Cystic Acne on Neck Symptoms, Causes, Remedies, Treatments and Tips

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Cystic acne on the neck are breakouts that appear like pimples on the neck. There are so many men and women out there, trying to get rid of these neck zits. Cystic acne forms swollen bumps under the skin and can take even weeks to heal. It affects both oily and dry skin.

When a blocked hair follicle and bacteria get caught up in a closed space, the environment becomes hospitable for bacteria, allowing for quick multiplication. This results in more bacteria within a closed space, and in response to this, the immune system reacts leading to tenderness, inflammation, and redness of the area. This is how they are formed.

Many people develop acne which turns out to be just a mild nuisance. The severe form is the cystic one, however, is a different story. Unlike mild acne, affects appearance, is hard to treat and can also leave scars.  The reason it’s hard to treat is that most of the time people with it wait too long before they seek treatment. It is also stubborn and keeps reappearing.


Some of the known causes of neck acne include:

1. Hormones

Hormonal cystic acne occurs during puberty or pregnancy. The androgen hormone arises in both girls and boys as they approach adolescence (or during), stimulating the sebaceous glands which enlarge to produce sebum, which clogs skin pores appearing as breakouts.

In cases where pregnancy is the cause of the neck acne breakouts, oral contraceptives use may affect sebum production.

In other cases, a low amount of androgen circulating in women’s blood could worsen the pimples on the neck. Polycystic ovary syndrome which leads to irregular cycles can also cause hormonal changes leading to breakouts.

Other hormonal causes of zits include menopause, pre-menopause, breastfeeding, childbirth, and digestive issues.

2. Lactose Intolerance

Most dermatologists believe that acne on the neck is caused by an intolerance to lactose. If you have issues after digesting dairy products like cheese, milk, cream or products with milk as the main ingredient, then you may need to avoid them to see if the neck acne situation get better.

3. Wrong shaving technique

How you shave may be influencing the formation of bumps and zits. The wrong technique leads to ingrown hairs which are itchy and cause neck pimples.

Try and change your shaving gel or foam. Use better quality that softens the neck skin before shaving. Change the blade every time you shave since old blades may harbor bacteria. If a new one is not available, dip the blade in antibiotic solutions before use to prevent breakouts. Stay away from electrical shaving devices since they are rough on the skin and carry lots of bacteria.

4. Stress

A study carried out by Stanford University found out that college students get acne flare-ups during the exam period. During these periods the students reported more stress as compared to other school term periods without tests. It is therefore advisable to stay away from stressful situations if you are acne-prone.

5. Cosmetics use

Sometimes cosmetics used can worsen the acne on your neck. This is the case especially if products you use clog pores. Another reason could be staying with makeup for too long.

6. Hair products

Cystic acne on the back of the neck could be due to lotions, conditioners, shampoos and other hair products that clog the pores. These could also cause irritations which causes painful pimples. Excessive hair oil or dandruff if transferred from the scalp to the neck could also cause acne in this area.

7. Skin Irritations

Constantly rubbing your neck using your hands or bag straps and clothing can irritate the skin and lead to breakouts. Surfaces that frequently touch the back of the neck, like couch pillows and pillowcases, could transfer dirt if not washed regularly and cause acne.

8. Medications

Some medications especially those containing androgens, lithium or corticosteroids can make the cystic acne situation worse.

9. Heat rash

This is especially seen in infants. Small cystic pimples appear on the neck. This condition is brought about by swollen ducts in the neck gland. It appears in the form of pink or red pimples and could also develop on the shoulders and head too. Adults can also get this type of acne.


Some of the symptoms associated with these breakouts include:

Clustered white or red pimples on the front part of your neck or along the back hairline. They could be small or big. Some people also get them below the ears, on the side of the neck or along the jawline.

Cystic neck acne treatment

There are many treatments one can use to treat cystic neck acne and some will require seeing your dermatologist. Treatment over the counter medications include:

  • Oral antibiotics that control bacteria on the skin and reduce inflammation
  • Strength creams, lotions and gels containing retinoid-like aczone, differin, azorac, and Retin-A.
  • Photodynamic therapy that helps shrink oil glands, reducing oil production and killing bacteria.

Natural remedies

The cystic acne cure can also be found in natural remedies. These include:

1. Cleansing the skin

Use acne soap to clean the affected parts twice a day. This soap is rich in sulfur and will help get rid of acne-causing bacteria on the body. Rub affected areas gently with a soft fabric.

2. Applying apple lemon juice

Use fresh lemon juice since it contains vitamin c which will help dry the pimples faster. Do not use bottled up juice since it contains preservatives.

3. Sea salt scrub

For this, you will need sea salt and clean water. They make a fantastic treatment. The sea salt will exfoliate the skin and help the acne dry up. To make the treatment, mix 2 parts water with 1 part sea salt. Use the mixture as a scrub or apply it directly to affected areas. Do not scrub the skin too hard.

4. Aspirin mask

The aspirin mask works well for some people with zits on the neck. Crush an uncoated aspirin and make a paste with water. Apply the paste on acne-prone areas on your neck. The salicylic acid in the aspirin treats the condition. This should however not be used by anyone allergic to aspirin.

5. Drink lots of water

Dry skin is dehydrated and dead skin cells are likely to clog pores. This will intensify acne. Consuming water, however, will keep the skin hydrated so that it easily sheds skin cells.

6. Use tea tree oil

The antibacterial properties contained in tea tree oil deals with bacteria that causes cystic neck acne. It also has soothing properties that reduce inflammation and reddening. It will also dry out the whiteheads and blackheads.

7. Use coconut oil

Use coconut oil to moisturize the skin and keep it hydrated. Allow it to sit on the skin for absorption then wipe off excess oil. Coconut oil provides antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It also supports recovery while reducing inflammation.

8. Use Manuka Honey

It’s a good antibacterial and antioxidant product that’s rich in minerals. Use it when you feel irritation in this area.

Tips on how to manage them

  • Clean your neck before moisturizing. Applying moisturizers before cleaning it will trap oils and dirt inside your pores and this could trigger a breakout.
  • Avoid cosmetics that are chemical-based or oil-based cleansers. Adding more oil to the skin will worsen the acne.
  • Use mild and non-invasive methods for treatment. Cystic acne popping, for example, may lead to infections that could spread or cause cystic acne scars. Do not press its heads since the pimples will take longer to heal.
  • Do not expose the neck to the sun since zits formation can be triggered by excessive exposure to the sun.
  • Do not use dirty hands to rub your neck, loosen bag straps that rub on the neck and avoid wearing clothes which do the same.
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