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5 Steps To Help Clear Up Cystic Acne


Ugh, if anyone knows about cystic acne, it’s me!

As most of you know I’m 5 months pregnant, and with this pregnancy has come unwanted cystic pimples (and I’ll be 41 next month, you’d think by now they’d be gone for good!).

Since my teens, I’ve always been prone to cystic breakouts, and luckily by my thirties I figured out how to heal them fast and prevent them from coming back.

Now that they’re revisiting me with this pregnancy, it’s definitely a good time to share my tricks and what works to get rid of cystic acne quickly (so they’re gone in a week, not a month), and don’t leave marks or scars behind.

In this article, I’ve put together a list of 5 thing you can do right now to help get rid of cystic acne.

5 simple steps to get rid of hormonal and cystic acne breakouts.

Why you’re getting cystic pimples

Before I get into my protocol of how to get rid of cystic pimples, I want to explain why you’re getting them in the first place.

If you understand what’s causing them besides it being just “your hormones,” it’s easier to adjust your diet and skincare routine to get results.

Cystic pimples and breakouts are of course coming from your hormones – either a hormone imbalance (like from having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome/PCOS, endometriosis, reproductive health conditions, diabetes, etc). Or, it’s coming from a sensitivity to the hormones changes and fluctuations your body goes through every month connected to your menstrual cycle (and that’s why you might always get breakouts right around your period or ovulation).

Cystic pimples are those big, painful, swollen pimples that tend to appear around your nose, chin, jawline, neck and sometimes forehead. They can be very slow to get rid of (I once had a cystic pimple on my face for over 6 months, it just wouldn’t go away, and it was HUGE!).

To get rid of cystic pimples, you need to get healthy from the inside out.

Nothing you put on the surface of your skin is going to get rid of them (because the blockage and inflammation is deep inside your skin).

To get rid of cystic breakouts, you need to balance your hormones, and eat foods to reduce inflammation.

You also need to get super healthy and fit.

If you have a hormone imbalance or sensitivity (and getting those terrible cystic pimples), you need to:

  • Watch the sugar and carbs in your diet (including the healthy ones)
  • Reduce anything that’s going to stress or overstimulate your body (including cutting out caffeine, theobromine, energy drinks, and sugar; plus reduce stress from your daily life)
  • Cut out all foods that interfere with your hormones (like dairy & soy that contain their own naturally occurring hormones)
  • Increase the vegetables in your diet to reduce swelling, redness, and inflammation of the skin.

Tips for clearing up cystic pimples fast

Drink 1 litre/quart of water infused with fresh mint daily

Water infused with fresh mint is one of my most favourite remedies for cystic pimples and hormonal breakouts.

Studies have shown that women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) who drank spearmint tea every day significantly lowered their abnormally high androgen levels back to normal. This can help reverse their symptoms of hormone imbalance including clearing up adult acne, regaining fertility, shifting stubborn weight, and reducing overgrowth of facial hair/hirsutism.

This is major! And as we know, cystic acne is connected to your hormones. Either you have a hormone imbalance (like from PCOS, endometriosis, or other hormone or reproductive issues), or your body is super sensitive to hormone changes within your menstrual cycle (resulting in always getting breakouts right around your period or ovulation).

Based on my experiments on myself, I found water infused with fresh mint to be even more effective than drinking the tea.

Plus, by drinking a litre/quart of water infused with fresh mint every day, ensures you’re adequately hydrated (which most people aren’t), and will assist proper digestion (all of which will help your skin too).

When it comes to those big painful cystic pimples, and getting rid of them quickly – drinking mint water is the absolute best.

For myself, when I get a cystic pimples on my face, I immediately start drinking mint water religiously every day. It’s amazing to see the pimple completely disappear in a few days time, without any marks or scarring, or tissue build-up left behind.

The pimples literally shrink and disappear.

To get started with the mint water:

1- Fill a large pitcher or water bottle with at least 1 litre/quart of plain drinking water

2- Put 3-5 sprigs of fresh mint in the water (20-30 fresh mint leaves)

3- Let the mint soak in the water for 20 minutes before drinking.

4- You can leave the mint leaves in the water all day and drink the water throughout the day, no problem!

5- Do this every day until your skin completely clears up (for some of you, you’ll see immediate results within a few days, others it can take a week or more. Give it time and be consistent).

