11 Things That Can Clear Cystic Acne

11 Things That Can Clear Cystic Acne

Hi friends! One of the primary questions we get asked is how to combat cystic acne. We’ve all been there, having the large, painful breakouts deep under the skin that stay for weeks if not months. At San Diego Acne Clinic we treat cystic acne ALL DAY long and, no joke, some of the deeper ones have been there for 3-6 months. Not only do these suckers hurt like hell but this type of acne is less responsive to topical treatments and can leave nasty scarring.

Here is a list of 11 remedies – some will provide instant relief, others will help you turn things around in a more permanent way. Here goes!

1. Ice pack. Anything that has swelling (like a cyst) will respond to a cold compress (ice pack). This can be done multiple times a day; we recommend doing a frozen ice pack (or frozen water bottle if that’s more handy) and holding it against the breakout with medium-firm pressure for 10 minutes morning and night. This alone will help drastically and is your first starting point.

2. Sulfur products. The Face Reality line that we also carry has a Sulfur spot treatment that I recommend as an overnight mask. Apply onto affected areas directly after cleansing/toning and sleep with it on. It’s not drying (surprisingly) and calms inflammation by dissolving some of the dead skin and oil that can clog pores. Sulfur is not as harsh as Benzoyl Peroxide and is generally safe for all skin types.

3. Avoid caffeine & alcohol as much as possible until inflammation has calmed. Cystic acne is the most inflamed version of acne, and the source of the inflammation is mostly internal. The key things that inflame cystic acne are caffeine and alcohol because they get filtered through the lymphatic system (those detox pathways that run through the perimeter and lower half of your face, and all down your neck). When you have cystic acne and still consume coffee & alcohol, the cystic breakouts tend to get more swollen and red as the lymphatic fluid is applying pressure from the inside of the skin. We HIGHLY recommend reducing these two substances if you’re battling breakouts, but specifically if you have cystic acne. Also, caffeine & alcohol both spike testosterone which is the hormone that most inflames acne AND they both dehydrate the body. 3 HUGE reasons to cut way back. 

If you’re a daily coffee drinker and you cut back for about 10 days you will see the major difference in your acne. With some patients who have more sensitive lymphatic systems, this is the ONLY thing keeping them from being clear.

PRO TIP: If you have little bumps near the end of your eyebrows and on your temples, it’s usually hand-in-hand with too much coffee. Go find a green tea and non-dairy creamer you really like!

4. Do hot yoga. We know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you have cystic acne (or any acne), hot yoga a few times per week is a godsend. This is by far one of the best ways to detox your entire system, specifically the lymphatic system which is the unsung hero of your entire immune system. When we sweat and stretch and take deep breaths we are literally purging out the toxins that are stored up in our systems. Think of your internal detox pathways as a crowded two-lane highway with a ton of traffic. A hot yoga session adds 4 more lanes and removes the speed limit. This means those toxins are excreted quickly and not still floating around causing silent inflammation.

PRO TIP: Immediately rinse your face after ANY exercise; quickly rinsing off is key to preventing the sweat from re-clogging your pores. Splashing off for 6-10 seconds counts, so don’t feel like you have to bring your whole regimen with you.

5. Infrared saunas and steam rooms. Similar to hot yoga, these heated rooms aid in detoxification and circulation which promotes healing throughout the entire body. The heat can also be highly meditative and distressing. Be sure to hydrate before and after to replenish water loss and use these sweat sessions as a chance to hit reset on your stress levels. Ice packing the skin after a sweat session is also a GREAT way to reduce cystic acne.

6. Benzoyl Peroxide in moderation. We say moderation because the overuse of BP is known to be irritating and drying to the skin, which we do not want. A 5% Benzoyl Peroxide product can be used as a mask on dry skin types (leave on clean skin for 30-60 minutes, then rinse off) OR if you have oily/combo skin you can apply to any breakouts and leave on all night. You would apply this directly onto the breakouts, let sit alone for about 20 minutes, then follow with acne-safe moisturizer.

