more noticeable the first few hours), these shots made a dramatic difference in the size and longevity of the cyst. I realize this solution is not right for everyone, but it can be a lifesaver when you really need that cyst gone pronto (a wedding, prom, or other big event might call for this solution).

Lately, I’ve noticed that my cystic acne has been tapering off. I can’t think of a reason why this is happening now, except that I’m getting older –  um, hooray!? There really is no known cause for these suckers; genetics, hormones, stress and over active oil glands all play a part. Sadly, cystic acne does run in my family (both sides!) and I definitely notice that my cysts coincide with my menstrual cycle (it’s another side affect of PMS for me).

While I’m happy the tide of cysts has subsided, they still pop up every few months. I’ve come to accept that there is no way for me to entirely prevent them, so I have a patented plan of attack for the moment I feel one of these pimples from hell coming on. (After a few rounds with cystic acne, you should notice the little spidey-sense tingling exactly at the spot where the next one is about to pop up.) If you, or a friend or family member suffers from the same problem, try these steps for some relief:

Do Not Pick! I really mean it this time. Yes, we know we are not supposed to pick at pimples, but we all do it. Cystic acne is different. It is impossible to get into all of the infection and bring it to the surface. You will only serve to anger the pimple even more! Picking often times leads to more redness, bigger infections and a longer healing time.

Take some ibuprofen. I didn’t pick this up until years into my siege, when the nurse at the dermatologist’s office advised me to take two Advil twice a day until a particularly large cyst subsided. Doh – that totally makes sense – a few Advil’s will help with the pain and can help reduce swelling as well.

Ice it down. Soon after the ibuprofen suggestion, I had an epiphany – ice is great for pain and swelling! Let’s ice my jaw line (where my cystic pimples like to hang out) and see what happens. Halleluiah – I felt instant and long lasting relief and noticed the cyst was half it’s size after 15 minutes of applied ice. I recommended taking 15 minutes every morning and night to ice down any “active” cyst.

Avoid topical acne products. In my experience, they have no effect on cystic pimples and tend to aggravate more than relieve. I have found one, blessed exception and that is the Renee Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment. I was lucky enough to test this brilliance in a bottle (it was what prompted me to write this post sharing my “wisdom” on cystic acne) and, after 10 years of searching, discovered a topical product that actually helped treat my cystic acne. You can see my review here.

If all else fails, get thee to a good dermatologist. It can be expensive, but is worth it when it comes to this problem. I can’t recommend antibiotics or accutane (both must be prescribed by a derm), as the antibiotics failed to help me and accutane just scares me. But, every case is different and others may find some relief with them. Also, it’s great to have a good derm on hand for when the situation calls for an injection. (Most sympathetic docs will squeeze you in for a few minutes between scheduled appointments during an emergency flare up )

Shoot it up. If you can handle a needle to the face (and most cystic sufferers will try anything for a cure) there is no better “instant” solution. A good pop of cortisone to the center of the pimple should cause a drastic reduction in swelling and pain and helps to shorten the life span of the cyst.

Don’t beat yourself up. I know, cystic acne really sucks. Don’t blame yourself because there’s not a thing you can do if you’re predisposed to suffer from them. So try not to let it rule your life. And, never, ever, change or cancel plans because you can’t go out “looking like that.”  Make up, hairstyles, scarves and wraps can do wonders to hide your temporary imperfection. Do that best that you can to hide it in plain site and than get out there!

Are there other cystic acne sufferers out there? Share your coping skills and solutions with us!

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Written by Tyna Werner

114 Comments

  1. Profile photo of winnie
    winnie

    I hate these things! I too started getting them about 8 years ago. the first one drove me crazy. it was on my neck and i could not figure out why this one wasn’t behaving like a normal zit. it hurt and i couldn’t pop it (yes, i know that’s bad and disgusting). The woman who waxes my eyebrows is also an aestician (no idea how to spell that) so i figured she could take care of it for me. Well she informed me that there was nothing she could personally do because it was a cyst type acne and would go away on its own. Our solution? Cover it up with a band aid! I don’t get them that often but when i do they’re always on my neck and i am so self conscience about it. I’m totally going to pick up the Renee Roulea treatment Tyna mentioned earlier. its worth a shot!

  2. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
    Tyna Werner

    Ugg – the neck is the worst! It’s so noticable and the skin in that area is so tender and prone to scarring. Next time, try the Renne Rouleau and ice it down. Then, use the always chic scarf and tie one around your neck sort of like a necklace – no will know – they’ll just think “wow, that’s so cute!”

  3. Profile photo of Rebecca Z
    Rebecca Z

    I never thought about icing them! My dermotologist always told me to use hot compresses, but I would always swear that would never make that big of a difference. And hands-off is such an important rule! Once I had an especially painful one on my forehead and yada yada yada and now I have a big scar on my forehead, brilliant. My boyfriend says it’s not noticeable, but I’m still horribly self-conscious about it. Damn things.

    I’ll most definitely have to try the Renne Rouleau! Thanks for the tips!

  4. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
    Tyna Werner

    HOT compresses!? OMG, that sounds like a terrible idea – heat only irritates my cysts – hot showers, warm weather, etc add to the irritation. Steam and compresses may work on regular pimples – by softening the skin and helping to form a breakable white head – but won’t do the trick on cystic pimples. Try ice next time you feel one coming on and you will be amazed at the difference.
    Aww, and don’t worry about the scar Miss Rebecca – I’m sure you are the only one that sees it. Plus, you have those adorable bangs – perfect for hiding any little imperfections!

  5. dwight bryant

    i have cystic acne too and ive been trying everything and nothings working like nothing and i need to clear myself up with summer here now i need to get clear will someone please reply to this please

  6. Kevin@Cystic Acne Home Remedy

    Wow, very good, well written post! One of the best and most informative I’ve seen. I’m glad that you have gotten them under control now with the occasional one popping up. The two treatments of ice and Advil (ibuprofen) I had never thought of before now but it makes sense. Both are good for inflammation. I have a 20+ year history of back trouble and ice does wonders for that, I should have known.
    Thank you for this article, I learned much from it. Keep up the good work!
    .-= Kevin@Cystic Acne Home Remedy´s last blog ..Cystic Acne Cure =-.

  7. Samantha

    Tea Tree Oil! Apply a dab to the cyst as soon as you feel it coming up. It will be your new best friend!! :)

    PS. I’ve suffered with cysts for 2years now and this was the only thing that drastically reduced the lump within a few days. Leaves redness though.

  8. Johnathan

    hey, sorry, i know this is late but anyway!

    i had similar experiences – from 5th to 8th grade, i had severe cystic acne. needless to say, high school was absolute hell. i did the same as you, i tried so many things that all promise to clear up acne, but nothing worked. it wasn’t until 7th grade that i finally went to a dermatologist – i was thinking it was going to get better, but it was only the beginning. he prescribed me roaccutane, and for a while it was o.k – finally there was some sign of improvment.

    but thats when the side effects started – namely, the severe depression – the cutting, etc – i had it all. now, this is hard anytime, but at 12 years old…yeah. i still think it was worth it though – ive never had a pimple since.

  9. ChaCha Fance

    Thanks so much for this post! Lately I am having major issues with cystic acne. As soon as one FINALLY goes away, another one pops up and they leave scars all over. My skin looks and feels horrible and I feel horrible. I am definitely going to try some of your tips.

  10. LMZ

    Thank you so very much! I am sitting here near tears over three diagonally in a row! I’m going home to ice and ibuprofen. I was so tempted to call my dermatologist to reconsider acutane~

    Gratefuly yours,

    1. katyloo

      I second that: What a wonderfully written post!! To LMZ, consider Accutane is a terrific option. I did and hardly ever, ever get cysts now. Don’t be scared about what people say. Find a good doctor who will prescribe it. It prevents more scarring and while you are on it (and for months afterward) you will have the most beautiful complexion. It does something magic, I swear! It purges all that gunk out of your pores and you wake up glowing!! I’m not kidding.

      I am prone to cysts right by my nose area. Of course I picked at some minor blackheads in that area and because of all those oily pores, BAM! 2 days later, a painful, red, itchy cyst! Not as big as before Accutane and it goes away quicker but still bummer! For me, change in seasons (now its Spring) make my skin freak out. Thanks for the tips again!

    2. Anna

      I, too, did Accutane. It completely cured me…for 5 years. After that, my cystic acne came back and was almost worse than before. I went to a natural doctor to find the root of the problem, instead of just treating the problem. She helped me figure out that caffeine was causing it for me. I have been off caffeine for 10 months, and have not had ONE SINGLE BREAKOUT! I highly suggest finding a good natural doctor and going that route if your acne returns. I hope it doesn’t return for you, though.

  11. Kelly

    I have had problems with cystic acne since college and am now 40 years old. Thought age would decrease this irritating embarrasing buggers. Do not pick or pop as long as you can take it. I do believe hot compresses work and drinking lots and lots of water. I have had the cortisone shots and they do work although intimidating to lessen the healing time. The other thing that has actually worked for me was Proactive. Honest I am not a salesman or spokesperson for Proactive, but when I feel one coming on I use the cleanser two or three times a day and it doesn’t get huge like they usually do and is gone within four days. Not sure it would work for everyone, but it has for me.

  12. reina

    I get these things all the time. Antibiotics work magic for me, though. Also, ice works well to bring the swelling down, but if you don’t have anywhere to go, then you should actually put hot packs on the pimple. My dermatologist recommended this. The heat helps pull out the infection. Don’t worry if the heat makes it extra red + hot. It helps to clear it up faster.
    The no picking part is sooooooo hard for me. My cystic acne usually starts out as a little bump and I see it and think “oh let me just take care of this and pop it.” I’ve only actually successfully popped two cystic zits and it is a mess…..blood everywhere. But….it relieves all the pain and for some reason, it doesn’t even leave a scab.

  13. Kathryn

    I’ve been suffering from cystic acne for ever – dreadful! I finally found my ultimate cure. I take an ounce of witch hazel and dump the powder from an antibiotic capsule that my doctor prescribed. She told me to use after washing and toning (with witch hazel). I also get facials every 6 weeks. My face hasn’t been this clear since high school. Too bad I have the scarring. I’m just relieved it’s come to a conclusion…at least I hope! It’s been 6 mos of great skin!