If you can’t find fresh mint, drink 2-3 cups of mint tea every day instead.

For full instructions, you can check out this blog post.

Don’t pick or squeeze cystic pimples – don’t touch your face

Cystic pimples aren’t like other pimples or whiteheads, they aren’t meant to come to a head.

There’s absolutely no point in squeezing cystic pimples – the blockage is too deep inside your skin, and the surrounding area is too inflamed. All you are doing is making it worse.

How cystic pimples heal is not by being squeezed and popped, but by your body’s ability to dissolve and absorb whatever is clogging the pore from the inside. Nothing should come to the surface or be pushed out.

So stop squeezing, picking, or trying to pop cystic pimples – you’re doing more harm than good. If you need help, here’s a blog post with tips on how to stop picking pimples.

The debris or oil/sebum clogging your pore isn’t meant to be pushed to the surface. By trying to squeeze the blockage out, you’re just hurting your skin (and causing more inflammation, redness, and swelling, which will potential cause discolouration and scarring).

I know it can take a big leap of faith to refrain from picking at your pimples, but do an experiment – don’t squeeze or pick at your face for one whole month.

In fact, don’t touch your face (aside from washing your face, your fingers and hands should never be in contact with your face, ever!).

Just from taking a break from touching and picking at your skin, you’ll be amazed just how quickly pimples shrink and disappear on their own (plus while they’re shrinking, they not red or irritated, so if you want to wear cover-up or makeup, it’s easier to conceal!).

Don’t eat any dairy products

Ya, I’m always talking about dairy products and breakouts.

That’s because over 85% of acne sufferers notice a huge difference in their skin once they stop eating or drinking everything containing milk and dairy products.

Eliminating all dairy products is especially important for getting rid of cystic acne and hormonal breakouts – not only to heal your skin quicker, but preventing it from coming back.

I want to be very clear – when I say “don’t eat dairy products,” this includes not even a drop of cream or milk (yes, no cream or milk in your coffee or tea – even that little drop could be doing serious damage).

Dairy products include all milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, coffee creamers, cream cheese, sour cream, evaporated milk, condensed milk, etc.

Beware, dairy products and dairy bi-products can be hidden in processed and premade foods like sauces, salad dressing, frozen deserts, crackers, chips/crisps, protein powder, coffee drinks, supplements, etc. Best to always read the labels on the packages!

Dairy affects your skin in two ways – it has naturally occurring hormones that can throw your own hormones off balance, and dairy products can be high glycemic, which can be throwing your blood sugar and hormones off balance as well. It’s a double whammy for your skin, especially if you’re prone hormonal breakouts and cystic pimples (and that’s why so many people clear up their skin just by taking this one food out of their diet!).

No chocolate or raw cacao

Eek, I know this can be brutal, but the theobromine, especially in raw cacao, or raw chocolate, can be causing serious cystic breakouts.

For me, raw cacao is the number one thing that give me the worst cystic pimples. I can get away with having it once in a while, but the moment I start eating it every day, even just 2 or 3 days in a row, I automatically get at least one big cystic pimple on my face (guaranteed!).

For myself, cooked chocolate isn’t as bad for my skin, but I know plenty of people that it’s just as bad as the raw stuff.

My recommendation to all of you who struggle with painful cystic pimples, stay away from chocolate (especially if you’re prone to breakouts connected to your menstrual cycle).

For the sake of your skin, it’s just not worth it.

Treat cystic pimples with essential oils at night

For some of you, dabbing a small amount of high quality essential oils on cystic pimples can help to reduce the swelling and inflammation, prevent scarring, and even speed up the healing.

It’s definitely worth trying.

The essential oils I recommend for treating large cystic pimples are:

For cystic pimples, I DON’T recommend any other spot treatments or drying gels/lotions.

The reason why, is because all drying lotions and acne products dry out the surface of your skin. A cystic pimple has nothing to do with the surface of your skin. The blockage and inflammation is coming from deep inside. There’s absolutely no point in drying out the surface of your skin and it could lead to scars, marks and discolouration.

Essentials oil blends on the other hand aren’t going to dry out your skin. They’re meant to therapeutically reduce swelling, irritation, and sooth your skin.

I only recommend using a tiny drop of an essential oil as a spot treatment once a day. And, only at night (I find active ingredients, including essential oils, are much safer to use at night to ensure there’s no adverse reaction using the product and sun exposure).

