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Cystic Acne: Your Treatment Options Explained

Acne can be frustrating and painful. When you’re suffering from cystic acne, those days can feel few and far between. Fortunately, great strides have been made in cystic acne treatment. Here are a few treatments to consider.

Best Treatment Options for Cystic Acne

Identifying Cystic Acne

The most important step to treating cystic acne is identifying it, which a dermatologist can help you with. Acne typically occurs when oil and dead skin cells get trapped in pores and hair follicles. There are also certain kinds of bacteria that may contribute to your acne. When identifying acne, your dermatologist will look for whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pimples (pustules), and nodules. Sebaceous cysts, on the other hand, are typically formed when keratin fluid is trapped near a damaged hair follicle or a blocked duct underneath your skin. So if you’re suffering from cystic acne, you’re dealing with issues further under your skin, which means cysts can’t be “popped” like a blackhead or whitehead. When identifying cystic acne, your dermatologist will likely look for inflamed, dome-shaped bumps on your skin.

Antibiotic Treatment

In cases where one course of treatment alone isn’t working, antibiotics may be prescribed to use in tandem. The purpose of prescribing antibiotics in these cases is to help prevent the buildup of acne-causing bacteria under the skin. Again, these are typically prescribed in conjunction with another acne medication. The most common combination is with topical retinoids or benzoyl peroxide to prevent antibiotic resistance. Keep in mind that antibiotics are a short-term treatment option.

Hormonal Birth Control

When cystic acne is caused primarily by hormonal imbalances in the body, hormonal birth control is a common treatment option. For women suffering from cystic acne, hormonal birth control can help minimize breakouts and even prevent cysts from forming at all. This is because hormonal birth control for acne helps regulate the hormones responsible for oil production in your body. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a treatment that must be prescribed by a doctor. If you’re unsure whether your acne issues are hormonally-related, speak to your doctor about possible ways to narrow down potential causes.

Light Therapy

Light therapy might not seem like the most effective way to treat acne. That being said, most of the redness and swelling associated with acne is caused by a specific type of bacteria. Fortunately, that specific bacteria is especially sensitive to exposure to certain kinds of light. Blue light and red light are the most common types of light used to kill off this type of bacteria on the skin’s surface. And though there may be “at-home” versions of light therapy for acne treatment, it’s important that this treatment is performed at your dermatologist’s office.


Also known as Accutane, this medication is one that must be prescribed by a doctor and used under close supervision. The reason for this is that, while effective at treating particularly stubborn acne, Isotretinoin comes with a host of potential severe side effects. This treatment option should only be considered when all other treatment options have been used with no results.

There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for cystic acne, but these treatments are among the most common. If you’re suffering from cystic acne and need a treatment plan now, contact our team SE Dermatology Specialists today.

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