    1. katyloo

      Dear Kathryn: what antibiotic pill did you use?? I’m dying to try your trick! Also, I’m wondering too about getting regular facials as a preventive measure. Did you have to search long to find someone suitable? My skin is so sensitive that I worry it might make it worse if I don’t go to someone super-knowledgeable.

  14. robin

    I too had a perfect high school complexion straight through age 26 (2 years ago), luckily I started taking 100 mg of spironalactone and after 12 weeks I did not see a cyst again, until I stopped taking it to see if I needed it or not. I thought maybe the constant drinking of water and retin a 3 times a week was doing it maybe. Well I was wrong I did need it, and now I am just battling the hyperpigmentation left over.

  15. Profile photo of Alice Federico
    Alice Federico

    I have endured cystic acne, on and off, since I was 18 yrs old. I had hoped that once I reached menopause it would go away. Fortunately I have fewer outbreaks and when I do they are concentrated in fewer areas, but the problem persists. I have tried everything. As others have said, cortisone injections directly into the cyst are best for immediate relief. When I was working, I used to see my dermatologist 2x a month for treatment. Now I deal with the problem on my own. I have the following suggestions for fellow sufferers:
    ICE on 15 minutes especially at night before bedtime is very helpful. This will bring the cyst to maturity much faster.
    Do Not Squeeze a cyst! That said, you need to identify when the cyst is ready to be opened, gently, without undue pressure. Apply a hot compress, touch the area and determine if the infection is spread out over a large area (not ready) or localised into a concentrated area where you see a white head appear. Even then, you need to proceed with caution. If you touch the area and feel extreme widespread soreness, do not try to squeeze. Be patient. Take Advil, use the ice to make the pain go away until the cyst can be rendered. If it is ready, very little pressure will be required. If you press and squeeze you risk spreading the infection to other areas and creating a horrible red mess.
    Product To Try: Burts Bees Herbal Blemish Stick with Tea Tree Oil. This really helps as a spot treatment.
    Foods I Avoid: CoffeeMate Non-Dairy Creamer, Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate mix, sour cream, milk chocolate (dark is okay in limited quantities)
    Cover Up Product: Almay Blemish Cover Up Stick – Good color selections and it does help heal the blemish without excessive drying, while providing camouflage.

  16. Jenni

    I used to get them on my back and shoulders really bad. Someone once told me to try vinegar. So about once a week I’ll take some vinegar (I use the apple cider variety) and rub it on my back and shoulders, then shower it off fifteen minutes later. It’s made a HUGE difference. It smells awful terrible but it’s worked wonders for me. It has also helped fade the scars from the visitors before. I don’t use it on my face though as the skin there is more sensitive. It will dry your skin out so I’d be careful if you have terribly sensitive skin, but it does work. I’m going to try the ice and Advil approach on this beast of a zip I’ve got right between my eyes.

  17. Mere b

    Thanks for the suggestions. I am definitely going to try icing and ibuprofen to fight out out with these 4 massive cysts that are eating up the sides of my neck.
    I am so frustrated and near tears. I had acne as a teenager and then it cleared up once I went on birth control. I went off birth control about 5 years ago (killed my emotions and sex drive) and slowly but surely, I have developed cystic acne. Have tried almost every stupid prescription out there and dietary changes. Nothing seems to work and it’s so hard not to feel like everything you do is wrong.
    The only thing that provided me with 2 years of PERFECT skin was Accutane. I know, it seems scary, and there seems to be a lot of ‘scare propagandha’ out there but honestly, it was the best decision I ever made. MY boyfriend had bad acne too so he went on it at the same time and we both agree we were so happy we did. The only side effects were dry lips and I occassionally had dry eyes. Neither of those symptoms have persisted after.
    What’s crushing though is that 2 years later the cysts are coming back. Slowly but steadily, they are back. Now I have 3 on one side and 1 on the other and they HURT.
    Not sure what I’m going to do. I don’t want to go running back to Accutane but at the same time, these monsters are just unbearable and I can’t stand the thought of just ‘tolerating’ them for years. I am going to look into that Renee stuff.
    Good luck everyone!

  18. Paul

    Just discovered this post. I’m going to try the Renee treatment on one cyst I’ve had for a few months. These can be very hard to remove…

    That being said, having suffered with cystic acne all my life, I recently discovered that milk is the cause. It makes sense since I was allergic to milk as a child but didn’t think about the effects it would have in my adulthood. I’ve quite drinking or eating anything with dairy and haven’t had a new cyst for 4 months. Prior to the non-dairy diet, I would get a cyst every 2 weeks. Anyway, if you’ve been a long time sufferer, maybe avoiding milk will help you too.

  19. Misha

    Tyna, thanks for your blog! I could to practically everything you spoke about. I have always had clear skin, but I have noticed that since I turned 35, my hormones have definitely affected the oils in my skin. These little things are INTENSE! I have used ice and ibuprofen and you are right that it does make a big difference in being able to tolerate the pain as well as lessen the size. I look forward to trying the solution you mentioned as well as the Tea Tree oil mentioned by a few others.
    Thanks to you and the others for sharing your struggles and remedies!

  20. Ali

    After reading this, I feel as if I am writing my own life story. I have gone through the pain where I feel I cant even go outside because how horrible I feel they look. I end up cancelling plans and running home after dinner. The cortisone shots works, I just wish they would help prevent future breakouts. After reading the article, I grabbed a bag of frozen peas, and am currently laying down on the couch with my chin on top. ( and typing!) I hope this works, because this is freezing! I just ordered your recommendation- like you said, I am willing to try anything. I have gone from high end products to just neutragena. I’m glad to find there are others out there with the same pain.

  21. Anne

    I’m getting more and more certain that I suffer from cystic acne, because it’s getting more and more obvious. My “pimples” are deep and combined with the unbelieveable urge to prick them, I always have open wounds.

    I should really try the icing thing tonigh, because I feel another one coming. Also, I can obviously tell that it’s SO much worse in my pill-free week where I’m getting my period. Sadly, the cysts last so long I only get 2 weeks in between my break-outs.

  22. NJ

    i too have suffered and while i have found icing to be the best affordable solution, at some point, i have to go outside and face the world (no pun intended). makeup is a must, but i don’t want to use anything that will further irritate it, so i use boo-boo cover-up b/c it has antibacterial, antiseptic and other healing ingredients.

  23. Tomo

    Thanks for the post! Really good reading other peoples comments,gives me hope. I suffer from really bad cystic acne, only effects me on my jaw-line. It throbs and itches a lot. But I’ve never tried to pop one, so I’m hoping it doesn’t scar too badly!.. What I found out which helps me is. Lay off the alcohol, regular exercise, drink plenty of water and always try and think positive.. After all they do say stress causes spots. I’m about to start my course of ro-accutane. Slightly pessimistic but heard its worth it! Tried every other oral medication!! So might as well give it a go!

    Thanks again. Glad to know there’s places like these. Makes a difference.. Good luck guys

  24. Katie

    Thank you so much Tyna for writing this. Prior to reading this I was feeling really depressed about my resent breakout of cystic pimples. It doesn’t help that I’m a long time acne sufferer. I thought I was cured after a steady relationship with acctane, and two years of awesome skin. But my skin reverted to its youth post college graduation. I typically hate acne blogs as they’re never really hopeful or offer any good advice, but I genuinely felt you wrote this article for people like me who just want to hear from someone who understands. I also love (sad enough) the comparison of a cystic pimple to a pea shoved under your skin.

  25. DanniMom

    i used to horrible cyctic acne growing up, but it has since tamed down because I use the Shielo Complexion Moisturizer. I do not even get breakouts – you really should try it.

    this product stops them and the price is great, considering it actually works.

    highly recommended.

  26. karina

    seriously, your story made me teary-eyed and i almost started crying (it might have something to do with the fact that im on my period.. but still, it was moving). i always feel like no one ever knows what im going through (now im crying..)and that no one will ever understand how much this hurts me, physically and emotionally, but reading this made me realize that im really not the only one. At the end you inspired me a little to not hold myself back. so many times again and again i have stayed home from a party or event because of my acne. and that alone is hard enough (and embarrassing) to admit. along with admitting to the fact that i literally search acne-related information maybe 5 or more times a day. im paranoid and obsessed. its gotten to me and its all i think about all day long, especially because im at school and because im constantly around people who have to look at my face. and of course i feel like im the one who should apologize for making them look at something so disturbing.
    anyway, thank you. i feel like i should make more of an effort to focus my energy on something that i can change: my attitude towards life for example, instead of trying to cure something that i CANNOT control. ha, i think i just took my first step:) thank you so much this was extremely helpful!:)

  27. sep

    Thanks for the post and comments! It’s good to know we’re not alone! After years of suffering in college I tried Accutane. For me, the side effects were awful. A year later I saw a proper dermatologist, not a regular family physician. Knowing I wasn’t a fan of Accutane, he prescribed Differin, a topical cream. I would apply just the smallest amount on my trouble areas every night at bedtime, the only side effect was some dryness. Within a month my skin had cleared up. I used Differin for nearly a year without any painful cysts. Eventually I stopped using it and my skin has been fine for the last couple of years. Now I have a huge cyst and it’s so painful. If an effort to minimize the pain I picked at it, applied heat, salt, acne gel, etc. It’s sad when you get to a point where you don’t care about the damage you’re doing to your face, you just simply want it to go away so badly. I saw a doctor today and she said there’s nothing to do other than ice and Advil, which I’ve been doing all day. However, reading these posts have made me feel better, reminding me that others deal with similar issues, and I know I need to be patient and remember I could have worse problems than a pimple, regardless of how painful and frustrating it may be. For those looking for a solution, and not willing to take Accutane, I highly recommend Differin, it worked wonders for me.

  28. Vari

    Seriously, good to know we’re not alone. I was also blessed with clear skin through most of high school, had occasional break outs here and there in college but nothing horrifying. After I transitioned to a career, my skin was pretty clear for the most part and then I started dealing with a lot of stress these past few months and never in my life have I ever had an acne attack so bad.

    I was so embarrassed to go home for a vacation with everyone in my family ridiculing me and blaming me, asking what on earth I did to my face. I even overhead my aunt pull my mom aside and say something along the lines of, “I’m seriously concerned for her. What if her co-workers begin to spite her because of how horrible her face has gotten?” It’s been so hard because everyone keeps blaming me like I did this to myself on purpose. I’ve already seen a doctor and was prescribed two different topical medicines and I just dropped a hundred bucks on Renee Rouleau products and to top it off, I have a wedding to attend in two days.

