Acne affects up to 50 million Americans annually, and some suffer a lot more than others. For those with a severe case, the drug Accutane may be your only option when other prescription medications and procedures fail to work. Those who suffer from mild acne can probably calm their skin’s current condition with over-the-counter products. If you’re someone who gets a huge, painful zit every now and then and aren’t sure what to do about it anymore, you’ll want to keep reading.
As a teen, I suffered from small pimples and blackheads across my T-zone and jawline. When my dermatologist said my acne wasn’t severe enough for prescription medication, the Proactiv product line was my savior. About six months into my full-time career, I found myself battling adult acne, with painful cysts across my chin that lasted weeks and were nearly impossible to calm on my own.
I visited a new dermatologist who introduced me to the one thing that would change my skin forever—cortisone shots. After cleansing my face, the doctor injected each bump. When I removed the gauze pads a few minutes later, the cysts were already significantly flatter. Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know.
What Are Cortisone Injections?
For this story I enlisted the help of Beverly Hills dermatologist, Dr. Karyn Grossman, to give us an expert's explanation on cortisone injections.
"There are a wide variety of cortisone injections.You can get cortisone injected into a joint such as a knee or back, you can get cortisone injected into a muscle to treat a systemic problem - like an allergic reaction, or cortisone can be injected into the skin to treat skin disorders," she explained.
"Cortisone injections are used to treat inflammation in the skin. The most common use of skin cortisone injections is to treat large inflamed acne cysts. However, cortisone can also be used to treat other inflammatory disorders such as psoriasis, lupus, alopecia areata, keloid scars, etc. Cortisone injections are used to get a high dose of steroid/cortisone into a local area with less risk of systemic side effects. Although, you can still have some systemic affects even from local injections. Injections should be used to treat a small localized area of inflammation," she added.
Who Should Consider Them?
Cortisone injections are not for everyone. As I mentioned before, dermatologists didn't offer me injections during my initial visits because my acne wasn't severe enough for that much medication.
"It depends upon the disease being treated. But typical issues treated are: Inflamed acne cysts or other cysts to decrease the inflammation, small areas of psoriasis, alopecia areata, keloid/hypertrophic scars and small areas of less common inflammatory diseases," Karyn said.
"If you have had problems with cortisone injections in the past—you need to let your doctor know. Anyone who is allergic to cortisone should not receive, and if the skin is already thin it can cause more atrophy," she explained.
Pros And Cons:
It may seem as if this is all too good to be true, so we had Dr. Grossman clarify if there's a catch when it comes to cortisone injections.
"The benefits are a reduction of inflammation in the area treated with less systemic side effects. The biggest con is the risk of atrophy from the injection, which is the thinning of the skin or occasionally of the fat, if the cortisone was accidently injected into the fat instead of the skin," she said.
The most important thing is for someone to go to someone who is very experienced in this treatment.
As someone who's had these done firsthand, I can say that I haven't experienced any side effects. The most I've seen come out from cortisone injections, other than clear skin, is an occasional scab where any bleeding may have occurred. However, this is not the case for everyone.
"The most important thing is for someone to go to someone who is very experienced in this treatment. Atrophy is a relatively common side effect and can be very difficult to treat," Dr. Grossman explained.
"Scabbing is uncommon but it is possible," she added.
According to Dr. Grossman, the time in between injections as well as the amount of cortisone in each injection all depends on the problem being treated. Evidently, the severity of your skin condition will lead you to more visits and more cortisone.
Since some skin tones are more sensitive to scars and hyper-pigmentation, I had to ask if these really are ideal for everyone. "Skin tone is less relevant than skin thickness," she clarified.
Treating Cysts At Home
While cortisone shots are ideal for getting rid of cysts almost immediately, it is possible to calm down cystic acne at home. When a cyst forms, opt for products that contain lactic acid as an ingredient. Lactic acid helps dissolve cells that may be blocking your pore, but also purifies the pore.