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Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne. It generally affects men more than women and most people develop it in their teens. However, it can start as young as eight years old or can even show up when you’re in your 50s. Cystic acne is more prevalent on the face, but it can occur on the chest, back, upper arms and shoulders. It is generally combatted with blue and red light therapy.

Cystic Acne: What It Is And How It’s Treated

What is cystic acne?

When you have a breakout and a pimple forms it is due to your pores getting clogged with debris, dirt and dead skin cells. The pores can also trap in bacteria, which is what causes the area to become red and swollen. For most people, pimples are the worst of it and simple over-the-counter acne medication is enough to treat breakouts. However, when the trapped bacteria becomes infected, the red and swollen pimple fills with pus. This is known as cystic acne and when the pimple bursts it leads to infection and more breakouts, repeating the cycle. Unlike regular acne, cystic acne itches and can even hurt, causing major discomfort to the inflicted person.

What causes it?

Hormones called androgens are increased as we enter our teenage years. Excessive amounts of androgens lead to changes in the skin and clogged pores. Another cause of cystic acne is a condition that affects women called polycystic ovary syndrome. Cystic acne can also occur when greasy lotions, face creams and sunscreens are used in excess and are not fully removed when you wash your face. Finally, cystic acne is genetic, which means if one of your parents had it then there’s a large chance you will too.

How is cystic acne treated?

There are oral medications that can be used in the treatment of cystic acne. However, more and more dermatologists and surgeons are turning to blue and red light therapy to get rid of this severe skin condition. Light therapy uses red and blue wavelengths of light to target cystic acne, creating a clearer complexion. A blue and red light therapy lamp is placed close to the face in the acneic spots. The red light penetrates deep into the skin to activate hemoglobin, a protein in our red blood cells that carries oxygen. With more oxygen, the oil-producing glands in our skin can’t work overtime, clogging our pores. The blue light also penetrates the pores but doesn’t go as deep as the red light. Instead, the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria.

Blue and red light therapy can be done at home; but, it’s not recommended. The at-home use machines are not as powerful or as safe as those found at a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist practice.


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