Cystic pimples are some of the most frustrating forms of acne. They are often painful, and can linger for weeks.

If you are looking into how to shrink a cystic pimple, read on for at-home and professional treatment options, as well as preventative steps.

What Are Cystic Pimples?

Cystic pimples are a severe form of acne.

These pimples occur when cysts develop deep in the skin. They are often painful, and present as hard bumps on the skin. Typically, cystic pimples are red in color, and there can be swelling in the skin around the actual bump.

Beyond the pain, perhaps the most frustrating aspect of cystic acne is the time it takes for the pimples to clear up. It can take 1 to 4 weeks for a cystic pimple to clear – sometimes even longer.

What Causes Cystic Pimples?

“‘Underground’ acne cysts are essentially inflamed, dilated hair follicles,” explains Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist.

“Unlike teenage acne, which is attributed to clogged pores, excess sebum production, and bacteria, cystic acne is caused by an inflammation reaction.” Stress, hormones, genetics, and medications can all play a part in the development of cystic acne.

Anyone can develop cystic acne, but women are particularly prone. “Women who get them tend to have an overly inflammatory response to triggers like hormone fluctuations,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “They can develop in men, too, but less commonly in men who do not have an underlying inflammatory-cystic acne tendency.”

How to Shrink a Cystic Pimple (At Home)

If you are looking into how to shrink a cystic pimple, there are some home remedies you can use to reduce the swelling and redness.

Here are two things to try:

  • Dr. Inessa Fishman, an Atlanta-based facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, recommends using a warm compress against the cystic pimple
  • Next, apply a paste made up of crushed up plain Aspirin and water. “The anti-inflammatory components of the Aspirin may help decrease the painful inflammation of the outbreak,” she says.

If you are looking into how to shrink a cystic pimple at home, it is important to remember to be gentle with your skin. That being said, in order to fully get rid of a cystic pimple fast, you’ll need to get some help from a dermatologist – we’ll cover that option below.

Best Products for Cystic Pimples

Unfortunately for people looking at how to shrink a cystic pimple (and how to prevent them in the first place), topical products don’t cut it for deeper cysts.

While a consistent and well-rounded skincare routine is essential for those dealing with acne, when it comes to deep cystic pimples, products applied to the skin typically aren’t able to do enough to fully treat the issue.

“Because acne cysts are deep in the skin, topical acne treatments do not penetrate well enough to manage them,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. She explains that over-the-counter salicylic acid and retinoid products won’t penetrate deep enough into the pore, and that they’ll likely just dry the skin. Benzoyl peroxide products may calm inflammation, but also typically can’t penetrate deep cysts.

She does note that some patients suffering from cysts might benefit somewhat from topical steroids.

“Topical steroids can help reduce the overlying inflammation,” she says. “These are all great options at the first sign of a lesion, but deeper, persistent and recurrent cysts respond best to professional and prescription medication options.”

Professional Options for Cystic Pimples

Since home remedies and topical products can only do so much, you are probably still wondering how to shrink a cystic pimple fast. Thankfully, a professional can help treat current cystic pimples and reduce their size drastically.

For deep, painful cysts, the best course of action is a steroid injection. “Intralesional injections of dilute steroid (triamcinolone) can help reduce the inflammation and swelling and pain within a day or two,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “It is best to treat them when they are actively inflamed, but resolving, indurated bumps can be treated as well.”

It should be noted that, while this injection can temporarily reduce the cyst, it is possible to experience recurring acne cysts in the same spot. Dr. Shainhouse warns that injecting the same lesion multiple times does increase the risk of scarring.

Of course, these injections do come with some risks. It is possible for temporary or permanent indents to form at the site of injection. “If the steroid gets into the dermis, fat, or is injected too superficially, the steroid itself can potentially break down some local collagen, which can leave a temporary or even permanent divet in the skin,” says Dr. Shainhouse.

How to Prevent Cystic Acne

Of course, the best course of action is to prevent cystic acne from happening in the first place. People suffering from cystic pimples often need to work from the inside out to treat the root cause of this type of acne. Those dealing with serious cases of cystic acne can meet with a dermatologist to discuss oral prescription drug options.

“For women who are prone to developing painful acne cysts on the lower face, jawline and neck, particularly around their menstrual period, leveling out their estrogen and progesterone throughout the month with a low-dose oral contraceptive pill can help prevent flares,” says Dr. Shainhouse.

Both men and women could potentially use Isotretinoin (also known as Accutane) to treat cystic acne. Studies have shown that it can be an effective treatment for cystic acne (as well as acne in general).


Can you pop a cystic pimple?

No, you cannot and should not attempt to pop a cystic pimple. Cystic pimples are deep in the pores, and would be practically impossible to pop. Plus, squeezing them can lead to scarring on the skin. It is best to seek the help of a dermatologist if you are trying to figure out how to shrink a cystic pimple.

“The cystic component to acne is particularly concerning because these lesions not uncommonly can lead to scarring,” says Dr. Robin Evans, a board-certified dermatologist based in Stamford, Connecticut. “Squeezing and manipulating these lesions is not helpful and can lead to further scarring.”

How long does a cystic pimple last?

When left untreated, cystic pimples can last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. They may be treated with a steroid injection to speed up the shrinking process. A steroid injection will help the pimple shrink down in about 1 to 2 days.

How do you get rid of cystic acne at home?

In order to shrink a cystic pimple at home, you can try using a warm compress against the spot. Then, follow up with a paste made of crushed up Aspirin and water. This can help decrease inflammation and relieve some of the pain. That being said, it won’t completely get rid of the acne.


  • Cystic acne refers to painful, red bumps that are deep within the pores. Stress, hormones, and genetics cause these pimples
  • Those looking into how to shrink a cystic pimple may use some home remedies. However, the best results will likely come from getting a steroid shot
  • In order to prevent cystic acne in the first place, patients can get a prescription for oral drugs that treat the underlying cause

The Bottom Line

Cystic pimples can be tricky to deal with. The best way to getting rid of cystic pimples is to visit a dermatologist. While the at-home options are limited, a warm compress can help ease discomfort that the cystic acne will bring.