Does putting ice on cystic acne help?

Written by Allison

I tried putting ice on cystic acne. Here’s what happened.

Many years ago I struggled with the classic hormonal acne beard, and I wasn’t sure if it was cystic or fungal acne. You know when you get big, painful, cystic zits all along your jawline? It’s super cute (not). My most recent skincare discovery, the ice roller, had me thinking though — if ice can calm down an average zit, does putting ice on cystic acne help? It turns out it has more immediate benefits than using turmeric for acne or drinking spearmint tea for acne.

The idea of using ice to reduce inflammation makes logical sense, but before jumping into a freezer I wanted a second opinion. In a quick interview with Dr. Joshua Zeichner, he agreed that putting ice on cystic acne can help, but there is a caveat. “Ice can help treat an inflamed cyst because it helps decrease inflammation in the skin. It does not, however, get to the underlying cause of the pimple.”

It gets a bit melty, but it does the job.

That’s the kicker. If you get a sudden big ol’ zit on your wedding day? Ice that baby down and have some concealer on hand. But, if you struggle regularly with acne you may need a little more help than ice, and I’ve actually had some success treating my acne with probiotics.

But before we get into the nitty gritty of cystic acne, let’s have a moment for the under appreciated ice roller.

Ten bucks on Amazon gets you an ice roller, the part of your skincare routine you didn’t know you needed. Seriously! Acne sufferers, people with puffiness, and hot summer days are all made much better with an ice roller. Pop it in the freezer and give ‘er a roll without dripping melting ice everywhere. Just make sure to swab it down with rubbing alcohol before use so you don’t spread bacteria over your skin.

Cystic acne can reoccur in the same spot repeatedly.

Dr. Zeichner says that cystic acne is a severe form, where the nodule stays under the skin and can be painful. “These cysts are essentially balloons filled with oil that do not have a direct connection to the skin. They are not pickable and frequently recur in the same place over and over again.”

As someone who had cystic acne for only a few months, several years ago, I can still clearly remember how demoralizing it was to have the same spot last what seemed like forever, just to come back in the same place.

Tired of under the skin spots? Dr. Zeichner says the best way to treat them is to prevent them from developing in the first place (this is a good time to enjoy those positive kombucha side effects). “The face is made of thousands of pipes connecting your oil glands to the surface of the skin. When one of those pipes becomes fully blocked, a pimple develops.”

When treating acne Dr. Zeichner says you need to treat the whole face, because acne is unpredictable. He suggests cleansers with salicylic acid, a BHA that helps to exfoliate while removing excess oil. For a spot treatment he suggests benzoyl peroxide which kills the acne causing bacteria and reduces inflammation, sans-ice. If none of that helps, Dr. Zeichner recommends making a visit to a board-certified dermatologist who can work with you on a customized skincare routine.

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About the author


Bio: She's a New Orleans based beauty writer, nail polish hoarder, and doughnut enthusiast. When she isn't camping out in her local coffee shop for hours on end, you'll probably find her taking selfies in front of every colorful wall she's ever seen. Follow along on Instagram @allisonmarieschmidt.

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