If you’ve ever woken up to a deep, painful red bump on your skin, you might have been experiencing a cystic acne breakout. Cystic acne is a particularly painful form of acne to deal with, both emotionally and physically, because of its severity and duration. Taking the form of throbbing, blood-filled bumps that start deep below the skin’s surface and usually do not come to a head, cystic acne can take weeks to subside and often leaves lasting scarring or hyperpigmentation.
Cystic acne is certainly no fun to experience, and it can issue a major hit to our confidence, especially if we feel like we don’t know how to resolve it. Furthermore, it can feel daunting to try out different topical treatments without knowing how their ingredients will interact with our skin.
Ayurvedic remedies may offer a potent, accessible solution for those struggling with cystic acne. Rather than treating the symptoms of ailments, Ayurvedic medicine approaches the root cause. This approach not only treats acne as it arises, but also targets the underlying conditions that lead to acne in the first place. In the long run, natural Ayurvedic remedies can both boost your health and overall balance and help keep your skin looking youthful, radiant and acne-free.
THE AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE ON CYSTIC ACNE
According to Ayurveda, cystic acne is caused by a Kapha imbalance. Kapha, which consists of water and earth, can induce excess sebum production when elevated, which can in turn lead to clogged pores. When these pores accumulate bacteria, we can develop an infection in the area that becomes trapped under layers of dead skin—which is why cystic acne rarely comes to a head.
An elevated sebum production can be caused by hormonal fluctuations. While when we think of acne, we typically think of teenagers and adolescents, hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can all contribute to cystic acne. In addition, conditions like PCOS can cause cystic acne to regularly appear. One’s diet also plays a role in one’s skin; as Dr. Zeel Gandhi notes, “a diet rich in kapha foods like milk, curds, and oily foods can trigger cystic acne.”
The Ayurvedic approach to cystic acne focuses on anti-inflammatory, detoxifying lifestyle and beauty practices. Whether you experience regular breakouts or are dealing with a painful, pesky pimple for the first time, here are 5 all-natural cystic remedies to try out.
AYURVEDIC REMEDIES FOR CYSTIC ACNE
EAT A HEALTHY, KAPHA-PACIFYING DIET
As noted before, eating foods that increase Kapha, like milk, sugar, oily foods and processed foods, can induce inflammation in the skin. Try to avoid these foods and to instead eat a diet full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, like berries, green vegetables, garlic and nuts. By doing so, you’ll combat the imbalances at the root cause of acne while also boosting your overall health.
What we eat is extremely personal, and there is no one diet that suits all, so it’s important to also keep in mind seasonality and your own constitution. During summer, for example, try to eat sweet, bitter and astringent foods that are also Pitta-pacifying. Also take into consideration your own doshic constitution, curating a diet that reduces Kapha foods and caters to your specific needs.
TRY OUT THESE ACNE-FIGHTING AYURVEDIC HERBS
One tasty, simple way to incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients into your diet is by using these acne-fighting Ayurvedic herbs. Many of these herbs can be sprinkled into dishes for a kick of flavor, consumed as tea or taken in the form of supplements.
Turmeric: Thanks to the extremely powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, turmeric’s main active ingredient, turmeric is revered in Ayurveda as an anti-aging and acne-fighting salve.
For those with cystic acne, research has shown that turmeric can inhibit the body’s inflammatory response; it also lightens hyperpigmentation and scarring. Turmeric has a wide variety of applications, from tea to face masks.
To learn more about different ways to incorporate turmeric into your routine, check out our blog here.
Hibiscus: The astringent, sweet and cooling effects of hibiscus make it an effective balancer of both Pitta and Kapha (perfect for the summer season!). It contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that enable it to boost circulation detoxify the blood, combat hyperpigmentation and unevenness and more. Our UMA Ultimate Brightening Rose Powder Cleanser harnesses these impressive benefits into a formula designed to combat dullness and hyperpigmentation for bright, even skin.
Triphala: Triphala is a renowned Ayurvedic polyherbal blend made up of three fruits native to India: bibhitaki, amalaki, and haritaki. It is famous for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and healing properties, which enable it to combat inflammation and enhance your body’s ability to heal wounds and scarring caused by cystic acne. We have our own triphala supplement, the UMA Digestive Detox Herbal Supplement, which not only promotes healed, radiant skin but also boosts immunity, brain function and more—making it a powerhouse for both health and beauty.
Coriander: Coriander is derived from the seeds of the herb we typically know as cilantro. Full of antioxidants, coriander’s health benefits are immense: it boosts immunity, improves digestion and promotes heart health. In addition, it contains linalool, which helps to detoxify the liver, and high levels of vitamin K, both of which work together to strengthen the skin and balance hormones. It can thus combat some of the hormonal fluctuations and excess sebum production that cause cystic acne in the first place.
APPLY SOOTHING, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY ESSENTIAL OILS
Since excess oiliness leads to acne and inflammation, applying more moisture in the form essential oils might seem contradictory. However, the reality is that our skin often produces excess oil as a result of a dry, weakened skin barrier. When we over-exfoliate or fail to adequately hydrate the skin, it overcompensates by producing more oil, thus making breakouts more likely. We need to keep the skin hydrated to nourish and protect it. As dermatologist Dendy Engelman tells Byrdie, “We need to strengthen this barrier in order to keep bacteria out and prevent more breakouts.”
There are a number of essential oils that deeply hydrate the skin while also providing anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial benefits that combat acne. These include tea tree, lavender, rosemary and clove. For a detoxifying, highly efficacious natural formula that incorporates several of these oils to target acne and unevenness, try out our UMA Deeply Clarifying Blemish Spot Treatment. Lightweight yet potent, applying a couple of drops to your cystic acne can provide marked relief to swelling, redness and hyperpigmentation.
MAKE A DIY FACE MASK:
You might also try making a face mask out of anti-bacterial, detoxifying ingredients you can likely find in your kitchen. Not only can using face masks treat inflammation and cystic acne, but they also provide a soothing, relaxing self-care ritual.
- Green tea with honey: Research has suggested that the anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols found in green tea can reduce sebum production and improve the appearance of acne. To reduce redness, combat inflammation and unclog pores, try mixing loose green tea or the contents of a tea bag with some organic honey. Apply to the face for 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water.
- Oatmeal, yogurt and honey: This potent combination of ingredients hydrates the skin while providing gentle exfoliation and combating inflammation. To use, add 2 tablespoons of oatmeal and a dash of honey to 3-4 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Mix together and apply to the face for 10 minutes before washing off with warm water.
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera has been long revered in the wellness world not only as a wound healer, but also as an anti-inflammatory salve. Full of moisture and rich in antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, aloe vera reduces inflammation, lightens hyperpigmentation and provides deep hydration. To use, you can apply fresh aloe vera gel to your cystic acne.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar contains anti-inflammatory properties and also regulates sebum production, thus reducing the occurrence of cystic acne. You can use it as a spot treatment by mixing a few drops of apple cider vinegar with water and applying the solution to affected areas.
If you’re looking for a cleansing, purifying mask that specifically targets acne, unevenness and inflammation, you can try out our UMA Deeply Clarifying Neem Charcoal Cleanser. This cleanser incorporates soothing, acne-fighting ingredients like aloe, neem, turmeric and tea tree to banish acne and bacteria, leaving the skin looking radiant and clear.