    Ah well, at least we are not alone. And I mean…I guess it could be worse, right?

    1. Blaze

      I am a 58 year old woman. When I was 23 my perfect skin became infused with cystic acne on both cheeks. It was so painful and could not be covered up. I was fired from my job at the very cool hip health food restaurant that I was working at. I got another job at a pharmacy as a cashier. People always asked me about what kind of accident did I get in. My face looked awful and felt awful. My mother told me that I was paying for my sins. It was the worst time in my life. When I was 30 the cysts went away and when I was 35 the peach fuzz came back to my cheeks. To have the fuzz back instead of the shiny skin was so wonderful. I wish I would have tried the ice idea.
      I now have several pus pockets where there were cysts. I can not completely drain them. I am thinking of putting on my 5x magnifiers and getting a new scalpel and slicing them open and draining them and then hydrogen peroxiding them.
      ANY OLD ACNE SUFFERERS READING THIS THREAD? I would sure appreciate some advice. (I went to a derm and he recommended another derm who I waited 5 months to get into and he said I don’t do that and recommended another derm who I just did not go see)

    2. Anna

      I just posted this as a reply to someone else, but wanted to tell you as well. I went on Accutane and it cured me for 5 years…after that my cystic acne came back worse than before. It was awful. I went to a natural doctor to find the root of the problem instead of just treating the problem itself. She helped me figure out that caffeine was causing my cystic acne. I’ve been off caffeine for 10 months and haven’t had ONE SINGLE BREAKOUT! I highly suggest finding a good natural doctor and going that route. Good luck and I hope you find a solution!

    3. Andrea

      I’m right there with you girl! Hang in there. I tried the ice and the advil tonight. The ice seems to help. Just plunked down some cash on Renee Rouleau anti-cyst cream. You are definitely not alone. I was on Yaz and my skin was MUCH better. When I got off of it (thought it lowered my sex drive) I immediately got the worst break out ever and I am 45!! I never had acne in my teens. I think I am going to try to cut out all dairy too and I am going right back on the birth control pill! This is too annoying for me. There is like a ‘blanket of acne’ on my jawline and I am worried I will pick at it and it will scar. Think I will just deal with the low sex drive! :)

  29. Sasha

    I’ve battled cystic acne for years and have finally gotten to a place where I feel like I’m in control. When things were really bad i tried doxy, which seemed to help, but i couldn’t handle the side effects. Then I got on spironolactone and got cortisone shots up the wazoo for a couple months and it helped me clear up long enough to plan a defense routine. The murad acne line worked great for me and now I do a glycolic peel and micro derm facial every six weeks and use a mild acai cleanser (super by perricone). once every few months I get a random cyst, but I have a great derm that I can pop in for a quick pop of cortisone and zap it away. The shots work WONDERS and for someone with hyperpigmentation like me, getting rid of them fast is critical. I highly recommend trying the cortisone at least once for anyone who suffers from cystic acne. For me, i can get a shot and within 24 hours the cyst is 95% gone. Plus, with my insurance i only pay a copay of $25 for the visit, regardless of number of injections (usually 1 per cyst unless its a monster). Its given me so much piece of mind no longer having to deal with the anxiety of weeks of pain and self consciousness.

  30. Beth

    Ive had cyst type lumps on my chin off and on for about 15 years. Tried everything. Phisohex (spelling?) Worked well to pit just a dab in the center of it and leave it. Ran out eventually and couldnt afford another prescription. Cipro makes it go away. Again, pricey. Antibacterial soap left on it would lessen it pretty fast but dried out my skin bad. It is effective in preventing future cysts if u lather it on your face at the start of a bath or
    shower and leave it on for 10 min while washing all your other parts. Problem is i have a hard time remembering to do that.
    Recently i was staining a floor and it was oil based. Got it on my
    face (chin) and didnt realize it. You can guess what happened.
    Took about an hour to form. All i had to clean it off was water which wasnt going to work or disteolled white vinega. Being an acid, i opted for vinegar. It took it almost completely away. Since then ive had another and after 2 days i remembered the vinegar. Id tried the ice the night before. Swelling went down until i woke up the next morning. My chin immediately had my attention. So i went for the white vinegar. Pain was gone within less than a minute. Swelling subsided within about 5 min. Heat was also gone almost instantly. I used it i think 5x that day and the next morning it was almost gone. It seems like everything i used my skin developed a tolerance for it. I hope the white vinegar remedy lasts. Hope this info helps someone on here.

  31. John

    I really don’t blog but I found this article to be really helpful. The ice tip makes so much sense!

    In my own research I’ve found that cyctic acne is caused by a hormone called cortisol which causes the inflammation. While there is nothing you can do to stop it, here are some of the things I do personally to reduce it’s production and thus (hopefully) reduce the amount of cyctic acne.

    1) no more coffee – i’ve replaced my coffee with green tea
    2) Take Ashwagandha extract -which is a natural herb/stress reducer

    3) Diet heavy in Omega 3 or fish oil supplements

    4) sleep with a night mouth guard

    5) no greasy hair product
    6) running only for exercise – no weights.

    hope some of this helps.

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      A belated thanks John for this comment. I’ve heard to cut bacl on coffee/caffeine as well – it’s just so hard for me. I need my morning cup!
      And I have to ask why #4 – sleep with a mouth guard? Thanks!

  32. Kelley

    I love the article! I am heading to my derm today for a gigantic cyst on my chin. I have been getting these for years and finally, I am finished with them. I don’t like birth control and am not sure I want to take any antibiotics for them. I am interested in cortizone shot.

    Here is my big question – I heard they can leave an indent where the shot goes in at the location of the cyst. I am 39 years old so my skin isn’t that of a teen. When I was a teen I had beautiful skin! So – Should I be worried? Is it worth a try? How many people do you know who have had a negative outcome with the shots? Please share! Thank you!

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      Kelley – thanks for the nice words. I hope you had a successful visit with your derm. As for the indent issue when getting cortisone shots – I’ve never had a problem. Of course, you will have some bleeding, from where the needle goes in, for a few hours afterwords. But I’ve never had a lasting problem with my skin scaring.

      In fact, my Doctor told me that the shots help break up the scar tissue that can form in the area – I’ve had issue with indents/scaring at places where a cystic pimple repeatedly pops up.

  33. MrAwesome

    I’ve suffered from these things since high school (now just finishing college), but finally managed to control it about a year ago. For me, it seems to be all about diet. Let me explain how I’ve come to this conclusion:

    Last year I got a cyst right on my nose (they always seem to pop up there) almost a week after another one had just healed (I had gone to the dermatologist for a cortisone shot for that one). Up until then, I had been told by my dermatologist that my diet probably isn’t the issue, so I didn’t think twice about it. However, at that point I was so fed up that I was willing to try anything. I decided to do a complete diet overhaul to stop the nonsense. My main train of thought was “if I eat junk, my body will try to get rid of the junk any way it can, even through my skin”. So for 1 week I cut out ALL processed foods, drank as much water I possibly could every day, and ate mostly salad, chicken, and fish. For me, this was the miracle cure.

    The new cyst on my nose began to heal MUCH faster than any other cyst I had before. The rest of my face was practically spotless after about 3 days, and the new cyst was clearly dead, slowly being reabsorbed into my skin for the rest of the week. Honestly, my skin had never felt or looked better.

    I’ve also noticed that consuming a lot of alcohol irritates my skin as well. The other night I went out for a few drinks at the bar (for my birthday, so it was a tiny bit more than a “few”) and woke up the next day with an irritated red spot on my nose. I knew right away what it was, and sure enough in a matter of 2 days it has grown into a cyst. My skin also seems to have tiny breakouts the day after any other time I consume more than 2 or 3 drinks at a party.

    In conclusion, while it may not be the case for everyone, diet definitely has an impact on my skin. I can’t imagine all of these trends are coincidental. My suggestion to anyone who has problems with cysts would be to at least try a diet change. For me it worked better than any antibiotics or topical ointments I had tried in the past.

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      Thanks @MrAwesome for your interesting comments on diet and cystic acne – and I completely agree with you. “You are what you eat” is something I heard since I was 5, and it totally makes sense that the better your diet is, the better your skin will be. And while it may not be the cure for everyone, a better diet never hurt anybody!

  34. Laura

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have had trouble with cystic acne for years. I inherited it from my father who still struggles with it now that he is in his 60s. I was put on heavy antibiotics for my acne which made me dizzy and anxious all the time. Now I am off everything and I am flaring up like crazy, and I am getting married in May. Thank you for your help.

  35. Mimi

    I have had cysts for about 10 years now. I’ve never had great skin but these just took my skin to the extreme. The first derm I went to brushed me off and told me they were zits, never went back to her. I did find a great doctor who I absolutely love. She is always willing to go that extra mile to help, especially since she knows the treatments are expensive. What works for my now is minocycline twice a day and tretonin topical cream (retin-A) twice a day. These are both a generic version which is helpful because they are cheaper with my insurance. These definitely help once they work their magic, I am usually cyst free for about 6 months or more. Then repeat. They are hard to deal with because they do hurt so much and are hard to cover but it’s a process and I just keep my fingers crossed that someday they will be gone.

  36. KittieL

    I have had bad cystic acne on my chin since I was about 15, I’m now 18, and havent found anything (other than expensive prescriptions) that would clear the break outs and keep them away. I then read about using the Lady Soma Antioxidant Masque and have been using it for about 3 days now and am amazed. The stuff totally dried up my pimples and they are now scabbed over and healing.

    I would not, however, recommend using the masque all over your face as it does dry out skin. Only use it as a spot treatment.

  37. Melissa Jurgensen

    I will try the ice method with the Advil. Unless someone suffers from this they have no idea of the pain or embarassment of those horrible cysts! My skin is pretty clear but I’m always getting cysts on my chin. One will just about be gone and then another will form on the other side! The dark red scarring they leave behind too is hard to deal with.

    I’ve determined that I only get them when I eat certain foods (caramel color, honey, poultry, fish, nuts, chocolate) and when I cut out those foods, and I’m talking about reading ingredients at the grocery on nearly everything I buy, I don’t have a problem. However, lately even when I’m careful on what I eat to the point of being obsessed I’m getting them again. SO that means I need to reevaluate what I’m eating to see if there’s something else to add to my “no” list.

    It’s just helpful to read that I’m not the only one with this problem. I will look at the Renee Rouleau products too.