About the Author
Hi, I’m Natasha St. Michael, Founder of Inspire Beauty. I’m also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Health Educator accredited by the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. I’m obsessed with skin care and self-care. I’m 47 years old, struggled with adult acne until I was 30, and now I’m all about preserving the youthfulness of my skin (and sharing all my tips and tricks). If you have a question about a product or need a recommendation, feel free to contact me anytime.


This blog is for information purposes only. The content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have a medical or dermatological problem, please consult with your physician. None of the information or recommendations on this website should be interpreted as medical advice.

All product reviews, recommendations, and references are based on the author’s personal experience and impressions using the products. All views and opinions are the author’s own. 

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38 Responses

  1. Is there an essential oil you can use in the water in place of the mint leaves? Just wondered since that is easier. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      Yes an essential oil would be easier, but I don’t recommend it. The reason why is because an essential oil isn’t the same as an infused water. The difference being that an essential oil is a concentrate and an infused water is very diluted. I also wouldn’t know the safety of ingesting an essential oil regularly, and I feel that the two have very different medicinal properties. To be on the safe side, I’d stick with the infused water!

  2. Hi Natasha
    What about staying away from Almond milk? I use it in place of regular milk. Excited to try the mint water. Thanks for all your great tips. Cystic acne is a monthly nightmare for me.

    1. Hi Sara,
      The almond milk should be ok, as long as it’s homemade and no sweeteners in it (no added sugar, no maple syrup, no dates or dried fruit – just plain).
      And the mint water will definitely help!
      Keep us posted with your results 🙂

  3. Hi! This was so informative. I am pregnant and having a really hard time with cystic acne. Im assuming the mint water is safe to have during pregnancy? Thanks!!

    1. HI Andrea,
      I recommend cycling the mint water while you’re pregnant, which just means not having it every single day, but every two or three days (just to be on the safe side). The main thing with water infused with fresh mint is it’s so diluted (it’s just water with a few sprigs of fresh mint in it) but mint is still an herb, so you definitely want to be cautious.
      Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  4. Thank you for the article! I recently went to the dermatologist because of my acne. It’s progressively gotten worse. I’ve tried so many things. My dermatologist prescribed me some topical medications. Would I still be able to use essential oils on top of the active spots, and deep back heads?

    Do you have any recommendations on how to stop touching your face? This is hard for me. I pick so bad, and I am constantly leaning on my hands.

    1. Hi Taylor,

      If you’re using prescription creams, I wouldn’t use the essential oils on top of that – the combination would be too harsh on your skin.

      As for picking at breakouts – you need to remind yourself that every time you are touching and picking, it won’t speed up healing of the breakouts, in fact it will make it worse and make it take a lot longer to heal. You’ve got to resist the temptation (and I know it’s hard, but if you can make it a habit to pick, you can make it a habit to not pick!).

      2 things that can help is putting a spot treatment on your pimples (if you pick at your pimples after putting a spot treatment on, the spot treatment won’t work cause your picking and rubbing it off – remind yourself that). Also, you pick your face when you’re in front of mirrors, especially when you’re looking up close in the mirror. So how about only using the mirror when you’re getting ready in the morning/evening, and avoid spending time in front of the mirror for the rest of the day/evening – this can help.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Will sweet mint work for the mint water recipe? or only spearmint or peppermint?

    thank you for your posts!

  6. Hi thank you for the article I will try to add even more mint leaves. I read the previous answer to the touching of the face. but what about when it’s oh so itchy?

    1. Hi Izz,
      Do you know why your skin is itchy? Is it because it’s too dry? If so, you need to get your skin more balanced (because that could be what’s causing your breakouts). Make sure you are using a gentle and nourishing cleanser, no soap or harsh gel cleanser, and if you need, moisturize with a drop of grapeseed oil – this can help!

  7. Hi there! Could I use young living peppermint essential oil in my water instead, or are fresh mint leaves the ultimate way to go?


    1. Yes, use the fresh mint. The essential oil isn’t the same as using the fresh herb, and I don’t recommend ingesting essential oils (especially not every day). The water infused with fresh mint leave is so diluted in comparison, much safer for daily use 🙂

  8. Thank you for this helpful information! I started drinking mint water yesterday and am hopeful to start seeing results! However, I’m not crazy about the taste of the water. Can I add anything else, like lemon slices, to help with the taste?

