Some forms of acne don’t show up on your face as your run-of-the-mill pimples. Instead, cystic acne feels like it’s buried beneath your skin and the blotches and splotches it creates on the skin’s surface are particularly stubborn and difficult to treat. If you’ve ever experienced a painful pimple underneath your skin, Dr. David E. Bank, founder of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, is here to explain what causes cystic acne and why you should never–ever!–think of trying to pop these pimples.
“Bacteria is the main culprit behind cystic acne,” Bank says. “Normally, acne flare-ups are caused when a pore gets clogged with dead skin cells. Cystic acne is when bacteria gets deep into the pore and surrounds the hair follicle which causes the skin to produce pus-filled pimples or cysts. When these cysts are popped, the bacteria within them seeps into the surrounding pores thus causing more breakouts.”
Sounds like a perpetual cycle of skin misery, doesn’t it? Because cystic acne is a take-no-prisoners form of torture, Bank says a visit to a dermatologist is the best course of treatment “Cystic acne is a more aggressive form of acne and may need to be treated with antibiotics by mouth like doxycline or minocycline,” Bank says. “These antibiotics work to fight the bacteria that form pimples after the pore has been blocked. Sometimes a dermatologist may recommend treatments like Accutane, however this varies depending on the severity of a patient’s acne.”
Bank adds that cystic acne is often caused by fluctuating hormones. Unlike traditional pimples, the cysts and nodules caused by hormonal acne normally do not come to a head. Bank says it’s crucial for cystic acne sufferers to adopt a good daily cleansing routine, particularly if you workout a lot and sweat. “Consider washing your face in the morning with a cleanser with salicylic acid like SalAc Acne Medication Cleanser, Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, Oil Of Olay Age Defense Series Renewal Cleanser or a sulfur-based cleanser,” Bank says. “Then make sure to moisturize by using an oil-free product with SPF 15 or higher. Choosing a product with an alpha hydroxyl acid such as glycolic acid is something people with cystic acne should look out for. The alpha hydroxyl acid helps open up the pores and slough off dead skin cells while also moisturizing the skin.”
Keep things simple at night by using a cleanser containing alpha hydroxyl acid and applying a cream like benzoyl peroxide such as Oxy 5, Clearasil or Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment. “Most acne can be effectively treated with topical agents: gels/creams with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, vitamin A and alpha hydroxyl acids are some of the best for treating acne,” Bank says.
If you find your acne refuses to respond to products, be sure to make an appointment with your dermatologist so you can discover your other options.
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