Heal my acne cyst fast, please!
December 17, 2006 10:16 PM   Subscribe

I poked at a painful blemish on my forehead and now I have a big lump. What's the best way to fix this?

I occasionally break-out, but I've never had cystic acne before. A few days ago a developed a small bump on my forehead. Of course, I idly poked and squeezed it, and now I have a rather large, dime-sized, warm, painful lump in the middle of my face. Delightful! Unlike standard-issue blemishes, there is no visible "head" to this beast, and when I did press on it, nothing came out. I won't squeeze it anymore, I've learned my lesson there. But how can I get this thing to heal as quickly as possible? Ice? Warm compresses? Acne creams? It hurts and I feel like Quasimodo. Please help!
posted by bonheur to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've had loads of these. They will take a while to go. Gently wash your face--no scrubbing, no fancy acne creams (unless they're peroxide ones), and apply a warm compress.

Get yourself some tea tree oil (if your skin tends to not be delicate) or 10% benzoyl peroxide treatment, like Clean & Clear Persa-Gel. Wash it gently. Dab on the tea tree oil or apply shitloads of benzoyl peroxide and don't poke at it. Repeat a couple of times a day.


Like I said, it will take a couple of days to go, but it will go. Until then you can use concealer like Neutrogena Skin Clearing Concealer stick in the green shade to balance out the red.
posted by Anonymous at 10:46 PM on December 17, 2006

Man, I've had this a couple of times.

IIRC what's worked for me in the past has been dabbing it with a cotton bud lightly soaked in tea tree oil.

And on a preventative tip, I use a facemask once a week or so to draw the impurities out of the skin. Highly recommend it.

warning: depending on your gender using a facemask may be classed as metrosexual behaviour
posted by chrissyboy at 10:54 PM on December 17, 2006

forgot to add - they normally take a while to disappear completely.
posted by chrissyboy at 10:55 PM on December 17, 2006

Yeah, yeah, don't poke at it. I do, but don't. It hardly ever works out for the best. When it does, it's awesome (in the original sense of the word) but usually it will just get even more gross.

Ice is a good idea if it's really red and swollen. Benzoyl peroxide certainly does the trick, but I like 5% or less to prevent peelings. A clay mask with sulfer can also help, just daub it on and leave it all night. Also, a dermatologist can give you a shot of cortizone right into the bugger if you're desperate.

Outside of that, patience (and if your into that sort of thing) concealer that matches your skin tone perfectly are your only weapons.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:27 PM on December 17, 2006

Those suckers hurt. Take an anti-inflammatory like Advil or Aleve. Heat brings more blood rushing to an area, so no don't do that. A cold compress will help temporarily with the ache, though the cold may make it even redder so that one's a toss up. And to prevent skin damage, don't leave a cold pack on longer than 20 minutes at a time.

Tea tree oil won't make it less annoying or ugly, but it does seem to help shave a day or so off the long stay. Just use that stuff very sparingly. It's strong.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:33 PM on December 17, 2006

Similar to mostlymartha's, but without the trip in: my dermatologist recommends just putting on some cortisone cream, which you may have lying around. Or really any steroid cream will do. If you want to get really hardcore, but on a big glob and then cover it with a band aid.
posted by awesomebrad at 12:44 AM on December 18, 2006

Heat seems to work the best for those sorts of things. Doesn't make it hurt less, but it helps the infection come to the surface. If it's a big bad beasty, it could take the better part of a week to get on its way.
posted by Orrorin at 12:56 AM on December 18, 2006

Best answer: Assuming this is normal acne bacteria, you can kill them with a process known as 'heat shock'. You have to get them fairly hot... past a certain point, they will suddenly just die. The death point is below the level that will burn you.

Before I understood why it worked, I had noticed that heat would help with acne, and one trick I used was to turn on the (electric) stove burner and bathe my face in the column of heat for about 15 minutes. It's pretty boring, but I found it to be quite effective.

What you want is to get your skin very thoroughly warm, down to the bone, but it shouldn't actually hurt... it should just feel quite hot. You'll know when you're gonna burn.... don't do that, it's too much heat. Edge of uncomfortable is okay, actual pain is not.

I never tried it, but a hairdryer pointed at the spot, held some distance away, might also work.

If it works properly, the lump will just go away. No residual scarring, no pop... it just disappears.

Another way to hit these is with a big dollop of benzoyl peroxide. I hadn't thought of using a bandaid like awesomebrad suggests, but that certainly couldn't hurt. It takes some time for the peroxide to soak into your skin and kill the bacteria, so this is a slower-but-safer approach. Absolutely no chance of burning yourself, though you may peel if your skin doesn't like the peroxide.
posted by Malor at 1:43 AM on December 18, 2006 [3 favorites]

...Unless the glue on the Band-Aid's flaps clogs the pores it covers. That will lead to nice little nearby patches entirely filled with pimples. Don't use a Band-Aid.