7. Avoid dairy completely. This is actually the #1 rule if you have acne, especially in the lower half of the face. Dairy has Insulin-Like Growth Factor hormones that act on our hair follicles, telling them to produce more oil which then contributes to inflamed, “underground” acne that often turns cystic. Dairy will affect you mainly on your chin, so if you have a concentration of acne near your mouth/chin, the #1 thing you can do diet-wise is to completely eliminate dairy until you are clear.

8. Stop taking any supplements that include more than 50% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of Zinc, B-12, or Vitamin D. These 3 common vitamins are very important but when in supplement form, can be too high of a dose and thus spike testosterone. This is VERY common and is a huge acne aggressor. Look at the nutrition label of your vitamins and if the % is more than 50% of these 3 particular nutrients, take a 3 week break from that vitamin product. It’s likely that inflammation will decrease, especially if you’re making time to ice pack and exercise. When re-introducing, take that product twice per week at first to monitor skin impact.

9. Avoid hot water directly on the skin (ie: when cleansing or in the shower). Yes steam rooms are great, but hot water directly on the skin is actually very unhealthy and inflammatory! Here’s why: heat inflames the skin and dries out the natural repairing moisture that we have. This forces the pore to clamp shut to prevent further moisture loss, and also sends a “HELP ME” message down to the oil gland to produce more oil. So the result is a closed pore with more oil trying to push its way out. This deeply inflames breakouts and can even turn a smaller breakout into a cystic breakout. With cystic acne, ice packing / cold compress is your way to calm things down. Direct heat onto the skin is contra-indicated (not advised) for cystic acne.

PRO TIP: Heat kills the surface of the skin and re-injures scar tissue that’s trying to heal. It also makes you accumulate UV damage much faster because hot water strips your skin of its natural protective moisture barrier. This is the LAST thing you want. Use only lukewarm water when cleansing your skin so you do not cause further damage to scar tissue or make your skin more vulnerable to the sun. You’ll age MUCH faster if you use hot water, so stick to lukewarm!

10. Avoid eating meat at night (or eating within 3 hours of bedtime). Meat is the most difficult thing to digest, so when we eat a lot of it in one sitting it can take MANY hours to properly break down. It is best to eat the majority of your protein during the day to give your body the chance to fully break it down. When meat isn’t digested well, it creates alcohol in the body and some of the undigested protein become toxic and wind up floating through your lymphatic system causing major cystic acne. Digestion is HUGE for acne. When that process goes better, there is far less inflammation in the body and usually far less acne. In fact, many people think they have hormonal acne but it’s really lymphatic, and poor digestion of protein is one of the main triggers. 

PRO TIP: Egg whites contain a protein called Albumin, which is very hard to digest. If you have been eating eggs multiple times per week and are experiencing cystic acne, do an elimination diet for 3-4 weeks. You will see if this was your trigger. At San Diego Acne Clinic, eggs spike cystic acne in about 80% of our clients.

11. Take Bromelain supplements. This is pineapple extract, so as long you don’t have a pineapple allergy, you’re good to go. Bromelain is uniquely anti-inflammatory when taken on an empty stomach. Taking 2-4 capsules before bedtime (on an empty stomach) can drastically reduce inflammation of acne. It’s also useful as a protein-digestion enzyme so taking them with meat helps your body to break it down better. Use bromelain WITH food to aid in digestion, use it WITHOUT food (at least 2 hours after eating) to aid in inflammation. 

We hope this list is taken to heart- each one of these tips is time-tested and works astonishingly well. As always, be sure to check all of your products against our list of pore-clogging ingredients on www.clearstemskincare.com. If your pores continue to get clogged, acne will not stop. 

For anyone battling cystic acne, please know you are not alone and that these 11 tips will serve you very well no matter what the source is!

To aid your healing process, acne prevention, we have created our own expert skin care line that has done wonders for our patiens. Please visit our shop here to shop for our anti-acne, anti-aging and scar remedy products from CLEARSTEM

Much love,

Danielle & Kayleigh

 Danielle Gronich | @danielle.the.acne.guru