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      Hi @Melissa – I hope the the ice and advil suggestion help you somewhat – for me they really do help reduce the pain and size of my cysts. Plus, I just ‘feel’ them less when I follow these steps – so I don’t constantly think about that growth on my face/neck for 24 hours a day – which can be a drag.

      As for the reappearance of a cystic pimple in one certain spot over and over and over – sadly that’s a hallmark of cystic acne. A pimple is basically just a clogged pore or follicle and when you have cystic acne that pore can expand many, many time it’s size. In turn, that pore and the pores surrounding it also get stretched out and damaged, leading to a clogged pore(s) – and the pimple cycle starts all over again. And it feels like you get the same damn pimple over and over. The ice may help with this, by keeping the cystic pimple size down.

      Thanks for sharing your diet info – it’s interesting to learn what causes cysts for others and to see if they could be part of my issues. And remember you are far from alone in this problem!

  38. kayla

    i never had acne until after high school as well. i’m 22 now and got my first massive cyst on my cheek last fall. finally got rid of it and another popped up over this past weekend. i don’t use proactiv much, but the 2 times i have not long after one of these have popped up. my husband has been trying to get me to drink apple cider vinegar since we met, says its good for you all around. probably go out and buy some this evening. i’m going to start drinking more water as well. my mom says if i put fat back on the cyst and sleep with it overnight it will come to a head to be able to pop. also going to start taking vitamin E. as for face wash i’m probably going back to regular bar soap, and i read somewhere online that lime juice and water works as a good toner. hopefully these things will put an end to this horrible nightmare.

  39. johnny

    hi,

    i was thinking about taking a scalpel and cutting directly into it to make a deep incision to release whatever is in there, maybe throw a min bandage on there who knows

    anyone else ddone this?

  40. Patti

    You are lucky. I got mine injected by my dermatologist and now I have three where I used to have one. I’m so frustrated. I tend to alternate between ice and heat when mine get really bad and that does make it feel better. There’s got to be something better for us cystic acne sufferers. Right now, I swear I’m turning into a unicorn because I’ve got a beast on my forehead.

  41. Missy

    Use a combo of ortho lo retina micro doxy b complex acedopholis cetefil cleaner neutrogena moist for sensitive skin and apple cyder vinegar on a cyst for ten seconds! Been struggling for 10 years and this plan leaves me clear at 30 years old! Finally! Accutane scares me

  42. Debbie

    I don’t recommend following your bit of advice of taking Ibuprofen twice daily for a the acne because you can and will inflict serious damage on your liver. Then you will not have a cosmetic issue on your hands you will have a life threatening one. Ibuprofen is extremely damaging to the liver and should not be taken casually. I just had to respond when I read that. Thanks

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      Hi Debbie! Thanks so much for your comment. Just to clarify, I do not recommend taking Ibuprofen on a daily basis to prevent cystic acne.

      I have had luck using Ibuprofen, sparingly, during a flare-up. I’ve found when you have a big one flaring up, and you’re in pain, a few doses of Advil or the like (per my dermatologist’s advice) over a few days can reduce the swelling, inflammation and pain.

      And as always, consult with your doctor when taking any medicines! I am far from a medical professional – so thanks so much for the advice!

  43. k

    i tried pretty much everything and then an LA doctor changed my life completely. He gave me a pill called “spironolactone” and I never got another cystic acne breakout ever again. I was on 2×25 mg of spiro a day for about 2 years and now i don’t have to take it at all.. it’s a cheap med without side effects but only women can use it.. (it gives men testicular atrophy)… If anyone has this problem they should def. give spironolactone a try

  44. Pamela Fontaine

    I know your post is an old one but I came across it in a web search. I have just grown my very first cystic acne spot. The suggestion re: ice is a life saver. It has lessened the appearance of the nasty devil already! I’m on day 2 and alredy truly sick of it! It’s unsightly – on my neck – and hurts. If it goes on too long, I’ll be off to the doctor to see about a cortisone shot. Thanks for the posting. It was very helpful – and informative. I’m wondering – how long do these usually last?

  45. Patrick Horvath

    I’m nearly 19 years old and I started getting the most annoying acne all over my lower face mainly on my chin, jawline and neck (sometimes had the odd one or two on my forehead and cheek) and most of them were just dozens or small pimples but I had the odd cyst or two as well. Year and half later 95% of my acne has cleared up! Want to hear my advice on how to clear up awful acne? First of all don’t buy ANY chemical product such as proactive, benzoyl etc. These things only temporarily fix your acne up for the first week or two then it all backfires even worse and the acne becomes even harder to get rid of (trust me I know) I had awful red skin that was consistently itching/ burning and just about every day my skin was popping out 5 new pimples, it was dreadful. The second thing you shouldn’t do is never try out that awful drug accutane, I never took this drug myself because many others told me what the side effect are, don’t believe me? Google it up and you will find all the results you will need about the side effects of that awful drug (some countries have already banned that drug because of that). Next piece of advice, exercise! Trust me exercising is really good, if you keep sweating yourself out by doing things such as going to the gym, running, cycling etc, and you sweat yourself out then wash yourself immediately when you’ve finished, you will start seeing results (not just for your skin but your fitness too). Next advice, diet! Avoid eating things that have sugar, anything related to diary (chocolates, milk, cheese, yogurt, cream etc), things that are too salty, if something has more then 10 ingredients in it that are hard to pronounce try not to eat it, alcohol, caffeine (like coffee or energy drinks). I know it may be hard to avoid all of that, at least try to avoid most of it, for me I was really dedicated to getting rid of my acne so I followed that diet 99% of the time (very rarely I would have any of that). Food and vitamins you should have, the best vitamins you can have is vitamin A, C and zinc , for vitamin A apples is really good for that (make sure you eat the skin on the apple too), Lemons/lime and oranges are really good for vitamin C, as for zinc try have some meat (but not too much of it though) or you can have zinc tablets (I take 1 of those tablets a day myself). Next advice, drink plenty of water! Drinking plenty of water does help guys & girls try to have an average of 8 glasses a day. Next advice, Sleep at least eight hours a day! Your body needs to rest to heal itself up! Next advice, alkaline your body, most people these days have acidic bodies which bacteria and other diseases can thrive in those environments, if you alkaline your body up to a good PH level it can skin big time (I’ve been taking that alkaline stuff by buying it from health food places) and mixing it in a glass of water once a day and it has helped my skin even more! Just be careful you don’t overdo the alkaline because having too much in your body is bad too. Last but no least, Patience! If you follow most of what I’ve said, expect to see results in 3 – 6 months or maybe even a year (depending how bad your acne is) trust me everyone, I don’t believe in a magical overnight cure as those things are just scams to me, if you want to clear up your skin follow my advice before you go spending thousands of dollars on things that may not work. I hope this post helps anyone who has had my problem, you might want copy and paste my post if you have to read over it again to remember. Also remember this “no pain, there’s no gain” doing all of this stuff I said may be really hard at first but in the end it is worth it and you will feel much more happier about yourself, in fact you will start begin enjoying doing all these healthy options once you get used to it. Good Luck!

    1. Viviane

      Thank you Patrick for your precious advices! Very helpful. Thank you all for posting, I’ll try all the tips! I’ve heard about the milk and dairy, but did not believe. Now I have to try everything that could help! I’m 31 and suffering from severe cystic acne, its very painful, as you all know. It’s also very painful to look at the mirror… I want to share what has helped me also, its a gel that contains 4% nicotinamide, have you ever tried it? I have very sensitive skin, so can not use anything harsh. This works really well to slowly make the bumps come to head, to reduce inflamation, and to prevent new cysts to form. I’ve been using it for 4 weeks now, and it’s improving well. I also am taking 50mg cyproterone, and taking Dianette. Nicotinamide works as a natural antibacterial, without the side effects.

    2. Still Suffering

      Thanks so much for your comment! I needed that encouragement. I went off benzoyl products about 3 months ago, and have no desire to go back to those nasty chemicals despite all the pressure I get from helpful people. My acne is the worst it’s ever been right now, but I tell people that I felt hard lumps underneath my skin when I was on the benzoyl cream, and I think that stuff is just coming out now. (Hopefully!) I visited a natueropath a week ago, and the only things I’d add to all the good things you said (for the sake of others still suffering) is: #1 Eat garlic- it’s a natural antibiotic, and you need it to help your skin fight the staph infection. I’m taking a whole freshly chopped clove mixed with honey 4 times a day. (Yes, that means 4 cloves per day- LOTS of garlic! And be glad when you start to smell like garlic- it’s getting into your pores to help fight that bacteria!) #2 Vitamin A in pill form- it helps reduce sebum production. (Someone with cystic acne should consult a health professional before doing this, as vitamin A in high quantities is bad for your liver. I have to take a blood test every 3 weeks to make sure I don’t damage mine.) #3 Vitamin E to protect your liver #4 Wash your face before bed with clay (I’m using calcium bentonite “Miracle Clay” mixed with water to form a gel) and then moisturize your face with almond, jojoba, or Vitamin E oil. (It’s really hard for me to wash just once a day, -I’ve always washed at least twice a day- but my face doesn’t feel as dirty as I thought it would, and you get used to the new habit after awhile). #5 Get a fresh pillowcase every night #6 Consider taking a hormone test- a high level of certain hormones can trigger your pores to produce more sebum or oil (I can’t remember exactly what it was!) and that makes acne worse.

      As I said, I just started doing this a week ago- so I’m not seeing much happening yet, but your comment gave me hope and I’ll post back in a few months if this works for me. I’m still mad at myself for all those years of putting chemicals on my face- what was I thinking?!?! After seeing how they bleached all the towels/sheets/pillowcases my face came in contact with?!?! That can’t possibly be good for your skin. And then it makes everything so much worse when you go off of them. I’m living proof of that! :-/

      And last but not least, don’t forget that you are SPECIAL and PRECIOUS because you are a person, made in God’s image and highly valued by Him! If you don’t know Him already, I have to inform you that you are really missing out on something. I would be SO depressed if I didn’t experience His love in so many big and little ways every day! And your looks don’t affect His love for you, and He isn’t horrified at the way you look! He’s awesome. I wouldn’t want to live without Him.

