Cystic acne is the worst. Aside from being painful, dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Herrman tells Into The Gloss, this deep and cystic lesions can last for weeks and can leave scars even if you manage to keep your hands of them. Allure consultant and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner says that cystic acne can be considered the most severe type of acne, and fellow board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzitells Teen Vogue that treating that as you would a "standard" blemish will only irritate it further. In short, cortisone shots are the quickest solution to cystic acne.
Still, it's important to manage your expectations. Cortisone shots will not make cystic acne disappear overnight. Remember, cystic acne can last for weeks and what a cortisone shot will do is shorten its lifespan. However, getting a cortisone shot as early as you can feel it growing will certainly prevent it from getting larger and more inflamed. Dermatologist Dr. Tina Bhutani confirms to Self that "Cortisone shots rapidly bring down inflammation in the skin."
Cortisone shots are usually the last resort to treating cystic acne. However, they're a quick and effective solution, especially when you have a big wedding or some other special occasion to attend. Some wait for weeks before seeing a dermatologist, but as mentioned, you can immediately get a shot if your cystic acne is massive and painful to prevent it from worsening. Take note that cortisone shots won't work on blackheads or whiteheads. Injecting cortisone on lesions that are not red may leave depressions on the skin, and those may become permanent scars. Cortisone shots also contain steroids, so if you're wary of those, take time to speak to your doctor about it. Lastly, check if your insurance covers it. Depending on how many injections you'll need, dermatologist Dr. Susan Massick says it will cost around $50 to %100.
If you have an inflamed lesion and can't get to a dermatologist right away, you can apply topical hydrocortisone cream on the area for temporary relief. Byrdie recommends Aveeno Active Naturals 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, or Vanicream 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream. Dr. Herrman also says that applying a mixture of baking soda and water can also be helpful.
If you're prone to cystic acne breakouts, consider following this skincare routine.
Dr. Zeichner recommends using a salicylic acid cleanser to help shrink cystic acne. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that removes dead skin cells and excess oil and will help dry out cystic acne. Shape suggests La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser, The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Acne + Pore Cleanser, CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, and Skinceuticals LHA Cleanser Gel.
Oil-free and non-comedogenic moisturizers will not exacerbate your cystic acne issues. Prevention recommends CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 (and its PM variant), Neutrogena Oil-Free Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 35, and Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with Sunscreen. Using a moisturizer combined with sunscreen is convenient and cost-effective. It also prevents you from piling extra products on your already sensitive skin.
As soon as you feel that telltale bump, Dr. Zeichner suggests applying a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment right away to prevent it from growing bigger. He adds that a concentration of 2.5 is enough to prevent over-drying your skin and recommends Paula's Choice Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment or Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave-On Mask.
Related article: How to Get Rid of Dark Marks from Acne Breakouts
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