Cystic Acne: What is it & How to Treat it

Cystic Acne: What is it & How to Treat it

Cystic Acne: What is it & How to Treat it

It is difficult to describe the physical and emotional pain of living with cystic acne. If you know, you know. It’s hard to ignore and may consume your thoughts day and night and have you frantically searching for a cure. However, while things may seem hopeless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve been looking for information on cystic acne treatment, this article is for you. We’ve got everything you need to know about cystic acne, including how to treat it.

No matter how much you are suffering with your skin, you can be assured that we are with you every step of the way. That’s our Poko promise.

Skincare Routine for Cystic Acne

Sticking with a good skincare routine that addresses your cystic acne can make a world of difference and has almost no side effects compared to the previously mentioned treatments. And while those treatments are necessary to banish cystic acne, a simple skincare routine can care for your skin and speed up its healing time.

Woman with cystic acne 2

Ingredients play a vital role in any skincare product, but even more so in products that can help with cystic acne. If you’re creating a skincare plan to keep cystic acne in check, you’ll want to look for the following ingredients in products:

  • AHAs: Exfoliate top dead layer of skin while keeping it clean and moisturised
  • Apricot Kernel Oil: Soothes skin and prevents inflammation and breakouts
  • Azelaic Acid: Cleanses pores and encourages cell turnover. Skin heals quicker and is less likely to scar.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): Helps inhibit oil production and calm skin, soothing inflammation that can lead to acne.
  • Green Tea Extract: Prevents production of excess sebum and helps skin heal
  • Hyaluronic Acid: Prevents excess sebum production and the blocking of pores, while keeping skin moisturised.
  • Niacinamide: Regulates oil production and reduces redness and swelling of acne, while protecting from environmental stressors.

Create a skincare routine using products containing the above ingredients to help soothe your symptoms and make living with cystic acne a little easier. All you have to do is follow these steps.

AM skincare routine: 

  • Step One: Cleanse
  • Step Two: Treat
  • Step Three: Moisturise & SPF

PM skincare routine:

  • Step One: Cleanse
  • Step Two: Exfoliate
  • Step Three: Treat
  • Step Four: Moisturise

It’s as easy as that.

AM Skincare Routine

In the morning, you’ll want to cleanse your skin to get rid of all the dead skin and grime that accumulate throughout the night and ready your skin for the rest of the products in your routine. Think of it as setting up your face as a blank canvas for all the products to work their magic on.

PM Skincare Routine

The evening is the time to get rid of the day's dirt and grime and prep your skin for bed. Similar to the morning routine, the only differences are that you will use an exfoliator and nourishing moisturiser instead of an SPF.


Wash your face with a cleanser containing hyaluronic acid to start your morning with the freshest, yet dewiest, skin possible, and use again in the evening to get rid of all the impurities and grime that build up throughout the day. We recommend Poko’s Purifying Gel Cleanser. It contains skinfluencer favourites hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, and other ingredients from the superstar list above, such as AHAs, making it a triple threat product. Bacteria and build-up don't stand a chance!


The Purifying Gel Cleanser is suitable for even the most sensitive skin types and leaves skin bright and hydrated. Your skin is ready for the rest of the products in your routine.


Using a gentle exfoliator such as our AHA Exfoliating Treatment removes all the acne-causing bacteria, dead skin cells and grime that could lead to cystic acne. Sometimes cleansers don’t get all the nasties, and an exfoliator is needed for a double cleanse.


The AHA Exfoliating Treatment contains - you guessed it - those delicious AHAs that exfoliate dead skin and leave skin feeling smooth and hydrated, along with apricot kernel oil to soothe stressed-out skin and redness. It is an ideal product to have in your skincare arsenal to fight cystic acne. And it's even gentle enough to be used every day.


When it comes to extreme conditions such as cystic acne, using treatments is vital. Another stellar product from Poko, the Azelaic Acid Spot Gel, ticks all the boxes you would want ticked off when treating and preventing cystic acne.


Formulated with CBD, retinol (vitamin A) and a water-soluble derivative of azelaic acid, the Azelaic Acid Spot Gel focuses on problem areas. It helps to gently unclog pores and keep acne-causing bacteria at bay while encouraging healthy skin cell growth. It’s a great way to target acne directly, and as it is made using natural ingredients, it isn’t harsh on the skin.

Moisturise & SPF

Many people have the misconception that moisturiser will exacerbate their condition by making skin oilier, but that is far from true. In fact, skipping moisturiser could make the situation worse and your skin oilier, as the skin will produce excess sebum to make up for lack of hydration. The key is to use moisturisers with the right ingredients and an SPF that is not occlusive.


With Poko’s Daily SPF 50 Moisturiser, you kill two birds with one stone. Not only does this nifty product hydrate and protect from the sun, but it also contains white horehound, which helps repair the skin’s barrier and improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation caused by acne scars.

For your nighttime routine, swap out the SPF for a nourishing product such as our Light Hydrating Moisturiser. This versatile product uses ingredients such as CBD, hyaluronic acid and fructose to keep skin hydrated and work as a prebiotic to promote good bacteria to combat the bad bacteria that causes cystic acne.