  46. Danny

    I have my first cystic pimple and it hurts to high heavens. I couldn’t figure out what is was after realizing the pimple didn’t “come to head”. After much googling I found your post….three days later. This morning I woke up w/ one on my temple. So, now I have one on my left cheek (and my daughter thinks someone hit me in the face) and on my temple. As I type this, I’m icing my face and shaking my head at all the products I’ve used over the past few days. I’ll be popping a pill or two very soon as these cysts are PAINFUL! Thanks for the information.

  47. Andy

    These are som of the best posts I’ve come accross on this topic and it’d be great if GPs offered this advice to patients – especially the health tips, ice, OTC pain killers and anti-inflametories etc – that can be done alongside any medical treatment.

    My main tip is not to be ashamed or embarassed or attempt to deal with these things yourself. Generally the EARLIER you see a medical professional the better as they can often help prescribe antibiotics to kill infections in cysts and reduce the inflamation that causes the discomfort and pain. Often cysts need to be removed surgically to get rid of them prevent them re-emerging. NEVER try to do a DIY job as it nearly always makes it worse and causes scarring – I’ve learned this to my cost. Cysts can only be removed surgically when they’re not really swollen and inflamed so try to get a referal to have them removed before they become really nasty. Get a good relationship with a doctor you trust and know how the system works so you can get things moving as soon as you notice a cyst emerging.

    So in summary, try all the more natural long-term suggestions mentioned above, but when you feel a bad cyst comming, get straight to a doctor to get it assessed and to put a plan in place to treat and potentially remove it. If it’s a bad one this will likely be the only thing that works so don’t wait to try everything before you seek professional help.

  48. Cherie

    I get one of these cysts every month on my chin the week before my period. Years ago I went on the pill and they disappeared. In April of this year I had to stop taking the pill because it was causing my hair to thin. Last month I got my first one again, and have one now. I have tried many things as well. Ice really does work for the inflammation. Also, the skin on the inside of an egg shell will help draw the toxins out. I tried this the last time I had one. Put a piece on the cyst, leave it there for 15 minutes, and take it off. After the 3rd time it began to bring the cyst to head. Since it works like a dermabrasion it will be red for a little bit after your remove the skin. Visine that takes redness out of your eyes will take redness out of the cyst. That really does work! I did the egg shell skin this morning then put visine on. It’s 1:00 PM and can feel it but cannot see it. I also do the ice in AM and PM. These 3 things have made a huge difference. I also just read this morning from a dr to put hydrocortizone on it an night and cover with a waterproof bandaid and it will be reduced in size and redness by morning. This dr claims it works as good if not better than the steriod injections. I will try that tonight!

  49. Anna

    Cystic acne is very difficult to deal with, isn’t it?! I started getting those huge, painful breakouts during my early 20’s. They usually showed up on my chin. My college professor once asked me in front of my entire art class, “What happened to your chin?” He was standing a good 15 feet from me, which tells you how obvious my breakout was, despite me trying everything I could do cover it up with makeup. It was humiliating!

    After I graduated and got married, my cystic acne continued, despite many topical treatments I tried. Cystic acne is so severe and deep, that topical treatments don’t even touch them (at least that was my experience). You have to fight it from the inside out. After much thought and prayer with my husband, we decided that going on Accutane was the next step. I know it’s a powerful drug with some scary side effects, but I was at the end of my rope and was willing to try anything. We felt like it would be a good option for me, as I don’t have any history of depression (one of the possible side effects). I was on Accutane for 6 months, and I cannot tell you how GLAD I am that I did it. It cured me of cystic acne. Seriously life-changing! I became happy again, and didn’t have to deal with the pain and humiliation of having these ugly sores on my face. The *only* side effect I experienced with Accutane is dry skin. The other more serious side effects are not very common, so talk with your Dr. about it. Don’t completely rule it out–I don’t know what I would have done without Accutane and am SO thankful I did it.

    Well, 7 years and 1 child later, I am starting to get a few cystic breakouts again. But, the good thing is that since I’ve been treated with Accutane, my breakouts respond more easily to topical treatments now, whereas before, topicals did nothing. It’s becoming a bit of a struggle again, and since I am still breastfeeding my child, I cannot take anything drug-related yet. So, I’m doing what I can to keep my face clean. One tip I have: When you feel that slight “ping” of pain way down deep in your skin, and you know another one is going to be popping up, strictly do these things:
    – Wash that area with a good cleanser every couple of hours, for several days
    – Wipe the area with one of those pore cleansing pads (Clearasil makes them) every couple of hours as well, for several days
    -Don’t touch or press on the area AT ALL (except when cleansing it)

    I have successfully fought one or two away completely by doing the above. As in, the breakout never fully came. But you have to catch it in time and start this routine AS SOON as you feel that little pain coming on.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for all your comments. I learned some new things as well.

  50. KLG

    I don’t know if this is true for everyone with cystic acne, but for me, it’s all hormonal. This makes it difficult to treat. I wish I had taken Accutane long ago, but I didn’t. The only thing that has worked for me is spironolactone, an androgen blocker. My skin was gorgeous and completely cyst free for years while taking this. Now that I’m trying to get pregnant, I can’t take it, so for the last 2 years, I’m back to suffering from large, painful cysts. Ice helps, as does Advil.

    1. KLG

      I forgot to mention that Amlactin, a lotion with lactic acid in it, helps, too. A dermatologist once recommended it for the breakouts I sometimes get on my–ahem–bottom. It works so well for that, I decided to try it on my jaw line. It doesn’t keep them from forming, but it does seem to lessen their ferocity and longevity.

    2. Still Suffering

      YES! I am convinced cystic acne is hormone related. On an encouraging note for you, my sister’s acne cleared up 100% when she started nursing- and she wasn’t taking any drugs and only used a generic face wash (Equate, I think). Have you considered talking to a natueropath about your acne? I did, and it was really encouraging for me- and I think you could probably do a lot of those things even if you’re pregnant. (You can see my comment above, in reply to Patrick Horvath’s on June 16, 2012). Also, if you could take a hormone test, you may find that your hormones are “out of wack” and a natueropath may be able to help you get them straightened out. (From what you said, I got the impression that you may be having difficulty conceiving- which would also be hormone related.) I really, really hope you can find something that can really get to the bottom of the issue and help you! In the meantime, I guess we’re in this together! ;)

  51. Vic

    What has worked for me is this:

    as soon as I feel that painful cystic acne starting to form, I wash my face with regular antibacterial hand soap and I concentrate on the newly forming cyst for 3-5 minutes. When done I dry my face completely then I put a dab of tea tree oil on the cyst with a q-tip. I use the tea tree oil straight from the bottle. I developed a resistance to the burning sensation. For some this may be a little harsh and I have read about people diluting the tea tree oil with another oil like olive oil and I’ve read about people diluting with water. But this has to be put on when the cyst is starting to form. Once it becomes a full blown cyst I find that this method doesn’t work. Depending when you use the tea tree oil (in the AM for example) by bedtime you’ll notice you don’t feel the cyst anymore.

    I hope I helped. I’m 33 and I’ve been suffering from this debilitating acne since I was 24. It’s really scary to know that I could probably never get rid of it but I am happy that I can lesson the lifespan by taking care of it right away. I’ve also learned something from another post where they say to use warm compress to bring it to a head. I will try that if I don’t get to it with tea tree oil on time.

    Thanks everyone.

  52. Tessa

    I was prescribed cephalexin for my cystic acne. I suffered for two painful weeks and this antibiotic made it burst within 2 days. Every day I was able to drain some gunk out. I had a tiny bump left under the skin but this med was a life saver for me!!!

  53. KimberlyIOI

    Great supportive conversation and advice. It’s always nice to know we are not alone in this battle. I too, suffer from these little beasts.

    I have found that the only thing that works for me is a strict diet, exercise and a good sleeping routine. If I eat dairy, sugar, processed food or anything that shouldn’t be eaten by a rabbit I break out for days. It has always been a constant battle. Also if I don’t get enough sleep or have a night that involves alcohol, game over. My necks is in pain with them. Now I know what the root cause is so I guess you can say it’s in my control to handle it much like any dieter would. I’m human, not always easy to stay on the strictest of diets but I try to tell myself it makes me healthy and it does clear me up.

    I recently read the Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder and her diet / order of eating food has worked wonders on my skin. Green smoothies packed with blood cleaners, antioxidants and ensuring that you don’t block your digestive paths so food doesn’t start to produce nasty cyst causing chemicals in our bodies are just a tid-bit of what I learned. It’s a lifestyle change so takes a bit of getting used to but it works for me so I wanted to share. :)

  54. Stacy Fi

    I finally found the cure, and it’s so easy. I suffered for years. Every over the counter, prescription, steroid, hormonal, and antibiotic product known to man was tested on me and nothing worked. I had 6-8 big cystic acne nodules on the front of my neck all the time for probably 6 years. FINALLY a doctor told me to go to a seed and feed store and buy some NuStock. It’s for cattle, but perfectly safe for humans. It’s 70% sulfur and 30% pine oil, around $15 for a lifetime supply. Within a few days of applying it at night (and smelling like Pine Sol) I was cured. I’ve had only one eruption in the past year and that was after I stopped using it for 3 months. The doctor that recommended it said all those expensive acne products give you around 3% sulfur when you really need straight sulfur. Made sense, tried it, changed my life. For $15. Sulfur kills bacteria, fungus, yeast, virus, whatever the cause. It’s too good to be true, but it is. I hope this helps someone else.

  55. JT

    I know this is an old post, but hopefully my experience can help others. I’m in my 30’s and still have ance problems. About 5 years ago I realized that high fructose corn syrup was causing my cystic acne. Anytime I ate something with high fructose corn syrup I would develop a cyst usually within an hour or two. I completely cut all products with high fructose corn syrup and my cystic acne cleared, but my acne in general did not. It wasn’t until about a year later that I realized it wasn’t just high fructose corn syrup that was causing my acne, it was any processed corn products (corn starch, modifed food starch, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, glucose syrup-which is really just corn syrup by another name, and maltadextrin). Now the only ance, cystic or otherwise, that I get is a direct result of ingesting one of the aforementioned corn products. I can usually tell which one I’ve ingested by the type of acne I get. I must be honest, it is very hard to avoid foods that contain corn products of some sort, hence I still have occasional break outs. Practically every premade store bought item has it. Many restaurants use corn starch to thicken sauces and breading. 90% of fast food restaurants use flavored corn syrup for their sauces, kethcups, and flavored mayos. The positive side to not being able to eat corn products, is it forces me to eat healthier. I’m also able to avoid a significant amout of trans fat too simply by avoiding products that contain corn. Having to read the label of every product you put into the shopping cart opens your eyes to what we put into our bodies on a daily basis. Its really kinda scary. Try it for a month and see if you notice any improvements.

