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What Are the Treatments for Facial Cysts?

By Rose Erickson ; Updated July 18, 2017

Facial cysts are a severe form of acne that can often become painful and disfiguring. Cystic acne treatments work by reducing the production of oil on the skin, eliminating bacteria, encouraging skin cell turnover and reducing inflammation. Treatment may take many years and the skin may worsen in appearance before it gets better. However, almost every instance of cystic acne responds to treatment—usually with the help of a doctor or dermatologist.


For facial cysts that do not respond to other treatments, the American Academy of Dermatology explains that dermatologist may prescribe isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is a man-made retinoid derived from vitamin A. It comes in a pill format typically taken one to two times a day for about 16 weeks. Because of its potential side effects, physicians only use this medication to treat only the most severe cases of acne.

According to the Mayo Clinic, isotretinoin can cause severe birth defects, dryness and itching of the eyes, lips, nose and skin and sensitivity to light. This drug can also cause bad night vision and has even been associated with the risk of depression and suicide. Because of these serious side effects, you must be closely monitored by a doctor.

Corticosteroid Injection

A direct injection of a corticosteroid presents another treatment option for severe, inflamed facial cysts. The American Academy of Dermatology says procedure works because inflamed cysts have a higher chance of rupturing, resulting in scars. Corticosteroid injections work by reducing the inflammation and “melting” the facial cyst over a few days.

Prescription Topical Treatments

When over-the-counter treatments do not treat a facial cyst, you may need to have a dermatologist prescribe a stronger topical treatment. Experts at the Mayo Clinic state that acne lotions like tretinoin and adapalene as examples of topical treatments that derive from vitamin A. These types of products work by exfoliating the top layer of skin, eliminating the blockage of hair follicles. In addition, physicians also prescribe high-powered benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin medications to treat cysts. Because stinging, redness and peeling may occur with any prescription topical medication, your doctor may recommend starting with a small dosage and increasing it as the skin adjusts.


Some facial cysts do not respond to any medication. In these situations, the American Academy of Dermatology states that drainage and surgical extraction may become necessary. This procedure should never be performed at home. Self-attempts to drain or extract a cyst can result in pain, infection and scaring. Only dermatologists who have received training can successfully perform the drainage and extraction under a sterile environment with the correct tools.

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