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Treating Cystic Acne

By Don Amodeo

Normal zits are already unpleasant enough, but cystic acne is a much more painful and potentially scarring experience for your skin (and your self esteem!). There is no "easy remedy for getting rid of acne cysts, but there are certainly some treatment options that can help speed the process, as well as some things that you should be sure NOT to do. This advice is meant for acne sufferers with a mild to average number of cysts. If you have severe cystic acne that covers your face and body, you should really seek the advice of a dermatologist immediately, as an affliction such as this can leave your skin scarred for life.

Understanding cystic acne:

Unlike the small whitehead pustules that most people with acne experience on the surface of their skin, cystic acne appears as large irritated bumps, often with the pustule hidden deep beneath the skin's surface. These cysts are caused when hormonal shifts result in your skin glands overproducing oil (sebum) at an unnatural rate. The gland becomes swollen and eventually bursts, but not before the sebum has swelled and hardened into a clump too large to escape by means of your pores. The irritation from your gland bursting results in inflammation, and buried pustule can remain in your skin for a very long time.

What to do:

The first thing to keep in mind is what you should not do. Never try to force a deep cyst to the surface of your skin prematurely. Trying to force cysts to burst is one of the major causes of acne scars, and will often leave your face looking much worse than it did before.

There are some things that you can still do to help. Strong acne creams with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide will help speed the healing process by killing the bacteria that forms in the cyst. Anti-inflammatory treatments such as Neosporin can also help by taking some of the red out of the inflamed region. After this, it simply takes patience and the discipline not to pick at your skin. Your cysts will eventually be broken down by the body, and this usually takes less time than healing from the inflammation caused by forcing them out.


Cystic acne happens below the surface of your skin and has very little to do with personal hygene. Creams and cleansers will not help much at all in preventing it. You need to target your oil glands in order to counter those hormonal shifts. Start with a daily multivitamin to make sure you're getting the minimum of essential nutrients that your body needs to metabolize oil, and then consider other supplements.

Zinc is an important mineral in regulating the activity of your oil glands, as well as being a powerful antioxidant. Taking an extra 30-50 mg per day of Zinc has helped many acne sufferers. Vitamin B5 is also a key ingredient in fighting excess oil. B5 is necessary in order to produce Coenzyme-A, which in turn is needed for the metabolism of skin oil. Supplementing with 5-10 grams of vitamin B5 (less if time-released) has helped many acne sufferers get their skin under control by enhancing oil metabolism. Since cystic acne is caused by excessive oil production, this may be exactly what you need.

If nothing else works for you, see a dermatologist, as you may need a prescription treatment such as Accutane (a vitamin A derivative that directly lowers your production of skin oil). However, this should only be a last resort, as the side-effects from prescription acne treatments can sometimes be more serious than the acne itself.

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