  56. Crystal

    I have suffered from cystic acne for almost 10 years. I am 35 years old. I develop hard, painful, red cysts on my chin. I understand everyone’s pain. I can always tell when one is coming. It starts with a slight soreness below the surface. It begins to get bigger and bigger with each passing day. I have had a disfigured chin and it is embarrassing. I have stayed home from events. I have hidden in my bedroom with the lights off. I am married and this has effected my relationship with my husband. He understands and thinks I am beautiful regardless, but inside I just feel ugly and horrible. I have tried every topical product, over the counter and prescription. I have tried antibiotics, which destroyed the good bacteria in my gut, and led to a candida infection which made my acne worse. I have made diet changes, vitamins, supplements, you name it. One thing that has helped if I stick with it, is cutting out all sugar and processed foods in my diet. When I developed the candida infection, I had to cut out all sugar and gluten, anything with yeast. I had to do it. I was extremely sick. I found that even though I was going through this sickness, my skin looked fabulous for the first time. It was as clear as a bell! That lasted for 4 months. Slowly, I started eating all the bad things that I had stayed away from . My acne came back. I am trying to watch my diet, but it is so hard, as I am addicted to sugar. Struggling with acne is very difficult. At time, you feel like you are the only one. I know when I went out, I would always look at people’s skin and think they have clear skin, why can’t I? It was very depressing. Especially when I knew how much I had spent on treatments and products. I am going to try the diet again. If you suffer like I do from these painful bumps, try the candida diet. You can google it. It really does help when you stick with it.

    1. Tessa

      I was told there’s nothing I can’t do about my cystic acne. Then after a week of pain and embarrassment, I went to a walk in dr who gave me Cephalexin. Reduced the cyst within 2 days!

      There was still a large bump left on my face. I started using the blue herbal line by kiehls and the bump has reduced 90%

  57. Anna

    Since my last post on here, I have tried something new and wanted to share it because it has really helped me. TURMERIC! As in, the spice you cook with. I was doing some research online about natural remedies for cystic acne (I’m pregnant and can’t do anything drug-related, plus I am moving away from that world anyhow). I found a forum where people were talking about using tumeric on their breakouts, so I decided to try it. It has helped more than ANYTHING else I have ever tried topically, and I am excited about the results. It’s worth a try for yourself!

    Here’s what I do:
    1. Melt a very small amount of coconut oil in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.
    2. Shake enough tumeric in the coconut oil to make a paste.
    3. Put a blob of it directly on the sore spot where you feel a breakout coming on. It is KEY to do this right away when you first feel that little tinge of pain deep under your skin.
    4. Put a bandaid over it and leave it there for an hour or so. Do this several times over the course of a couple of days.

    I have done this with several breakouts now, and have found that each time, the tumeric (which is anti-inflamatory) reduces the pain, swelling, and redness of the breakout pretty dramatically. You may still have a partial bump that comes up, but the tumeric greatly decreases the severity of the breakouts. Almost like it makes them take 5 steps backward. It really has been amazing.

    The only thing to be warned about is, the tumeric will STAIN anything it touches, including your skin. So be careful not to let it touch countertops, clothes, etc. Your skin will turn yellow for awhile, but wiping with apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball helps, as well as washing with soap and water. Because of the skin staining, it’s best to do this when you know you’ll be home for the rest of the day or night. But it is WORTH IT! I also have been using apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball on my face daily, which also seems to be helping quite a bit. It’s like a natural astringent.

    Hope this is helpful to someone!

  58. Christine

    I was suffering with cystic acne horribly for the past five years. Last year I went to a naturalpathic doctor and had my blood tested for food intolerances. These are not the same as an type 1 allergy. Do some research. The test was $300. Turns out my body has an intolerance to eggs and whey. I cut those out of my diet and my skin is 100 percent perfect now. I do get a pimple once every two months if I mess up and eat a slice of cake or something. But no where near as bad as what I was dealing with before. See cystic acne is telling you that your body is having an allergic reaction to something. This is it’s way of coming out. You can eat soemthing you have an intolerance too such as eggs for me and break out 1 to 5 days later. Do research and see if it’s for you. The test is worth it and it could help you out like it did for me. I see you are willing to pay 80 bucks a shot so I am sure you would be up for taking the igl food intolerance test. Good luck!

    1. jeremiahsmommy

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I will be mentioning this to my doctor! :)

  59. jeremiahsmommy

    I have always battled acne as a teen. However, now in my *very late* 20’s, my face only seems to be getting worse…especially after I had my son- almost 4 years ago… bigger, more painful.. and I’m scared. I had a family doctor (since I was born) trying to help me battle my acne troubles since I was 13… the last idea he had was accutane… sure! I was willing, but without insurance this ‘miracle pill’ will cost me $900/ month. The closest dermatologist is 100 miles… and again, I do not have insurance.

    It’s ruining my life… I have no confidence. I recently graduated with a BS in health administration, but I’m afraid I will never find a job because nobody will hire anybody with a face like mine… and anybody that wears this much makeup is unprofessional. Even my (almost 4 year old) son points out my “Boo-boos”. I often joke with my husband and tell him that God has given me an ugly face because if I did not suffer from these cysts, I would be *too* pretty.. and the world couldn’t handle it. hehehe … just joking, of coarse.

    anyways. I tried all the antibiotics, creams, over the counter, prescription medication money can buy. I’ve come to the conclusion that my cysts are caused by hormonal changes… so I tried birth control, but that only made it worse. Frustrated, desperate, depressed, hopeless.

    1. Nina

      This reminds me so much of me. I had acne since I was 13. Nothing bad it was manageable. After I had my son 4 years ago, my skin has turned for the worst. I would have multiple cysts on my face. This only made my post partum depression worse. I have tried committing suicide. I do not think that way anymore bc my son needs me.

      3 Years ago I started taking Yaz. This made my skin even worse for 4 months. After that my skin looked amazing until now. It’s coming back and I’m back at square one. I’m in my late 20’s. I thought this would be over by now. I’m seeing a nuropath, my last option before accutane. I have let my cystic acne hold me back from so much like you. I am scared I won’t be taken seriously at job interviews.

    2. Anna

      Try going off of caffeine, people! It was the culprit for me and since going off of it completely since May, I have not had ONE breakout! Seriously amazing. Hope it works for you, too.

  60. Jenni

    I just recently started looking into the different kinds of acne, since mine suddenly changed – and ran across your article.

    Perfect skin through high school – but at the end of my jr. yr. and through out my sr. yr., my face would visibly puff up. No visible pimples, but my cheeks would be sore and I could feel a partially solid fluid under the surface, one BIG chamber of fluid on each cheek.

    Going to into college, I had a “pimple” show up. It felt different than a normal pimple, but I didn’t get them often enough to know better (I was only cursed with a possible one or two tiny, normal pimples a month during PMS with a life span of only 36 hrs. tops). But THIS pimple was deep, and hurt, and wouldn’t go away, and was swollen under the skin as well as on top, with no visible drainage point to release the pressure. I just ignored it. Two months later, it was still there and it had invited two others to join it and the 1st finally made it to the surface enough to break open and drain what was an impossible amount of thick yellow fluid. It had gotten so big and puffy that my surface skin had stretched so tight that it was breaking and cracking and hurt to the point of tears when a light breeze or my hair would brush up against (or even near) it. That’s when I worried.

    Anyway, 7 years and hundreds of cysts (many of which ruptured into boils and a few of those resulting in blood poisoning) and layers of scars later (3 months ago), I gave up on “man-made” products and solutions and switched to essential oils, spices, and honey. Not only are my cysts noticeably smaller with a much shorter life spans (instead of nickel+ sized cysts, they are match-head size – but still undeniably and cyst and not a normal pimple – and last 4-7 days instead of 2-3 months).

    I use aloe from my aloe plant to sooth when they hurt.

    I wash my makeup off with a mixture of jojoba, tea tree, and lavender oils before continuing with a liquid castile soap.

    Jojoba is a mild antibiotic, anti inflammatory, and cleanses pores by grabbing all the yuck on it’s way back out of the pores during washing while also leaving them moisturized the same way your skin itself would do it – meaning your pores won’t be triggered to produce yet more oil. Tea tree and lavender are both antibacterial and antifungal. Tea tree aid in preventing scars while lavender (also aiding in preventing scars) also helps to minimize the appearance of current scars.

    I use a moisturizer of rose/rosehip seed/almond/lavender/tea tree/clove oils (a ratio of about 80:50:50:20:10:2 drops). Rose oil promotes skin renewal and regeneration (tougher tissue, less breaking between cyst chambers, smaller cysts), prevents scaring and minimizes current scars. Same goes for rosehip seed on different levels – more focused on healing deep-set scars. Almond oil to dilute the essential oils. Clove (very, very consuntrated) is an antibiotic and prevents scarring and minimizes current scars.

    I use a manuka honey mask with 2 tblespoons honey, 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon clove powder, 3 drops lavender, 2 drops tea tree, 1 drop clove (this lasts several applications), and I sleep with it on my entire face (or just a cyst, if there’s only one or two) with a towel on my pillow, until the cysts and infects go away.

    I’ve also been drinking raspberry leaf tea to keep my hormones balanced, resulting in less PMS breakouts.

    Thanks for the article!

  61. Albie

    Well…. It’s 2:11 am and I just viewed this article.I suffer from scalp cyst acne which is the worst thing in my life.The cysts that grow are very painfull and I can not rest my head on any surface .The side effects of my cyst make bald patches as I loose my hair when the cyst forms.I have started to get more into bodybuilding and these cyst hurt my self of figure .I have tried mostly everything and it never goes away I pay..pray… But nothing seems to work.At my age of 19 I feal that these cyst r never going away and I will be cursed with them forever.As soon I will be leaving to college I have no money for any medication .The fact that this is running my life down hill is sad and wish I could get help for my cyst problem somehow

  62. Anna

    I have finally found the cause for my cystic acne, after dealing with it for 9 years. Chocolate and caffeine! I am more sensitive to caffeine, but chocolate (or perhaps just the caffeine in it) triggers breakouts too. I am so thankful to finally have some control over this horrible stuff, and wanted to share it. A nurse friend told me that chocolate and caffeine stimulate cyst growth in other cyst-related diseases, so I thought it would be worth a try to avoid those things. And it is working! I highly suggest going off of these two things for several weeks or even a few months to see if your cystic acne improves. It is a bummer to not be able to have them (I am a Mom with young children and love my caffeine to give me energy), but it’s worth it to have clear skin and not deal with the pain/discomfort/ugliness of cystic breakouts. Hope this helps some of you!

