Cystic acne occurs when a pore in your skin gets clogged, usually with dead skin cells. Additionally, sometimes bacteria gets trapped inside the pore, causing the area to become red and swollen.

For me, that “sometimes” is always. I have been suffering from cystic acne for about two years now, and it is, by far, the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Luckily, I hardly get breakouts anymore, but from time to time I will wake up with a throbbing, red bump right in the middle of my forehead. That is when I know that the next week of my life is going to absolutely blow.

My cystic acne tends to go through cycles, and if you suffer like me, I’m sure you have your acne’s lifespan measured down to the minute.

As a result, I’d like to give you some advice on how to soothe your breakout during each stage.

Initial Breakout:

If you find yourself with a swollen spot your first course of action should be to ice it. Under no circumstances should you try to pop it. Trust me, nothing will come out, and it’ll only make things worse.  Leave it alone!

Instead, wash your hands before going near you face, and apply ice for as long as you can.

If you notice no difference in the size or pain level, you might need to try a heat compress. Recently, I have started to wet my make up removers with hot water.

I use this instead of just a regular hot towel. If you’re interested in this method, I use Cucumber and Sage Cleansing Towelettes from Burt’s Bees. Make sure when you’re using these you are not scrubbing the area!

When it becomes an open wound…

This is, arguably, the nastiest stage. Not only does it look absolutely atrocious, but it is nearly impossible to cover with make up.

At this point I typically decide to stay in for the night. While I’m home I use a couple of different methods to keep the bump calm.

Once it reaches this point, there’s really no looking back; instead, you have to wait until it heals. However, there are a couple of things you can do to speed up the recovery.

For example, I try to use a simple, non-invasive facial wash. I stay away from all exfoliators and avoid touching my face at all cost.

If you suffer from oily skin like me, it is crucial to keep the area dry. As a result, I use a specific mixture to dry out the area.

I mix equal parts (about 1 tbsp) of salt and baking soda. Then I add a tiny amount of hot water until the mixture becomes a paste. This mixture is one of my favorite treatments. You can feel it going to work almost immediately, and if you’re doing it right and often, you should see shrinkage within a day.

If none of the above work, it is time to bring out the big guns. I’ve talked about Que Bella Beauty products before in my Favorite Things. When I’m suffering from a cystic acne outbreak my go to is their Purifying Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Mud Mask.

As you may already know, tea tree oil is known for it miraculous effects on acne, and this mask is packed full of it. For 15 minutes, you get to sit back and enjoy this cleansing mask and forget all about that volcano you got on your face.


I know my acne is close to an end once it begins to scab. Like the open wound, this is pretty nasty too.

Similar to the open wound, it is tricky to cover this one up with makeup. Moreover, if you attempt cover up you risk damaging the scab.

At this stage, it is absolutely crucial that you leave the area alone or you risk scaring. Instead of facial masks or strange mixtures, stick to moisturizers.

If you can, try to use an oil-free moisturizer. As you may already know, moisturizer is an absolute necessity whether or not you’re breaking out.

I recommend you invest regardless of your history with cystic acne. My personal favorite is Heather’s Oil Free Daily Moisturizer.  Not only will this keep your skin radiant, but it will shrink any impurity!

Thank you reading! I hope my advice was relevant to you. Be sure to email us at to let us know if my routine helped you at all. Or, if you have advice of your own, send in your ideas and we’ll feature your skincare routine!