Spots under the skin may be less visible compared to blackheads or your standard angry pimple, but they’re certainly no easier to deal with. Often, they're far more painful too. Also known as cystic acne, or blind pimples, spots that stay under the skin can be seriously tricky to get rid of.
Do you squeeze them? Steam them out? Do spot treatments even penetrate deeply enough to tackle them? As you can see, we have questions. Luckily, expert facialist Kerry Benjamin, founder of LA’s StackedSkincare, is on hand to help. Keep scrolling for all you need to know about dealing with spots under the skin.
What's the deal?
“The main difference between cystic acne and the common pimple is that cystic acne forms well below the surface of the skin and produces what is called a nodule, which is the bumpy, hard, tender cyst that is the hallmark of this type of acne,” Benjamin tells us. And if you’ve been thinking that those deeply burrowed spots are the worst kind of all, you’d be right.
“Cystic acne is the most severe, painful form of inflammatory acne,” explains Benjamin. “It develops into large, firm, red blemishes that usually have no visible ‘head’ on the surface of the skin. But although it’s not as common as blackheads and pustules, for the millions of people who suffer from cystic acne, the damage is both physical and emotional.”
So what makes cystic acne such a nightmare? It’s all to do with how deeply they form below the skin's upper layer, says Benjamin. “Like milder forms of inflammatory acne, cystic acne consists of oils, fluids and white blood cells. Because they form so deep below the surface of the skin, however, the likelihood of damage and scarring, even if left alone, is much higher. The reason for this is that the pressure from such deep inflammation causes the entire follicle to collapse, trapping the base of the hair follicle under the skin and causing infection.”
The expert approach
So onto the reason we’re all here; what’s the best way to deal with spots that refuse to rear their head? “If you’re suffering from cystic acne, you should see a skincare professional for treatments at least once a month, to deep clean the pores and help alleviate some of the painful inflammation,” advises Benjamin. "Stay away from dairy and processed foods too, as an anti-inflammatory diet can help ease some of the redness and pain associated with cystic blemishes." Also crucial: don’t squeeze or pick at your skin. “The contents of the cyst will most likely rupture under your skin, spreading the infection, and likely inflaming it even more,” warns our expert.
When it comes to at-home treatments, the key is all in gentle exfoliation - look to skin refining acids rather than grainy scrubs which can aggravate - and giving your skin the clean, healthy environment it needs to heal. As Benjamin explains: “Our Acne Power Stack was designed specifically designed for cystic acne sufferers and contains our gentle TCA Multi-Acid Face Peel to promote skin sloughing and cell turnover, EGF Activating Serum to help speed up skin healing, the HA Hydrating Serum to feed and hydrate depleted skin, plus our High Frequency Tool which uses a small electrical current to kill acne-causing bacteria and inflammation instantly.”
Shop the essentials
Zap the skin bacteria that can trigger breakouts with this handy tool from StackedSkincare. The small electrical current works to oxygenate skin and kill off harmful bacteria, while reducing inflammation at the same time.
This activating serum speeds up stunted cell turnover, to help acne prone skin heal more quickly.
When it comes to skin-clearing exfoliation, few do it better than salicylic acid. Dab this on spots to give clogged pores a deep clean.
Acneic skin can be super sensitive, which is why this mask takes a gentle approach to exfoliation with azelaic and lactic acid. You'll get a deep clean without stripping the skin.
Salicylic acid and active sulphur team up in this paste to help soothe inflammation, cleanse pores and prevent scarring. Apply it overnight help draw out blind pimples.
Keep this in your handbag for on-the-go relief when you start to feel tightness or throbbing from spots under the skin. Caffeine and red algae work to calm redness, while salicylic acid gets to work.
Prevention is always better than cure, so add this to your weekly regime to absorb excess sebum, fight bacteria build-up and calm reactive skin.
Available in packs of 20, pop one of these clever stickers over a spot to exfoliate and decongest clogged pores, while soothing inflammation.