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Cystic Acne: Your Guide to Causes and Management 

Explore cystic acne. Unravel the causes, debunk myths, and discover effective treatments for your acne condition.

Dealing with cystic acne can feel like navigating a minefield.
The world of beauty products promises miraculous results for your skin troubles, but these claims often fall short when it comes to cystic acne.
You’ve probably tried every lotion and potion under the sun, yet those painful bumps persist.
It’s disheartening, isn’t it.
But here’s the truth…
Cystic acne is more than just a surface-level issue; it’s deep-rooted inflammation that requires more than creams and potions. 

Table of Contents

What is Cystic Acne?
Causes and Risk Factors
Why is this acne different?
How is Cystic Acne Diagnosed?


Cystic acne, considered the most formidable form of acne, is characterised by large, red, and deeply inflamed breakouts.
Unlike regular pimples that appear on the surface of the skin, cystic acne develops deep within the skin layers, leading to painful, tender bumps filled with pus. These lesions can often be quite noticeable due to their size and reddish or purplish colour, a stark contrast against the surrounding skin.

But cystic acne isn’t merely an aesthetic concern or minor skin irritation; its implications extend far beyond the skin’s surface.

This severe type of acne has significant emotional and psychological implications. Sufferers frequently report feelings of embarrassment, frustration, and even depression. The visibility, physical pain and discomfort of cystic acne can be a source of self-consciousness, negatively impacting self-esteem and confidence.

As the body attempts to heal this deep-seated inflammation, it can produce too much or too little tissue, leading to raised or pitted scars. Breakouts can last for weeks or even months and, without proper treatment, poses a high risk of permanent scarring – a lifelong reminder of cystic acne long after active breakouts have subsided.

That’s why early and appropriate intervention is crucial in managing cystic acne.
With correct treatment, it’s possible to reduce the severity of breakouts, mitigate pain, prevent new lesions from forming, and minimise the risk of scarring.

What is Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is an intense and severe manifestation of acne vulgaris, a skin condition that predominantly affects the face but can also appear on the chest, back, and upper arms.
To fully understand how cystic acne develops, we need to delve into the microscopic structure of our skin.
Our skin’s surface is punctuated with tiny openings called pores, the openings to hair follicles.
Each follicle is associated with a sebaceous gland that produces sebum, a type of oil that lubricates our skin and hair, keeping it healthy and moisturised.

However, problems arise when there’s an overproduction of sebum, often triggered by hormonal changes. At the same time, the skin’s natural exfoliation process might not keep pace, leading to an accumulation of dead skin cells. These conditions create an environment ripe for clogging up the pores.

Once a pore becomes clogged, bacteria naturally residing on our skin can increase within the blocked pore. These bacteria thrive in the oxygen-free environment that the blocked pore provides.

As the bacteria multiply, they produce waste and other by-products that cause inflammation and infection deep within the skin. This results in the formation of a cystic lesion, which is typically larger and more painful than a regular pimple. The inflammation is often deep and far from the skin’s surface, contributing to cystic acne’s characteristic redness, tenderness, and swollen appearance.

Because these inflamed lesions are deep within the skin, they can impact the surrounding skin tissue, leading to a broader area of skin inflammation and tenderness.
This deep, inflamed, cyst-like acne is more resistant to typical acne treatments and requires a more rigorous and targeted approach to effectively manage and resolve it. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the development of cystic acne. These include hormonal imbalances, excessive oil production, accumulation of dead skin cells, and bacterial infection.
In addition, certain lifestyle factors and genetic predispositions may increase the risk of developing this severe type of acne.

Why is this acne different?

Cystic acne differs from other forms of acne as it affects deeper skin tissue, causing more severe pain, and has a higher risk of scarring. This form of acne often lasts longer and does not respond well to typical over-the-counter acne treatments.

How is Cystic Acne Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of cystic acne is typically made by a dermatologist.
The dermatologist will assess the severity and extent of the acne and determine if any underlying health conditions could be contributing to the problem.
At Harley Street Healthcare, London Dermatology Clinics, we provide personalised treatment plans for cystic acne. Call today and speak to one of our friendly team.


Q: Can cystic acne be cured? 
A: Cystic acne can be managed effectively, and in many cases, it can be completely cleared with the proper treatment and ongoing skincare routine.

Q: Can diet influence cystic acne? 
A: Certain dietary factors, such as high glycaemic foods and dairy products, can contribute to acne in some individuals. However, everyone is different, and diet does not cause acne for everyone.

Q: What is the best treatment for cystic acne? 
A: The best treatment varies from person to person and depends on the severity and cause of the acne. At Harley Street Healthcare, London Dermatology Clinics, we personalise treatments based on each patient’s individual needs.


While cystic acne is a challenging skin condition, understanding it is the first step towards effective management.
It’s a deep-seated and often painful skin condition which can’t be tamed by over-the-counter skincare products alone, but it’s certainly possible with professional guidance and patience.

At Harley Street Healthcare, London Dermatology Clinics, we’re committed to providing expert care and treatment for cystic acne, helping you restore your skin health and confidence.
Remember, each case of cystic acne is unique, and a personalised approach to treatment is the most effective. If you’re struggling with cystic acne, book an appointment with our experienced dermatologists today. Your journey to clear, healthier skin could start with a simple conversation. 

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