  63. A

    ok, so as I sit here with ice on the back of my neck, I just have to say, thank god for the internet. I haven’t needed it much but I can tell it helps a lot of you out, being able to share your stories and hear from others and feel like you’re not alone, etc etc.

    personally for me, it doesn’t help at all cause, even though I can read stories of other people going through this, I’m still the one that has to go out and look the way I do. secondly, I’m a guy, so ladies, I know makeup doesn’t cover it up 100%, but I’ve seen girls that have covered up a LOT of things with makeup, I know you can get by somewhat. you know what I get to wear?… yeah, nothing. it isn’t exactly acceptable for a guy to wear makeup AND to top it all off, even if I could, they don’t make makeup in my skin tone (I’ve checked) and even if there WAS makeup in my skin tone, most of it is all “shimmery” so it’s useless unless I’m wearing some shimmery foundation, which then would end up making me look like “the crow” or a transvestite, and I’m neither so, there ya go. ok enough woe is me. I’m with all of you, THIS SUCKS!

    so here’s my story as well as tips on the way. so I’ve never had super awesome skin but, nothing that I couldn’t have treated with regular otc stuff. so when this all changed was….

    TIP NUMBER ONE – if you haven’t drank, done drugs, or smoked, NEVER START!!!

    I have absolutely no idea which of the three started my cystic acne, but my best guess would be the alcohol. I was a goody goody kid, and was about a junior in college when I went through my first bad relationship break up. hadn’t drank or done ANYTHING like that. I had always drank milk, eaten chocolate,… all the bad stuff, the worst diet ever. never any major skin promlems though, just regular pimples and not really a whole lot of them anyway. because I kinda went head first into everything I can’t be certain, but about 3 months after my post breakup binge I got my first cyst. you think you know pain until you get these for the first time. geez, do these hurt. some are worse than others but seriously, I can’t think of any other pain I wouldn’t rather have.

    so I’d continually get some every now and again, and I started realizing, they came up like, RIGHT after I drank, like the next day sometimes. and if I didn’t drink for a while, I wouldn’t really get any.

    well, that was AND wasn’t the case. whenever I drank, I’d get them but I’d get them on my face. so I decided, hey, don’t drink. yea right, try being in college and not drinking. but I did cut down considerably and it helped for the most part.

    so years and years of battling this, I’m at a point where, I really don’t need to drink anymore. and I haven’t really had anymore on my face. for the MOST part.

    now, back when I was still getting them on my face, I had one really bad one on the back of my neck, and had to get it removed.

    TIP NUMBER TWO, NEVER let them get very big. you don’t want it to get to the point where the doctor ethically HAS to tell you that it needs to be drained and scraped and you will need to stuff a wick material into it and have it drain for a few weeks. go get the cortisone shots if it gets bad especially if it is somewhere visible.

    now, at the time, I had a lot of hair. and yeah, guess what, male losing hair over here. and I’m ok for the most part cause I look good with my head shaved. but NOW the worst ones I get are on the back of my neck in my hairline, and it’s really red sometimes (probably my fault which I’ll explain later) so, I can shave my head so I don’t look like I’m balding, OR I can let it grow out, and cover up my frequent cyst spot on the back of my neck but look like I’m losing my hair. I lose either way.

    TIP NUMBER THREE, every spot that you have a cyst is gonna be different in terms of what you can do with it. now here’s some things that I found that may help some of you.

    on the face, I figured out at some point… and this seems stupid but just bear with me cause it did really work for me…. so, blood supposedly heals stuff right? that’s why our blood needs to be healthy. so one day I felt a cyst starting up on my forehead, and I remembered watching x-men, when magneto kills the security guy by removing all the iron from his blood… and I thought,.. how much blood is on my cyst right now?….. yeah, I know dumb but I swear this worked for me and still does!…., yeah, I got a refrigerator magnet, just the black ones, took it out of the plastic fake fruit that it was in, and taped it to the newly forming cyst. went to bed. next morning, took the magnet off and it wasn’t hurting anymore, and it was gone later that day! note: like many other methods, this ONLY works if you catch it early. this works for me ANYWHERE on the face, that doesn’t have hair, so for girls this is fine, but if you are a guy and have a beard, you’ll need to shave. this DOES NOT work with neodymium magnets (the silver ones) yes they are stronger magnets but I’ve used them and they don’t work, and I have no idea why but they just don’t. just use the regular black ones from your fridge. to tape it I use the nexcare flexible waterproof tape. it’s skin color. anyway, remember this ONLY has worked on the face for me.

    on non sensetive areas like your back or chest, I just found this but use grapefruit seed extract (gfse). it is REALLY strong and will make you red but it quickly brings most cysts to a head. DO NOT DO THIS ON ANY SENSETIVE SKIN, so NO to the face. I have used it on my face ones but as girls, you will be VERY sorry if you do this. it pretty much burns it out of your skin. you will get red and it will bleed, and you’ll get a scab. seriously DO NOT use it on your face.

    on the back of your neck…. DO NOT USE GFSE!!! my neck is red right now cause I’ve been using it there and you know what, it doesn’t bring it to a head like it does to the random ones I get on my back. I honestly have not found something for the back of the neck but as soon as I do I will let you know. all I know is gfse doesn’t work there and neither do magnets, and neither does quitting drinking. I have been drug free for MANY MANY years so it aint that either. I did quit smoking but still on the e-cig, and I’m not convinced that will do anything either but MAYBE it’s from the nicotine. I will test it out soon though.

    now the most embarrassing ones I’ve had were between my thighs. NOT in the genital area but literally on my inner upper thighs. I only had these for a short amount of time, maybe a few years, and I had dreaded that I somehow caught some retarted std that only infected my thighs, and then I thought, maybe cause I play drums it’s friction from my legs rubbing as I’ve read that people that ride bycicles get this too. well, a few years ago I decided I’m gonna stop drinking milk, and I WAS drinking only lactose free milk for a while but I read something about milk contributing to hair loss and cysts, so just stopped drinking milk and switched to almond milk (kroger family stores has the best one, closest in consistency and flavor to real milk than any other alternative)… guess what? NO MORE THIGH CYSTS! and I still play drums and the truth was, I had stopped playing drums for two years while I had these and I was STILL getting them until I stopped drinking milk!!! Now I’m playing drums again and still, no cysts down there.

    so now all that’s really left is, a hair transplant and figure out what’s causing the ones on my neck. note, I still do eat dairy products and it may be possible I just need to get rid of dairy but, how am I supposed to do that. no pizza, no chocolate?….. is it worth the possibility of not having cysts? YES!….. BUT, I don’t see how I’m gonna accomplish that. for me eating pizza and chocolate is almost an involuntary action. I have also recently cut out high fructose corn syrup, and am contemplating getting rid of sugar, but trying to do that without using artificial sweetners because THOSE things don’t do me any good either.

    also need to work on sleep. though I’m reading everyone suggesting to reduce stress, and I don’t find that a realistic option for most people.

    I am pretty healthy for those most part though. despite my diet, my cholesterol and blood pressure have always been good, as well as my weight and energy level. and I only get sick maybe once a year.

    thinking about also doing an allergy test.

  64. rachel

    I am 28 and have struggled with this type of acnes for a very long time. I had to laugh when Isaw the pictures of all the products shown on the top of the article because I’ve tried most of them too and with very limited success.It is a painful and painfully embarrassing skin condition. My chin looks like a collection of battle wounds- scars that I will feel lucky IF they fade within six months. Thank you for sharing your advice and I am looking forward to trying the cystic treatment that you suggested. My next desperate step was acutane.

  65. danielle

    throughout high school i was clear of any breakout..college i got the occasional whitehead. i’m now 24 and my chin gets this pea size hard pimple that hurts!!! they dont pop so you cant relieve any of the pressure. i take yaz birth control and it doesnt help, ive used retinoid cream,tea tree oil, benzol peroxide 10%, spironolactone, fish oil, ice, nothing helps my cystic pimples. ive learned that my face will just hurt until it goes away, although sometimes i become impatient and i try to pick at it cuz it looks like it could just pop! i actually have one right now on my chin and when i walk it feels like i’m carrying a boulder on my face!

    I hope it’ll go away soon!
    signed,
    a recent sufferer of cystic pimples

  66. Hannah

    I had a tiny pimple on my chin that was very steep and seemed ready but just wouldn’t pop for some reason, and I ended up playing with it all day long. The next day, it was a bruise. That’s not unusual for me, so aside from massaging it uncomfortably, I left it alone and didn’t try to squeeze it. I saw my dermatologist to get two warts frozen that day, and now I am cursing myself because today- day three- it is a large, swollen, sore, icky gross oozing pimple. I started icing it and I’ve been trying to keep myself from squeezing with little progress, but I noticed that when I washed my face, the feeling of the hot wash cloth on the “issue” felt nice, and now I’m sitting with a hot pad, and I’m taking extra vitamin C and ibuprofen and using frozen wash cloths as cold compresses because I don’t have any ice.
    I believe that it’s become a cystic pimple BECAUSE I started playing with it- either that or it was already cystic and me playing with it made it worse. I’ve had similar ones before, but never this bad. Ugh. It’s about to be my time of month, too.

  67. Courtney

    This looks like an older blog, but I’m going to post in it anyway. :)

    I also had perfect skin up until I turned 22 or 23 except for being freckly. Then BOOM! Huge, painful cysts that were impossible to cover up and ignore. I went to the dermatologist. I was lucky…he was all about giving out samples. First he gave me oral doxycycline. That was an awful experience… I had severe stomach cramps to the point I couldn’t move. So, I went back and he gave me Retin-A Micro and topical clindamycin. That worked for awhile but eventually quit. Then, I went to Proactiv. It took quite awhile to start working, but when it finally started working I was truly amazed. Yes, it’s expensive, but to me it’s totally worth it. I still get an occasional pimple but it’s not nearly as bad…until the past week or so. I’ve gotten one cyst on my chin and another on my nose. OUCH! Now I’m off to the dermatologist tomorrow to get the cortisone shot. I leave for vacation in four days, so I’m hoping it’s at least less noticeable than it is now. I seriously look like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Ugh!

