How To Treat Cystic Acne Without Going On Birth Control

Birth control is frequently prescribed as a treatment for cystic, hormonal acne, but it often comes with a price not everyone wants to pay.

By Simone Sydel4 min read
How To Treat Cystic Acne Without Going On Birth Control

Birth control pills prescribe the pill supposedly to "balance out" your hormones and bring their overactivity down to normal or low. This medication most frequently targets the androgens, a group of hormones that play a role in male traits. Women have them too, and these are important because they’re believed to regulate the function of many organs, including the reproductive tract, bones, kidneys, liver, and muscle.

However, overactive androgens can also stimulate our oil glands and make them produce more and more oil that starts by clogging pores and causing blackheads, then pimples, and eventually even deeper and more painful cysts.

However, doctors often prescribe the pill as a way of balancing your hormones to eliminate unwanted acne but fail to mention all the negative side effects that could follow. Plus, what if you're trying to conceive, but still don't want to be dealing with painful, embarrassing pimples? Luckily, there are many more useful ways to treat cystic acne without going on birth control, and in this article, I will mention a few that are easy to follow.

Try To Identify Your Triggers

The first thing to do when trying to find a solution to a problem is to eliminate what's triggering it in the first place. Treating cystic acne is no different, and this is the very first step in your journey.

If you suspect that something may be causing your acne, start by eliminating it.

If you suspect that something may be causing your acne, start by eliminating it, whether that's a dietary product, a skincare or makeup product you started using, or even a new fabric softener. Think about the things you changed shortly before seeing acne appear on your skin and eliminate anything you’re suspicious of.

Alternatively, you can also track certain things you’re suspicious of and watch closely how your skin reacts to them. For example, if you’re breaking out whenever you eat a lot of cheese or using that full-coverage foundation you keep for special events, there might be a connection there.

Create a Simple Skincare Routine

Having a short and simple skincare routine consisting of products that work for your skin concerns is the best way to maintain skin health and not overwhelm your barrier with many different ingredients. Exposing your skin to different ingredients can, and most probably will, become problematic and can potentially irritate it and trigger more inflammation, which won't help cystic acne. Your skincare routine should consist of no more than four or five products.

Choose Actives That Work for Your Skin Type and Condition

Actives are ingredients that are responsible for the bioactivity in the products. Products for acne will usually contain actives like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, and some form of vitamin A derivatives, such as retinoic acid.

When dealing with acne, it’s good to have at least one of these actives in your arsenal; however, anything more than that can cause irritations and sensitivity, so it’s important not to go overboard with them.

Products for acne will usually contain actives like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

Salicylic acid is a good active for mild to moderate acne, benzoyl peroxide is a good active for more stubborn moderate to severe acne, and prescription-strength retinoid such as tretinoin or over-the-counter adapalene is a good active for very severe, cystic acne.

Product To Try: Differin is the strongest over-the-counter retinoid that can help with moderate to severe acne. However, since it's a very strong retinoid, some side effects such as peeling, shedding, and irritation may occur for the first six to eight weeks until your skin fully adjusts to it. It's important to use it with caution and always follow it up with sunscreen in the morning.

Check Your Makeup Products

Many people have never seen a doctor to confirm their suspicions but continue to think their acne is hormonal just because a pimple looks big, has a dark purplish color, and it’s sitting somewhere along the jawline.

This isn’t always the case, and although you may think your acne is hormonal and there’s something wrong with you internally, eliminating all potential external triggers is always a good idea, and it may yield some positive results.

Makeup, for example, can be a huge trigger for those annoying and painful cysts, and while you may be removing your makeup before going to bed, remember it's been sitting on your face for the past seven or eight hours, which is more than enough to cause an issue. Your makeup, particularly your foundations and concealers, could potentially be clogging your pores and causing those angry cysts that may appear “hormonal,” but in reality, are just a result of your immune’s system aggressive reaction to a clog.

Your foundation could potentially be clogging your pores and causing those angry cysts.

So take some time to line up your makeup products and carefully scan them for any potentially pore-clogging ingredients. If you suspect a product or multiple products are causing you to break out, then the easiest way to find out is to stop using these products for two to four weeks. If your condition improves because you eliminated a potential trigger, then you’ll know what could have been causing the issue. 

Look into Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are a professional procedure that involves applying a blend of hydroxy acids to clear the gunk out the pores that’s causing acne and to help soothe redness and inflammation.

Chemical peels vary in strength and depth; therefore, it’s not a treatment that should be done too frequently or at all times of the year. But they’re also very efficient and can clear out even the most stubborn acne after only three or four sessions; therefore, there likely won't be the need to do them constantly.

Be Mindful about Your Diet

While not every diet will work for everyone, no matter how healthy it is, there are some things that you should try your best to stay away from. For example, sugar, dairy, vegetable oils, and excessively spicy foods are all things that are linked to inflammation, and since acne is a type of inflammation, it may be wise to consume them in moderation or cut them out altogether.

It’s important to note that changing your diet is likely going to deliver results very slowly, which is why it's important to find a diet that works for you instead of punishing yourself with extreme restrictions in order to heal your cystic acne. Inflammation in the body will take time to calm down, which is why you have to make the journey enjoyable instead of traumatizing.

Reduce Stress As Much As Possible

Another major cause of inflammation in the body is stress. It can throw your hormones completely out of whack is left unmanaged, affecting not only your mood and your energy levels but also your skin. Yikes! Stress causes your body to create more cortisol, which in turn increases your oil supply and can result in horrifying cystic pimples.

Make sure to keep a regular sleep schedule, take time to relax, and get out into the sun for a walk regularly.

Introduce Supplements into Your Diet

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are an important part of the skin barrier, helping to keep moisture in and irritants out. They also provide protection from harmful UV rays, impact the rate of wound healing, and reduce inflammation. However, since the body can’t make Omega-3s on its own, we have to obtain them through food or supplementation.

Zinc is a mineral that has profound anti-inflammatory and wound-healing capacity.

Another important supplement is zinc. Zinc is a mineral that has profound anti-inflammatory and wound-healing capacity, so having it in your arsenal when battling acne will definitely help you achieve great results.

Closing Thoughts

Cystic acne is one of the most severe forms of acne that can take a huge toll on our self-esteem and well-being. To make matters worse, even with the right treatment, it can take months until you see any substantial changes. This is why it's important to remember that progress requires a lot of patience and consistency with the right routine. So don't be afraid to seek help, and more importantly – don't be discouraged if you don’t see any changes right off the bat. Good results will come eventually!

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