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Cystic Acne: Managing the Challenge

Updated: Mar 11

Woman with facial acne looking in the mirror

Cystic acne is a common skin condition that can affect individuals at different stages of life, from adolescence to adulthood, and even during pregnancy. This severe form of acne, characterised by large, painful, pus-filled pimples, can have a significant impact on an individual's self-esteem and quality of life. It's not just a cosmetic issue; cystic acne can lead to scarring and emotional distress if not properly managed.


Understanding Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is different from other types of acne due to its severity and the depth at which it develops beneath the skin. It forms when bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells get trapped deep within your pores, leading to inflammation. According to a study conducted in Singapore, cystic acne is more prevalent in post-adolescent adults, although it can also occur in adolescents. Interestingly, about 40.5% of post-adolescent acne patients had acne persisting from adolescence into adulthood.

An illustration of the various severities of acne

Causes of Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is caused by a combination of factors including bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells getting trapped in the pores, hormonal imbalances, and potentially certain dietary factors. These factors can trigger inflammation, leading to the development of large, painful, pus-filled pimples characteristic of cystic acne. Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy, can exacerbate the condition.

Treatment Options for Cystic Acne

Treatment options for cystic acne vary depending on the individual's age and circumstances. For adolescents and adults, various treatments are available, including oral medications, topical creams, and specific therapies like blue light therapy. However, for pregnant women, managing cystic acne can be more challenging due to the potential risks associated with certain acne medications. Therefore, it's crucial to consult with a dermatologist to develop a personalised treatment plan that is safe and effective.

Schedule a consultation today and start your acne recovery journey today.

Woman applying facial cream on her face

Tips for Managing Cystic Acne

Managing cystic acne involves more than just medical treatments. Here are some practical tips:

  1. Maintain a consistent skincare routine, including gentle cleansing and moisturising. This can help to keep your skin healthy and prevent further breakouts.

  2. Consider dietary factors that may trigger breakouts and make necessary adjustments. Some studies suggest that certain foods, such as chocolate and high-glycemic foods, may contribute to acne.

  3. Seek mental health support if needed, as dealing with cystic acne can be emotionally challenging. Support groups, counselling, or therapy can be beneficial.

Confident and beautiful woman posing


Cystic acne can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right understanding and approach, it can be effectively controlled. Whether you're an adolescent, an adult, or a pregnant woman dealing with cystic acne, remember that help is available. Consult with a dermatologist to explore your treatment options and develop a plan that suits your needs. With patience and persistence, it's possible to manage cystic acne and improve your skin health.

This blog post was medically reviewed by Dr Summer Zhang.


2. Chien, A.L., Qi, J., Rainer, B., Sachs, D.L., & Helfrich, Y.R. (2016). Treatment of Acne in Pregnancy. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 29 (2), 254-262. DOI: 10.3122/jabfm.2016.02.150165


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