My longest relationship is with a cyst near my right ear. We’re going on seven years. I would apply for common law marriage if he had better health insurance and wasn’t so abusive. Instead, every couple of weeks he decides to balloon up (annoyed about god knows what, that I ate a doughnut?) and throb with anger. I vow to ignore him; attention only makes his ego grow. I wear my hair down to hide him. I suffocate him with lotions and potions. I wonder if my concealer is acting as fertilizer. Finally three glasses deep of merlot I attack with a sterilized safety pin. He surrenders, while deepening the ever present scar to remind me of his next visit.
Cystic acne, also called inflammatory acne, is the most severe of acnes. It is caused when oil ducts become clogged and subsequently rupture. What that visually equates to is large, red, hard to the touch, painful bumps* that can take weeks to fully heel and often leave a scar on one’s skin. Yes, a drone can deliver a baby kitten to your door within two hours but it still takes WEEKS for a cyst to heal (my proof that there is no god).
Cystic acne is painful. It is demoralizing. It is as persistent as our grandparents are racist. If you are a fellow sufferer you may stop me on the street any time, any day and I will discuss it at length with you. Seriously. I get it. I have battled cystic acne since I was a spry fourteen-year-old and now I battle cysts and wrinkles simultaneously (more proof there is no god), but I come to you with advice from a life spent on the battlefield:
1. THE HARD STUFF: If it’s an extreme case, please go see a dermatologist (not a facialist). Only dermatologists can provide such fixes as steroid shots or prescribe the heavy-duty oral medications and topical creams. And if anyone tells you that you just need to eat healthier and wash your face more please ignore them and go cry in the safe space of a dermatologist’s office. It is cathartic. Trust me, I know.
2. GUT CHECK: You don’t want to give up cheese. I don’t want you to give up cheese. I just want you to push pause on all dairy (and soy) products for two weeks to see if there is a connection. Especially if your cysts are clustered around your chin, i.e. hormonal. Dairy promotes estrogen production in our bodies. Excess estrogen can cause chin cysts (pregnant women will attest to this). My darling cysts prefer to colonize my entire face and back like the Imperial British Empire, so I still eat cheese, unless I’m about to menstruate, then I cut back because I have enough estrogen coursing through my veins to power a windmill.
3. THE WIZARD: Renowned facialist Renée Rouleau not only taught me I have sensitive, oily skin and should never use an abrasive scrub again unless I want to look like Steve Bannon, but also to never use spot acne crèmes that claim to “dry out zits” on my cysts. Those are meant for white and black heads only after you pop them, to zap any lingering dirt and oil. Cysts live much deeper under the skin and spot acne medications will only dry out the first few layers of skin, causing further damage to your skin and trapping the cyst deep inside your pore. Renée’s Anti Cyst Treatment is the only over the counter topical cream I now trust because she understands we don’t want a light crop dusting of pesticides, we want to target the soil from which this monster grows.
4.HOME REMEDIES: When short on cash I have also been known to dab gobs of Vasoline or Aquaphor on my cysts before going to bed. The ointments will suffocate the cyst while hydrating your skin – they actually work for all acne and are great at hydrating fine lines! Sometimes I sleep in a mask of Aquaphor much to my boyfriend’s horror (just remember to change your pillow case nightly).
5. A LIGHT SHOW: But, after every crème, tool, pill, prayer emoji I used in attempt to banish my cysts one thing has trumped them all; bi-monthly treatments at Skin Laundry. There they administer a fifteen-minute facial consisting of a YAG laser and YPL light system. The YAG laser reaches below the skins surface to deep clean pesky pores while the YPL light system kills light sensitive bacteria on the surface. Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Mask is a similar, much more affordable option. I continue to pay for the professional treatments because they also drastically reduced potmark cystic scaring that has plagued my forehead and temples since I was a teenager.
If I were a fairy godmother, none of my fairy godchildren would suffer from acne or the physical and emotional scars it leaves in its wake. Alas I’m a mere mortal who still picks at her own cysts when she knows damn well she shouldn’t. But the cool thing about us mortals is that we have empathy. And you have every ounce of my mine. And then some.
*What’s in these hard to the touch bumps? A mixture of blood and pus. I know, gross.