It may go away on its own, but we don't suggest risking it. Cystic acne can cause severe scarring, so it is important to address it as soon as possible. Don’t wait for better days without treating your skin. You could be wasting valuable time you could be using for damage control.

What Is Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is an extreme form of acne, which occurs when cysts develop deep beneath your skin. This is typically caused by a build-up of bacteria in the pores, leading to swelling and inflammation. The infection goes deep and may itch or hurt. However, if you fiddle too much with it, the cyst can burst and spread the bacteria, leading to further breakouts.

What Causes Cystic Acne?

While doctors still aren't entirely sure what causes the painful, unsightly condition, it is believed that hormones play a significant role along with other things, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Certain skin products
  • Humidity
  • Medication
  • Menopause
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Sweat
  • Tight clothing

People with oily skin are more prone to cystic acne, along with teenagers, women and those with hormonal imbalances. However, it can also occur in children and the elderly, and men usually experience the most severe forms.

Symptoms of Cystic Acne

Cystic acne may look like boils. It appears as red lumps under the skin that are painful and tender. These bumps ooze pus and are crusty. Cystic acne can appear anywhere on the body, most typically on the face, neck, chest, back, arms and even shoulders.

Wherever it appears, it can be debilitating to self-esteem and mental health.

Cystic Acne Treatment - How to Get Rid of Cystic Acne

Fortunately, cystic acne improves with age. However, it can last for years and even leave nasty scars. But how to treat cystic acne? Your best bet is to consult a dermatologist to clear up your skin. Over-the-counter treatments just won’t cut it with something as severe as cystic acne. It would be best if you saw a dermatologist to get prescription medication. They will also give you a specific treatment plan to follow to beat cystic acne for good.

Keep in mind that it can take up to two months to see results, and you may need combination cystic acne treatment, such as:

  • Isotretinoin: The most effective way to treat cystic acne. It is a tablet made up of a potent form of vitamin A that is to be taken daily.
  • Oral Antibiotics: The best way to treat cystic acne if it covers a large area; oral antibiotics reduce bacteria and inflammation that may contribute to cystic acne's development. However, you can only use it short term.
  • Oral Contraceptives: A good option for some women, oral contraceptives can be an effective way to regulate hormones and prevent cystic acne if hormone fluctuations from menstruation cause flare-ups.
  • Topical Retinoids: Also derived from vitamin A, retinoids treat and prevent cystic acne by unclogging hair follicles. They can be used daily and are available as creams, lotions, gels and more.
  • Spironolactone: Usually used by women with cystic acne on the lower part of their face, Spironolactone is believed to manage androgen levels to prevent inflammatory acne.
  • Steroids: Steroids (cortisone) can be injected directly into cyst nodules that aren’t responding to treatment. The cortisone will work immediately, reducing inflammation and healing the cysts.

Cystic Acne Treatment Risks

While many of the above treatments seem ideal for treating and preventing the formation of cystic acne, you must ensure you are aware of the following treatment risks.


Although isotretinoin is a treatment many people swear by, some serious risks are involved. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Blood in urine
  • Bruising
  • Chronic headaches
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Regular nosebleeds
  • Skin inflammation
  • Sudden or worsening mood disorders

Oral Antibiotics

Oral antibiotics can only be used in the short term, or you risk bacterial resistance. This means that the antibiotics won’t be as effective any more if it is used for too long a period. Oral antibiotics also have side effects you need to be aware of, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Sun sensitivity
  • vomiting

Let your doctor know immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Oral Contraceptives

The pill is another treatment option for women that carry a range of potential side effects you need to be aware of, such as:

  • Bloating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Gingivitis
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight fluctuations

Oral contraceptives may not be suitable for you and could lead to even worse side effects, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have blood clots. Speak to your doctor before starting a course.

Topical Retinoids

While not carrying risks as severe as isotretinoin or side effects as unpleasant as oral antibiotics, retinoids can make your skin sensitive to the sun and cause it to burn quickly. Ensure you wear sunscreen at all times if you use a retinoid.


Spironolactone is another treatment option that can cause severe problems, in this case birth defects, so you shouldn’t take it if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. People with kidney disease should also avoid spironolactone. There are other minor side effects, such as:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Vomiting


Cortisone injections work quickly to relieve the pain and inflammation caused by cystic acne, but it is not without risk and can cause side effects, such as:

  • Pitting skin at the site of injection
  • Thinning skin at the site of injection
  • Systemic effects if excess cortisone is injected into the bloodstream

Yes, the side effects from the above treatments can be scary, but it’s not to say you will experience them. Your dermatologist will know exactly what is right for you and develop a treatment that suits your skin and body.

Final Thoughts on Cystic Acne Treatment

Hopefully, we’ve given you all the knowledge and tools you need to make living with cystic acne easier. Better skin days are ahead. You just have to stay dedicated and give your skin the necessary care. Good luck!

Read our similar blog on : What is Acne

Share this article