Natural Remedies for Cystic Acne

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Natural Remedies for Cystic Acne

By: Paige Fowler

For many, cystic acne seems inescapable. I personally have struggled with it for over seven years, and it’s a constant cycle of hopes raised and hopes dashed: right when I think I’m clear, another painful and unsightly cyst resurfaces—or, more accurately, fails to. Because that’s precisely the problem with cystic acne: unlike “regular” acne like blackheads and whiteheads, cystic blemishes are under the skin, and that’s exactly what makes them so painful and difficult to get rid of. Many who struggle with cystic acne are frustrated to find they’re unable to treat their condition with over-the-counter medications like topical creams and standard Neutrogena face washes; thus, they’re damned to countless visits to the dermatologist to cure the condition from the inside out.

However, there are a few natural remedies out there that have helped my skin over the years (despite the severity of my acne). Although I personally have to supplement these products with medication, a few products have helped me so surprisingly well that I feel obligated to share them.

1. Tea tree oil
Like countless other essential oils, tea tree oil has become a craze over the past few years (and rightfully so). Tea tree oil has a natural antiseptic property, making it ideal for deep-cleaning skin and drying out cysts. When I have a particularly large, persistent, or painful cyst, I dribble a few drops of oil onto the end of a cotton swab and apply the oil directly to the blemish. When I wake up the next morning— voilà—the cyst has usually reduced in size. Be warned, though: tea tree oil is very strong, so it has an aggressive smell and feel on the skin. Feel free to dilute the oil with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, or argan oil before applying.

Also keep in mind that not all tea tree oils are created equal: as strong as the temptation may be, please don’t just purchase the cheapest bottle you find on Amazon. Your skin will suffer for it! Personally, I only purchase tea tree oil that comes in a brown or dark-colored glass container. That usually indicates that the oil is authentic as the dark glass prevents the oil from degrading. I also check that the bottle says “USDA Organic,” “100% pure,” “certified organic,” or something of the like. Another good tip is to make sure the bottle includes the Latin name of the oil. For example, the tea tree oil I use has “Melaleuca alternifolia” written in small font at the bottom of the container: this is the scientific name of the narrow-leaved paperbark, or the plant from which we (mainly) derive tea tree oil.

2. A strong clay mask
Masks have also increased in popularity since the skincare trend began, but like tea tree oil, not all masks are created equal. So often I find myself buying into the “3 for $5” mask sale at Target or Walmart and walking away dry, itchy, and disappointed. If you want a deep, quality pore-cleaning mask, I’d encourage you to try a natural clay mask. These masks usually arrive as a tub of powder: you have to mix a scoop of this powder with a liquid to actually create the mask. I personally love this quality as it enables the user to create a mask with their preferred thickness. You can also vary what you mix the base with—I sometimes use water, but I usually use apple cider vinegar. Although I personally despise the scent of vinegar, the application with vinegar is much smoother (and I get all the benefits of ACV seeping into my skin).

Don’t be alarmed if the mask is very powerful: to be honest, the first time I used a clay mask I thought I was experiencing an allergic reaction because of how aggressively it was pulling at my skin. Thankfully I was not, though, and after removing the mask I could see that it had sucked out my blackheads and stripped my cyst-prone skin, leaving nothing behind but some redness. It was like hitting the reset button on my skin! After using a clay mask, I always apply a generous amount of moisturizer or facial oil as clay masks are very, very drying.

3. Facial oil
Many acne sufferers—myself included—have been fed the false narrative that you have to starve your skin of moisture to prevent acne. Acne is created by oil and dirt blocking your pores, right? So we want to have as little oil on our face as possible, right? Eh, not necessarily. While it is true that oil and dirt are what clog your pores, stripping your skin of its natural moisture is often the worst thing you can do. For cystic acne sufferers, your condition is under the skin: so how is making the surface of your skin a barren landscape going to help what’s going on underneath? Here’s a bombshell: it won’t. In many cases, excessive dryness does nothing but suck the life from your skin and create premature wrinkles.

So for any skin type, I’d recommend using a face oil. As you can probably guess, different types of oil help with different types of skin: for example, geranium and tea tree oil are typically good for those with oily skin, and grapeseed and rosehip oil are good for those with dry skin. I’d encourage you to try several different types until you find the oil that works for you.

That’s it! Now it’s your turn: what all-natural skincare products have helped your acne—cystic or not? Let me know in the comments!


  • Although these tips were written with cystic acne sufferers in mind, these remedies should work wonders for less severe types of acne as well.
  • Per usual, before trying any skincare regimen, be sure to test products on your skin first before applying generously to the face, and if needed, consult your doctor if you have known skin sensitivity.

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