Freshman year of college, I woke up to stinging between my shoulder blades. I reached around my back to find the source of the soreness and grazed across a dime-sized nodule. Standing in front of the mirror, I eyed the red blemish with confusion. Where did it come from?
At the time, I wasn't sure what kind of pimple it was, but I did what most acne-prone people do before they know any better: I tried popping it.
Unfortunately, the bump was deeply embedded in my back and I winced in pain every time I touched it. I figured this irritating pustule was some kind of aggressive, next-level acne. I whipped up all my acne tricks, including slathering it with toothpaste.
Frustratingly, nothing actually worked. I was forced to let it fade away on its own.
After a recent dig into adult acne cures, I realized it was cystic acne, one of the most sever forms of acne. This type of vengeful pimple is filled with pus containing dead cells and bacteria. It's difficult to treat, as the infection spreads beneath the skin and doesn't typically surface.
Aside from the fact I didn't feel confident wearing a tank tops, the graze of a cotton t-shirt alone would irritate my achy cysts.
I've largely grown out of cystic breakouts, but they still show up from time to time. Though the war on my adult acne may never really be won, I've equipped myself with more than just toothpaste to combat any future cystic flare-ups.
Give your cysts a deep clean with salicylic acid.
The fight against cystic acne requires a deep exfoliation. Because cystic acne is buried deep below the surface of your skin, using salicylic acid is crucial to loosen the packed dirt and bacteria that clog pores.
A cleanser like Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Acne Cleanser is a good starting point, providing your skin with a clean slate. If the salicylic acid makes your skin too dry, only use the cleanser on your cysts.
Ice out the dirt and bacteria.
I reach for ice cubes when I don't have an acne spot treatment on hand. Ice-cold temperatures freeze cystic affected pores to reduce inflammation and soothe some of the pain.
Leave the cold compress or ice on the affected area for up to an hour. If the temperature is too much for you, try wrapping the cubes in a cloth or plastic bag.
Slather your spots with a baking soda mask.
The antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of baking soda make for a great defense against inflamed cysts. Not to mention, it's cheap.
Baking soda helps draw bacteria to the surface of your skin, making it easier to treat with a topical product like honey. Mix one to two tablespoons of baking soda with enough water to create a thin paste. Apply the mix onto your cysts and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, rinse off the paste with lukewarm water.
Repeat application daily until cysts start to shrink, then use less frequently.
Use benzoyl peroxide as a blemish treatment.
Benzoyl peroxide is a miracle ingredient for most of my severe acne issues, reducing inflammation in only a few minutes and drying out a zits within hours.
Benzoyl peroxide is known to dehydrate skin, so use a lower concentration if you have dry or combination skin. There are few products better than the tried-and-true Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment. Plus, it costs about as much as a latte.
Take oral meds to reduce oil production.
Overactive sebaceous glands (oil glands) are one of the main culprits behind cystic acne.
Isotretinoin, an oral medication commonly known as Accutane, changes the actual shape of your glands and slows the flow of oil. This drastic measure will make any results immediate and lasting. Popping these oral meds can have serious side effects like dry skin and faintness, however, so it's not a decision to take lightly.
Some long-term sufferers, especially women, can attribute their cystic acne to hormone changes. These cystic-causing changes can be balanced with the help of birth control pills.
Consult a doctor for help.
Often, over-the-counter and DIY masks just don't work on severe acne.
If that's the case, solve your skin woes with surgical treatment. Acne surgery, which cleanses your pores and extracts any lingering bacteria, is done by an esthetician and supervised by a doctor. Good news? Insurance providers usually cover this procedure.
When you suffer from severe cystic acne, it's difficult to know just what will banish your bumps. Through trial and error you can nail a combination that will combat painful breakouts. Clear skin is possible, so don't give up just yet.