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What Is Cystic Acne?

September 06, 2019

Ah, acne—it’s all a pain (sometimes literally), but cystic acne is a beast in its own right. If you’ve ever experienced a breakout before, then you know that it can often be challenging to put together a skin care routine that addresses your specific skin care concerns. But not every type of acne is the same, and some forms of acne are more difficult to manage than others. While the occasional blackhead or pimple might be a nuisance, cystic acne on your chin, back, cheeks, or in pretty much any other spot, can take things to a whole other level of frustration. Keep reading for our guide to cystic acne and how to deal with those pesky pimples under your skin.


While you might consider yourself an acne pro, it turns out there are actually quite a few different kinds of acne. Since you’re here to learn about cystic acne specifically, we’ll keep this to the point. According to the National Institutes of Health, a cyst is a type of pimple that is deep, painful, and filled with pus. They are often referred to as under the skin pimples, as they don’t come to a head in the same way some other types of acne do.


The answer to whether cystic acne can leave behind acne scars is yes. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cysts can lead to scarring. However, you can help cover up acne scars with makeup. Use a primer to help create a smooth canvas for the rest of your makeup application, then apply color corrector, followed by full-coverage foundation and flesh-toned concealer. If you have acne, the FDA suggests looking for makeup that is non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, as these won’t clog pores.


If you have cystic acne, it’s time to book some time with your dermatologist. This means we won’t be listing out cystic acne treatments—according to the FDA, cystic acne should be treated by a derm. And yes, that means cystic acne popping is a no. According to the AAD, you shouldn’t pop or pick at cystic acne, as it can cause scars. You can apply that same rule to all pimple popping!


While managing cystic acne will require a dermatologist’s help, there are a few steps you can take in your skin care routine to help prevent cystic acne—and acne in general—from getting worse. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you should gently cleanse your skin twice a day (plus after sweating) with a cleanser that won’t over-dry your skin. Avoid scrubbing, as this can irritate your skin. The AAD also advises steering clear of toners and exfoliators if you have cystic acne, as these can be drying to the skin.

Your next acne lesson? Head on over to our article on 7 Pimple Myths to Stop Believing Now.

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