Is Cystic Acne Impacting Your Confidence? Check Out These Cystic Acne Treatments

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What is cystic acne and how is it different from normal acne?

Cystic acne is the most severe type of acne skin condition. It is an uncommon form of acne in comparison to standard acne, however, due to its effects, it causes both physical and emotional stress. Cystic acne develops as a cyst underneath when bacteria, oil, and dry skin cells build up within your pores.

Traditionally, this specific type of acne is more common for people with oilier skin or those with an imbalance of hormones. This can affect teenagers going through adolescence and hormonal changes, which is often why severe cases of acne are often experienced within the ages of 13-21.


Cystic acne causes small-to-large inflammation bumps on the skin and is typically on the face, with some cases being found on the shoulders.

The cysts often embed deeper within the skin, making them harder to treat. They have puss-filled tips and this feature makes them appealing to ‘pop’ by squeezing the puss from the cyst. However, this can be painful and can leave soreness and tenderness around the cyst and should be avoided.CYSTIC ACNE SYMPTOMS

To know whether you have cystic or standard acne, there are some notable symptoms that you need to be aware of:

Puss Filled Bumps – rises in the skin that are referred to as ‘spots’ with white ends that are poppable.

Redness and Inflammation – rises in the skin that are red, inflamed and sore/tender to touch.

Ice pick Scars – ice pick scars are indented into the skin as a result of the acne being treated and producing scarring tissue on the skin.

These are the main symptoms of cystic acne scarring, however, this is not the exclusive list of cystic acne symptoms. Depending on your skin history, other symptoms may arise and if you’re concerned you have cystic acne, you will need to contact your GP or dermatologist for acne.


As with any type of acne, cystic acne can be treated. Cystic acne treatments range from medication and medical lotions. In cases of acne scarring as a result of severe cystic acne damage, you can visit a dermatologist who will provide various acne scarring treatment programmes that will help to reduce the scarring and inflammation caused by cystic acne.


There are many different types of cystic acne treatments. Each varies from topical retinoids to oral antibiotics. Depending on your physical conditions and the severity of your acne, your cystic acne treatment programme will be tailored to meet these needs and conditions.

The best acne treatments tend to be a two-pronged approach, first tackling the cause of the cystic acne breakouts, followed by a course of acne treatment that helps to reduce the current state of your acne. To compliment your acne treatment programme, your acne dermatologist will recommend a specific skincare routine to help you stay on top of the bacteria on your skin.

Topical Retinoid Acne Treatments

For cystic acne, topical retinoid creams are often used by dermatologists to help unplug the hair follicles where the build-up of skin cells/oil has taken place. Over the counter topical retinoids containing Adapalene, however, cystic acne requires a stronger retinoid that is typically prescribed by a dermatologist through prescriptions.

It has been known that topical retinoids can be used alongside other acne medications and lotions to help increase the positive effect of treating acne.

Oral Antibiotics Acne Treatment

Oral antibiotics are used to treat cystic acne if the span of the acne is large and very inflamed. Cystic acne is usually inflamed, and an antibiotic is often needed to help reduce the redness and inflammation caused by the acne, allowing the other acne treatments to be more effective without damaging the skin.

Chemical Peeling for Cystic Acne Scarring

Chemical peeling is used for cystic acne scarring to reduce inflammation and improve the smoothness of the skin. After cystic acne has occurred, soreness and uneven skin can continue. It is with the chemical peel that the acne scarring is reduced and collagen regeneration is increased to help both soothe and smooth out the outer layers of the skin, removing the scarring tissue in the process.

Microneedling for Cystic Acne Scarring

To complement the treatment of the early stages/causes of cystic acne, Microneedling can be used to again help reduce inflammation, severe cysts and scar tissue on the skin. Microneedling works by utilising hundreds of tiny needles that pierce the skin tissue, again inducing a skin regeneration action through collagen. In doing this, the collagen reduces swelling, evens out the skin and reduces cystic acne scarring over time.


As cystic acne is a more severe form of acne, the skin condition may require laser acne treatments. There are many different forms of laser acne treatments and two specific types; ablative and non-ablative.

For cystic acne and ice pick acne scarring, a combination of the two types of laser treatments may need to be used to help with both the removal of outer layers of skin and encourage skin cell regeneration, but also induce collagen to repair the acne infected areas of the skin.

However, in most cases, one type of acne laser treatment is used. While effective, laser treatments for acne conditions tend to be used later on in the acne treatment programme, combined with other acne treatments, or if the acne is so severe that laser treatment is the only logical treatment for the condition.


In the majority of cases, acne can be treated. However, cystic acne is something that will require expert advice. Harley Street Dermatology Clinic is an expert acne clinic in London, with over 30 years of experience in treating acne and acne scarring. For more information, please get in touch.

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