    Anyway, I’m glad I found this site and that I’m not alone in the battle with adult acne. It truly is horrible, even as an adult, to have acne. It’s embarrassing and painful.

    I do encourage people to at least try Proactiv and give it at least 2 months to do its thing. There is a post-acne mark fading cream that works really well too. Even though I’ve gotten a couple bigger pimples (I contribute it to stress this time around), I’m still sticking with Proactiv. It’s been my miracle. Hopefully as I get older (not that want to get older), my oily skin will go away.

    Good luck to all in whatever you try!

    1. Courtney

      Oh, and P.S., I forgot to mention I’ve been using Proactiv for around 6 years and haven’t been to the dermatologist in 8 years… until tomorrow.

  68. Vicky

    I started having cystic acne around age 22. It was horrible since I thought my blemish high-school days were over, and then boom, these happen and they’re way worse than regular pimples.

    I’ve found that taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen really does help. For any women who notice that the cysts coincide with your menstrual cycles, also try to really limit dairy in your diet. It contains hormones that your body converts into testosterone, increasing likelihood of cysts, especially around the chin area. I noticed a real difference after cutting out dairy products and now I get a cyst maybe every 5 or 6 months.

    Also, applying cortisone cream may help, since it’s absorbed into the skin and doesn’t make your skin red or peel like other topical products tend to do.

    Thanks for the tip about icing them – I will definitely try this when I feel one coming on!

  69. Tamy

    I know this is an old post but it gets a lot of new info/comments so here’s one more… I think that one of the problems with cystic acne is that everybody is different so the triggers are different. When mine was at it’s worst I had a boss tell me that if he didn’t know me so well he would think I had methhead skin or had AIDs! After years of pain & acne creams I had an unrelated allergic reaction to Ibuprofen. The dr. Told me to avoid all NSAIDs(nonsteroid antiinflammatorys). Guess what.. some of my cystic acne was actually an allergic reaction to topical salicylic acid creams! 20 years later I still get the acne but fewer and far between. So, check for allergy triggers and don’t expect what worked for your friend to necessarily work for you. Just keep searching and don’t despair.

  70. Erin

    I’m almost 30 years old and I have never ever ever had skin this bad in my life….until 6 months ago!!! I am so embarrassed to even walk outside and play with my two children. I can’t really say I’ve tried EVERYTHING, but pretty close to it. To add another plague to the mix, I also have MILIA. So basically it’s a mix of milia (hard little waxy seeds under the skin and does not contain an actual pore to escape from like a normal zit or pimple would) and horrible cysts all over my cheeks. The pain is so bad that even the slightest brush of air when I walk around my house is excruciating! These cysts and seeds itch really bad, but I’m trying hard not to pick or scratch. OMG! I cannot afford to see a dermatologist as I am a single mother. I am contemplating “lancing” them myself with a sterile straight razor, it’s so bad. Of course, I do realize the damage I could do to my skin (PAH! It can’t get any worse than what it looks like now). Whenever I hang out with my family, I always get at least one comment about how bad my skin is getting, especially from my mother. For example: “Erin, what happened to your face? Why is it looking so bad? It’s looking quite horrible.” Well gee mom, if I knew WHY or what is causing it, I wouldn’t be having this issue anymore, now would I!? I don’t purposely keep my skin looking like this just for kicks, you know. Sheesh! I have heard that it could take up to like 12 weeks to see improvement if you are using topical, or even oral treatments, but that is just ridiculous. So, I have to suffer and endure these horrible, painful, inflamed cysts for 12 weeks at a time before trying something else???!!! I’m sorry, but there is no way in hell I could ever wait that long.

    1. Jennifer

      I suffer from cystic acne AND milia also. I am going to try ibuprofen and ice when I get off work, but another thing I’ve tried that helps with the cysts is honey! Dab it on over the cyst and leave it for about 15 minutes then wipe off. It won’t keep them from coming back, but I’ve noticed it often stops it in it’s tracks!!

      As for the milia….I’ve tried medications that never work and had the dermatologist remove them (painful!!) only to have them come back. About a month ago I bought the Olay Pro-X Microdermabrasion + advanced cleaning system to help even out my skin tone. It’s helping to GET RID OF THE MILIA!!!! It is nowhere near as noticeable now. It is worth the $40!!

  71. janette

    Thanks for the tips. I struggled with regular acne my junior year in high school which tapered off. And then painful cystic acne after I had my daughter, 9yrs ago. I did go on scary Accutane 9 years ago but I am now getting acne again. It’s driving me crazy since I’ve worked on cleaning up my diet this year: all organic produce, grass-fed/pastured meats, no dairy, nuts,soy or wheat…..and my face is hating me! it’s frustrating. I’m not willing to do Accutane again, glad to see I’m not alone.

  72. D.S

    Hi! I have tried many of these products and have finally realized that severe acne can not be treated topically at all! It stems from an internal imbalance in the body.

    I learned to control my acne with local herbs and have seen my acne disappear with mild dietary modifications: http://sparrowchef.blogspot.com/2014/07/treating-cystichormonal-acne-with-herbs.html

    Not to mention all of the treatments I used were completely free! I love not having to pay for medication!

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      Hi Polly! I am so sorry I missed this question. I have been seeing Dr. Eric Lewis for years – he is the best I found in getting rid of my huge cystic acne bumps fast. And he is super nice and so knowledgeable. Here is the info:
      Dr Lewis
      9400 Brighton Way
      Ste 201
      Beverly Hills, CA 90210
      Beverly Hills
      Phone number (310) 289-9700

  73. Cortisone

    I had a Cortisone shot in Poland – Europe o my nodular acne. I hade two shots in a same spot beacuse the first one stoped working ( after 5 days ) and my pimple starting to get bigger. After a second shot every thing was the same.After 3 weeks I was so frustrated and I poped my pimple. I have occasionally cystic nodular acne I don’t want to take accutanne second time ( I am 31 male ) and I belived in cortisone shotes. In Poland cortisone shots are not popular at all. In my city I founded only 1 Doctor who said ” I will do this first time and we will try it”. I think something went wrong and I got some questions about your cortisone shot to tell my Doctor to correct it ;
    – what kind of steroid exacly your doctor is using?
    – is the shot is given in the middle of the pimple or oposite? Mine shot was not dircly taken on the most infected area – I saw a red mark after the shot.
    – what kind of other advises I could tell him that he could make it properly?

  74. Ru

    ill make sure to look for that product!!
    . im currently using proactiv’s cleanser and not the ointment cause its making mine worst bc all the dirt at home sticks to my face bc of its sticky feeling…

    this is what i do: wash + cleanser before going to bed. ice when swollen or stings. clean and cover it up with band aid if it pops. an they calmed down… for a week when my cousins were here. after they left, its all back raging right now bc we were busy and i didnt have that much time :(

    I still hope this ends when i hit 30 or when i have my own children.

  75. Connie

    Hi i really hope you are still active on this as i found your article so helpful and almost identical to my situation!
    I’m getting to the end of my tether with my cystic acne, its not as bad as some but its devastating me, i get 2/3 at a time, they used to be just on my chin and jawline but are now creeping onto my cheeks, its at the point where i just dont want to leave my room, ive called in ‘sick’ from work, cancelled dates and soent days under my duvet just because i don’t want anyone to see me looking this way…i was just wondering if you have any advice on covering them? Which makeup? Application tips etc?
    I would love to hear from you :) xx

    1. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
      Tyna Werner

      Hi Connie. My first tip would be to ice the area to help the swelling subside – that helps making them ‘hide’ a bit easier. Secondly, DO NOT over medicate the area – I also used too much of all topical treatments, leaving the area red, dry and scaly – and super hard to cover with makeup.

      Finally, my favorite coverup is Benefit’s Erase Paste – it offers nice coverage and lasts the longest of any other concealers (at least on my skin). I also like It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereyes for the same reason – good coverage and long lasting.

      Hope that helps!

  76. Jennie

    I did not suffer from cystic acne until I started using and then stopped using the RODAN & FIELDS skin care anti-acne regimen. I had a few breakouts here and there and had heard rave reviews about R&F so I figured I should try it too. My skin did clear up while using the regimen but it is VERY expensive and I could no longer afford to purchase the regimen. I stopped and my face has exploded with this disgusting, painful and embarrassing cystic acne. I don’t go out anymore because I am so embarrassed. My face itches and hurts so badly a lot of the time. I have to go to work but mostly just keep my head down. I am 37 with a son going off to college soon, I don’t want to have to not be proud in his graduation photos…please help!!!!

    1. Profile photo of Stef Andrews
      Stef Andrews

      Jennie – search through the comments on this post. So people have found relief though at home remedies and diet changes. But we’d also recommend seeing a dermatologist if you’re in pain.

  77. marcie

    I am 28 year old female and still used to get weekly ance. I do get deep cystic acne every once in a while. I started a new regiment 4 weeks (Listed Below) ago and by the looks of it I finally have clear skin with no signs of new pimples or cysts emerging:

    Took me years to find the right products for me – I have very sensitive skin

    My Skin Regiment:
    Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (AM/PM)
    Citrus Clear Sensitive Moisturizer
    Citrus Clear Grapefruit Spot Treatment
    Fish Oil – pills (AM only)

    Other Things to Consider when trying to achieve great skin – Probably the most important too
    64 – 128 oz of Water Daily
    6 – 8 Hrs of Sleep a Night
    1 Hr of Exercise per day (5 per/week)

  78. Lynda

    Hello- I have what I have been told by 5 different dermatologists is an acne cyst between my shoulder and neck. It has been there about 5 years and is very annoying. It swells up at times and then if I press on it a little it goes down. At first they were telling me after I take a shower to press and drain this thing, now after time it doesn’t do anything but I can’t get it to go away. The most recent dermatologist I went to told me the same thing, as usual, and also said she couldn’t do anything to take it out because it is in line with nerves. Is there any help for this?

  79. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
    Tyna Werner

    5 different derms? That sounds very frustrating Lynda! What sort of treatments have they tried for your cyst? And have you tried any sort of injection? They are the only thing that help when I have a big cyst. I don’t know exactly what will help reduce yours – but try icing the cyst and keep trying to find the right derm for you.

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