    Thanks for your advice!

  9. I started drinking Peppermint Tea from Twinning’s. It has been 9 days since I started taking it. I drink 1 cup in the morning and 1 in the evening. On top of that, I have been doing the 10 korean skin care method (minus the eye cream). What I noticed is that the oil in my face has slowed down. Usually, after prepping in the morning, my face (especially my t-zone) would get oily after an hour. After more than a week, it went from 1 hour to 2-3 hours. After 2-3 hours, the oil is visible on my nose area, but my chin,cheeks, forehead, and area under my nose, are not too oily. It definitely is a significant improvement. I still have little zits here and there, but it has gone down as well. My period is coming up in about a week or so, so I am expected to get breakouts this week. But so far, I only have one that’s visible. Also, the pimple/s seem to heal faster than before (like 1-2 days).

    I have ordered a 400mg spearmint capsule from swanson. I’d like to try it out with its anti-androgenic effect. So, we’ll see about that.

    1. Great the tea is working! You might even notice that you no longer get breakouts around your period, or if you do, they will heal much faster. Mint is my favourite remedy for hormonal breakouts, it’s amazing! 🙂

  10. Hello! I just started my mint water today and I’m really looking forward to doing it daily. The hardest one right now is cutting all dairy out of my diet. I’m scared to eat right now because I don’t know what might contain dairy. Ive been reading labels and some say manufactured in a facility that uses nuts, milk etc does that mean there’s dairy in the products even if it say it doesn’t contain it? Also by cutting out dairy does that include soy?

    1. Hi Shade,
      I know it can be overwhelming with the dairy. One thing that makes it easier is whenever possible, make your own food. As you already know from looking at ingredient decks, a lot of premade foods have dairy. As for the products being processed/manufactured in facilities using milk, nuts, etc., what that means is there’s a chance those foods can have traces of milk, nuts, etc. I wouldn’t get too overwhelmed by that disclaimer unless you have a severe food allergy (like an allergy to nuts where even trace amounts can be fatal). Just make sure the food you are eating doesn’t contain dairy products, or dairy bi-products. As for the soy, I would limit your consumption of soy. Once in a while having some tempeh, miso, edamame, or tofu is fine, but I wouldn’t have them every day and I’d completely avoid the more processed soy products like soy milk, soy cheese, soy protein powders, soy bean oil, etc.

  11. Hi
    My acne seems to have occurred over the last 3-4 months. I have tried everything it seems. What products do you recommend to use as a facial wash, toner, and facial lotion? It is getting frustrating because my face has never looked so bad. Do you recommend any supplements that could help? It seems like everyday I get a new one on my chin and along the face.

  12. Hi! im 15 years old (girl) and i have pretty clear skin! but a few days ago i got these massive pimples and under the skin blackheads allllll on my face (mostly on my chin, nose and cheeks) it is my ‘ovulation’ time but this has never happened to me before and im concerned if it is a health issue… I do admit-it was someones birthday a few days ago and i had lots of sweets 🙁 do u maybe think the sugar and candy could have given such a major affect? please help me!! i have two weeks left of holidays and want my acne to clear up for school! Any tips for teens? (i have had my period but i didnt get pimples on my face at all and its been a couple of weeks since my period)

    1. Hi Sonya, sorry to hear about your breakouts. I have a feeling it’s the combination of puberty hormones and the sugar. The best advice I can give teens with acne is to avoid sugar as much as possible, and get into eating a lot of vegetables and healthy food. The more green vegetables and colourful vegetables in your diet, the better your skin will be 🙂

  13. Do you know anything about living libations best skin ever frankincense? Is frankincense acceptable for cystic acne?

  14. Hi thanks for the recommendations I’m going to try the mint water. Is it alright if I just throw some mint leaves in every bottle of water that I’m going to drink?

  15. Hi. I wanted to know if using makeup- specifically BB cream with 2.0% salicylic acid is ok to use every day when you have to go to school to cover up acne. Will it make it worse?

  16. Hello, please i am been having good skin for the past years and just last month I got this hormonal breakout which started getting worse anytime I was about getting my period. I started using cerave products and tea tree toner but not the oil , I also changed my diet but it seems to be getting worse . It mostly comes around my cheek bone and forehead , I’m just scared it’s going to get more worse than I can think of, please what do you suggest I do ?

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