Home Remedies for Cystic Acne

It doesn't matter if you call it cystic acne or severe acne; when your skin is red, inflamed, and painful, you just want the breakouts gone. If you're holistically-minded, or simply looking for a quick-and-effective treatment, you might look into home remedies to get your acne under control.  

Woman applying ice cube to refresh her face skin
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What Is a "Home Remedy?"

Different people have different opinions as to what constitutes a "home remedy." Some people think natural treatment when they think home remedy: herbs, vitamins, essential oils, and the like. Along the same lines, some define home remedies as items that are found in their kitchen, say turmeric or apple cider vinegar.

Others consider any treatment that can be bought at the store, as opposed to having to visit a healthcare provider to get a prescription medication, a home remedy. So, over-the-counter acne products from the drugstore also fit the bill.

Whatever your definition of home remedy, do any of these actually work to clear cystic acne?

Can Cystic Acne Be Treated With Home Remedies?

Contrary to what many websites and YouTube videos promise, cystic acne can't be effectively treated with any type of home remedy. It can't be treated with a vegan diet, herbal teas, or kitchen ingredients. Even OTC acne products are no match for cystic acne.

While that's the bad news, the good news is severe acne can be treated. It just has to be treated by a dermatologist.

Severe acne is tough to treat and is extremely stubborn. But with prescription medications and guidance from a dermatologist experienced in treating severe acne, you can get really good results. 

As tempting as it is to try this, that, or another home remedy to see if it just may work for you, you're encouraged to call a dermatologist instead. You can waste a ton of time and money on unproven remedies with little to no improvement. That just leads to frustration and disappointment. 

Better to get a proven treatment now, and start seeing results sooner. You'll be happier with your skin in the long run.

Can Individual Cystic Pimples Be Treated with Home Remedies?

What if you don't have acne over the entire face or body, but instead just a single big zit (or two) that's randomly appeared? Most often what we call an acne cyst is really just a big pimple.

In this case, you most likely don't need to see a dermatologist nor will you need a prescription medication. For random, individual pimples a home remedy will actually work nicely. 

Ice is a good idea for those painfully swollen zits. Just a few minutes of this cold therapy can reduce inflammation and make it feel a whole lot better.

A dab of over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide at night can also help your pimple to heal more quickly. Don't apply odd mixtures of cinnamon or garlic, as these can irritate the blemish and actually make them worse. And, of course, you should never squeeze an inflamed zit.

Even the largest pimples should start healing within a week. If home remedies aren't doing the trick, and you have a zit that refuses to heal (or gets larger, or is extremely painful) you should see a practitioner. There are treatments that can help get that breakout healing, cortisone injections for example.

Your healthcare provider may say your big "zit" isn't a zit at all. Sometimes that red, inflamed bump is caused by something other than acne. Boils, ingrown hairs, or even a cold sore can sometimes be mistaken for an acne pimple because they can look quite similar. If you're not sure what you're looking at is truly a pimple, don't hesitate to have it checked out by your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Cystic acne is tough to treat. The reality is home remedies just don't treat the underlying factors that cause acne, so they won't clear up your skin. What's more, putting stuff on your skin that really isn't meant for your skin can do much more harm than good. Instead of clearing your skin, these DIY treatments can cause a red, itchy, irritated rash called contact dermatitis. Prescription acne medications are the most effective way to treat severe acne.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Davis, M.G. The treatment of cystic acne. In: Skin Therapy Letter.

  2. Kraft J, Freiman A. Management of acne. CMAJ. 2011;183(7):E430-5. doi:10.1503/cmaj.090374

Additional Reading

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.