- Blind pimples, aka cystic acne, are painful zits that exist under the skin and never come to a head.
- To treat blind pimples, try benzoyl peroxide, a cold compress, and avoid attempting to pop it.
- For strong treatment, try retinols, oral antibiotics, or hormone medication.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
If you have acne that seems to lurk just underneath the skin and refuses to come to a head, you may have what is known as blind pimples or deep pimples.
These pimples are often caused by cysts or nodules that form underneath the skin, and they can be some of the most frustrating forms of acne.
Medical term: Blind pimple is the layman’s term for cystic acne, which are pimples that are deep under the skin.
“They can present as deep, firm skin-colored bumps and can become inflamed, red and painful,” says Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology.
Here’s what causes blind pimples, how to treat them, and how to prevent them from popping up again.
How to get rid of a blind pimple, fast
First things first, how can you get rid of a blind pimple? Well, as much as you might want to pop and squeeze: Don’t do it!
“Absolutely avoid popping, squeezing, or manipulating any active acne lesions, including cysts and nodules. Popping or squeezing can put more pressure on the cyst or nodule, causing it to rupture, worsening inflammation, and increasing the risk of scarring,” says Chang.
How to treat a blind pimple
- Avoid popping or touching the blind pimple
- Use ice or a cold compress to reduce inflammation and pain
- Spot treat with benzoyl peroxide
- See a dermatologist for steroid treatments or oral acne medications if the acne persists
How to prevent and further treat cystic acne
There are several courses of action to prevent pimples caused by cystic acne, which refers to pimples that are deep under the skin.
If you have cystic acne, Chang recommends a course of topical treatments and oral medication as well as changes to your daily skincare routine.
Apply salicylic Acid
Chang recommends cleansers that have salicylic acid like:
- Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser
- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser
- Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash
- Aveeno Clear Complexion Facial Cleansers
Chang also recommends using topical retinoids as a first line defender against acne.
Retinol FAQs answered: Everything you need to know about incorporating the ingredient into your routine, according to 4 dermatologists and a medical facialist
Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and are often used as a topical anti-aging treatment. In a 2019 review of 54 clinical trials of retinol’s ability to treat acne, retinol was found to be highly effective in reducing acne lesions in combination with other acne treatments like oral antibiotics and was shown to be all-together safe topical treatment for acne. In some studies, the use of retinoids in combination with antibiotic treatment, were found to improve acne lesions by 78.9%.
Talk to your doctor about Isoretinoin
There is an oral form of retinoids called Isorention, which is commonly known as the branded prescriptions Absorica and Claravis are currently available isotretinoins.
“Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid effective in treating cystic or nodular acne through multiple mechanisms, including reducing sebum production,” says Chang.
Isotretinoin can permanently help get rid of cystic acne, but it has some serious side effects including:
- Severely dry skin,
- Thinning hair,
- Changes in mood including depression
- Worsen acne before it gets better
- Sun sensitivity, increasing the risk of sunburn
Moreover, people who are pregnant should not take Isotretinoin because it can cause birth defects, miscarriage, or still birth, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Important: If you have severely negative or suicidal thoughts while taking isotretinoin, seek help from your dermatologist or psychologist immediately. If you are currently being treated for a mental health condition, ask your mental health specialist if you are cleared to take isotretinoin.
Try oral antibiotics
Chang says if your cystic acne resists topical treatment that you can take oral antibiotics to help treat the bacteria that causes acne.
“Oral antibiotics help kill bacteria and fight inflammation associated with cystic acne,” says Chang.
However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, this is a short-term treatment that should only be used temporarily. They recommend between 3-4 months of antibiotic use.
Consider oral contraceptives
Some acne can be caused by hormonal changes, especially in women. Taking hormonal
pills can help treat this along with a good topical regimen, says Chang.
In people who experience periods, hormonal acne can worsen during puberty and during your monthly periods, says Chang.
“In some patients, stubborn hormonal acne may suggest an underlying endocrinologic condition called PCOS. PCOS patients may present with acne as well as irregular periods, excess body and facial hair, male pattern baldness, and weight gain,” says Chang.
Additionally, patients with PCOS can sometimes have
symptoms, which can improve with oral diabetes medication.
“Birth control pills and oral spironolactone can help regulate hormones and reduce oil production. These medications are safe and effective in preventing and treating hormonal acne,” says Chang.
Blind pimples, or cystic acne, can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. To get rid of them in the short term, apply ice, use topical spot treatments like salicylic acid, and avoid touching or popping it at all costs. If you are preparing for a special occasion, a dermatologist may even inject a small dose of cortisone to shrink the cyst. But this is not a replacement for a good acne regimen.
To prevent and treat deep pimples in the long term, use topical treatments like retinol and salicylic acid. If acne does not improve after 6 -8 weeks, talk to your dermatologist about a new course of treatment including, prescription-strength retinoids, antibiotics, and birth control.
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