Watch Out! Top 6 Cystic Acne Causes No One’s Telling You About

Invisible acne?

Yes, it does exist.

It’s when you know you have acne, but you can’t pinpoint exactly where. Well, that’s why it’s called invisible in the first place.


Cystic acne is more common in women than in men and we can blame hormones for that. This explains why cystic acne typically happens before or during menstrual periods or during pregnancy.

Compared to pimples, cystic acne is a type of blemish that’s deep within the skin’s surface. And though painful, I don’t suggest picking them because it will only infect the area and make matters worse.

So, how do you deal with it exactly?

The trick is in knowing what exactly causes it. Here now are the 6 top cystic acne causes you should know about.

1. Dairy Products

The first one on our list of cystic acne causes may come as a shocker for some.

Generally speaking, milk is good for us. But, since it contains components similar to that of testosterone, it can stimulate too much sebum production.

And this can easily spell trouble for your acne-prone skin.

By eliminating dairy from your diet, you’ll be able to see a huge difference in your complexion. Not kidding here.

But, take note:

Dairy is one of the main sources of Vitamin D and calcium. These two nutrients are essential for strong bones and teeth.

So, if you decide to cut down on dairy products, make sure to find good substitutes. You can get your calcium supply from leafy greens and other foods.

2. Too Much Sugar

There is a reason why a high-sugar diet and clear skin don’t come together.

Once ingested, sugar can cause insulin levels to rise. And when you have high insulin level, your sebum production increases and this can cause your pores to get clogged.

And what’s worse?

The most common culprits to your acne are the same foods you’re probably eating every single day. This includes sodas, ice cream, candies and fried foods.

Let me explain:

When blood sugar goes up, the body reacts by releasing more hormones called androgens. This hormone is known for stimulating oil your oil glands to produce more sebum.

So, to solve your cystic acne, it’s important for you to eliminate foods high in sugar from your diet as much as possible. Making tweaks in your diet can also increase the effectiveness of topical creams and medications.

3. Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen is important if you don’t want to suffer from the harmful rays of the sun. But if you’re constantly getting cystic acne on the face while using one, you might want to check your sunscreen.

Fact is sunscreens are divided into two types. You have physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.

Wearing sunscreen is important if you don’t want to suffer from the harmful rays of the sun. But if you’re constantly getting cystic acne on the face while using one, you might want to check your sunscreen.

Fact is sunscreens are divided into two types. You have physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.

If you are using chemical sunscreens, they are probably the reason why your skin is breaking out.

These sunscreens are able to penetrate the skin’s deeper layers and cause problems there.

Now, apart from type, you should also check your sunscreen’s formula.

Some sunscreens are made from thick and heavy ingredients. These can cause clogged pores and can be a problem if you’re an acne-prone adult who loves spending time outdoors.

The solution?

Choose a sunscreen with a lighter formula and is made specifically made for acne-prone skin. Go with gels rather than creams as they aren’t as occlusive. 

4. Stress

Stress isn’t only bad for your body. It’s bad for your skin, too.

For one, stress can have a negative effect on your sleeping pattern. When your body fails to have enough time to heal and repair itself, it becomes vulnerable to damages and bacteria.

Lack of sleep can also trigger the production of the stress hormone cortisol. It stimulates the skin to produce more oil which can leave you with clog pores.

This is why it’s important to find ways to de-stress yourself.

Examples include yoga, meditation or exercise. Any physical exercise can lower a person’s stress levels.

But, remember:

You should do it in moderation. Sweating too much and not washing it off right away can lead to acne.

5. Bacteria

Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the most common acne-causing bacteria. They live within the follicles and feed on the oil produced by your sebaceous glands.

Excess sebum plus low oxygen levels in blocked follicles make an ideal environment for their growth.

To solve this, you can try supplements made for those with acne. These work by reducing inflammation, unclogging pores, and controlling the production of oil.

Oral antibiotics can also be taken to kill P. acnes. If you’re planning to take antibiotics to end your problem with acne, it’s best to consult with your doctor first as antibiotics can also have an effect on the good bacteria in your body.

There’s a catch, however.

Oral antibiotics can’t be seen as a long-term solution since bacteria may grow resistant to them over time. If you’re going to take antibiotics, take them in conjunction with other acne remedies.

6. Pillowcases

Or basically, anything that comes in close contact with your skin.

Acne begins once oil and dirt touch your skin. If pillowcases aren’t changed or washed regularly, they become the perfect breeding ground for bacterial build up.

And you know what happens when there are too many bacteria on your skin.

That’s not all.

The way your linens and pillowcases are manufactured also plays a big role to how they can affect your skin. If they have been bleached using harsh chemicals, you are likely to experience negative reactions.


If you’d ask me, I’d rather have “real” acne than cystic acne. Yes, cystic acne may be easier to hide, but it is more painful than the ones that pop on your skin.

If you’re suffering from cystic acne, I hope this list has enlightened you on how those zits can be prevented. All you need are changes in your diet and some personal hygiene.

For those who have dealt with cystic acne, what other causes do you believe are missing on this list?

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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