I would slap on a medium-sized gob of benzoyl peroxide and then leave it alone as much as possible. Benzoyl peroxide is a strong bleach, so wash your hands well before you grab a towel -- and unless you're amazing about getting shirts over your head, you'll probably want to wash it off your face before you get dressed, too.

Don't use any makeup/sunscreen/moisturizer near the area unless it says "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic" on the bottle. Wash everything off as soon as you get home tonight, so your face is squeaky clean, and put on another dab of benzoyl peroxide. Other than that, don't touch the area, and don't fool around with it (if you can refrain, you're a better person than I). After washing your face, you can fool around with heat and humidity -- like by hanging your head over a pot of boiling water -- but despite years of practice, I've never gotten that to work.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:41 AM on December 18, 2006

I know it sounds unlikely, but this works - try an aspirin mask, applied to your whole face or just to that one spot. Basically, take a few aspirin tablets (only aspirin, not ibuprofen or Tylenol) and dissolve them in a few drops of water. You need to add only enough water for them to dissolve into a paste. Then, apply the paste to your face or just to the spot. Leave it on for about 15 minutes for a full-face mask, or overnight for the spot. It dries and hardens after a few minutes. Then, the next morning, wash it off. The swelling will be down, and the spot won't be as red. If you do this for 2 or 3 days, it will be gone for good.

According to what I've read, this is like a version of salicylic acid. But even though salicylic acid does not work for me, this does, and it works practically overnight.
posted by Houstonian at 3:08 AM on December 18, 2006

I've never done this, but I've heard of people getting a cortisone shot from their dermatologist.

Other than that, the best thing you can do is to do as little as possible. Keep it very clean, use concealer only when you really need to cover it up (parties, dates), and if it makes you feel better to put b.peroxide/tea tree/salicylic acid on it, it won't make it worse.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:47 AM on December 18, 2006

i'd put some neosporin on it to help it heal, and put a little benadryl (or other hydrocortisone) on it to keep down the redness and swelling.

i hate those dang things.
posted by kneelconqueso at 7:48 AM on December 18, 2006

god how I hate these. and what in the fuck is up with being almost forty and still getting zits? sure laugh all you want, but lemme tell ya, the face invaders look ten times worse when you've also got smile/laugh/character lines (actually, screw the euphemisms, they're just wrinkles)

anyhow, from my experience I'd say:

- yes to tea tree oil, it does work, though go sparingly as some folks are sensitive so it can trigger a rash / secondary reaction.
- the crushed aspirin trick seems to work well for a friend of mine, not so much for me.
- yes to cortisone, with the caution that it should NOT be applied to broken skin (i.e. if you've picked at a spot so much that it's become a sore).
- no to neosporin ointment, because it's not strong enough and the petroleum base only clogs the surrounding pores and causes worse breakouts. if you have Bacitracin, you might try it but only because it's a stronger antibiotic. from working in a med clinic, I've recently learned that neosporin is very close to useless.
- +1 to everyone saying DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE!!! And I don't just mean don't pick/squeeze/pop, don't TOUCH your face, period: nix nada, none. it took me literally years to figure out that the reason my chin breaks out is from my habit of resting my chin in my hand anytime I pause while reading/typing, etc...
- if you are active, work out, and/or sweat a lot, wash your face twice or even three times a day with a gentle Cetaphil type cleanser. I get the generic grocery store brand and it has really worked wonders on my cranky middle-aged skin.

oh and for anyone who rides a bike a lot? Wash your helmet pads & straps... frequently!

good luck.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:47 AM on December 18, 2006

Cold is a really bad idea. It'll feel better but it will restrict blood flow and blood contains all the helpful things you need to fight the infection like oxygen and white blood cells. Warm, moist compresses is what every doctor has recommended for my infections (usually in the eye). Get yourself one of those microwave bed buddies or eye masks. Heat it up and place a damp, clean washcloth between the bed buddy and your infection. Leave in place for 5 minutes. Do this 2 to 4 times a day.

Aspirin can reduce the swelling and is useful in a topical application. You can get topical aspirin solutions in the "ethnic" hair care selection in your local drug store. Look for "Bump Patrol" or something similar and read the directions.

I would say see your doctor but it'll most likely be gone by the time you can get to see her so I wouldn't even bother.
posted by chairface at 9:32 AM on December 18, 2006

I read about the aspirin mask, too (on MakeupAlley), but I want to warn you, it caused a big cystic bump for me. Of course, it could have just been that it brought an impending bump to the surface further, but it was unpleasant, regardless.
posted by Liosliath at 2:48 PM on December 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips. So far I've:
-Stopped squeezing.
-Realized that the lump isn't actually particularly visible, even though it hurts and I can feel it with my fingers.
-Basked in the warmth of my electric fireplace for a while (this felt nice, too soon to see results)
-Took an Advil
-Dabbed on a little Benezoyl peroxide. I will pick up a tea tree oil blemish stick at next opportunity.

If this clears up in time for Christmas I'll be happy. Thanks again to everyone for the advice and empathy.
posted by bonheur at 4:58 PM on December 18, 2006

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