The Difference Between Hormonal and Cystic Acne

The Difference Between Hormonal and Cystic Acne

Cystic Acne vs Hormonal Acne is a confusing and lengthy debate to dwell upon. If you are someone facing any of these two conditions it's highly likely that you don’t know which condition you are suffering with.

Therefore, to eradicate hormonal and cystic acne. It is essential for you to learn about what does hormonal acne look like, what does cystic acne look like and what is the difference between cystic acne vs hormonal acne along with the causes of cystic acne and the difference between cyst and pimple. 

What Does Hormonal Acne Look Like?

To know what does hormonal acne look like search for the following signs on your skin. Hormonal acne can appear in the form of various types of lesions such as:

  • Whiteheads/closed comedones.
  • Blackheads/comedones.
  • Papules (raised skin tissue, with a diameter of 2-5 mm)
  • Pustules (Skin bumps with a 2-5 mm diameter that contain pus) 
  • Cysts (Fluid-filled pockets under the skin) 

Hormonal Acne cysts develop beneath the skin's surface and do not emerge as visible bumps. Hormonal acne commonly manifests along the lower third of the face, jawline, and upper neck area. 

What Does Cystic Acne Look Like?

Cystic acne can seem to appear like Boils on the skin. Following are some signs that are indicative of cystic acne:

  • It appears as an under-the-skin red lump.
  • Cystic acne is sensitive to the touch and causes discomfort and pain.
  • This acne is Tiny like a pea or as large as a dime.
  • Pus seeps out of a whitish-yellow head.
  • It is a Crusty appearance.

Cystic acne is a harsh and severe skin condition and apart from these prominent signs. If you want to learn how to distinguish between cyst vs pimple and want to know what does cystic acne look like you should also learn what causes hormonal cystic acne and what hormone causes cystic acne to get a complete view and understanding of cystic acne. 

Read More: What To Know About Hormonal Acne According to a Dermatologist?

Cystic Acne Vs Hormonal Acne: A Fight Between Cyst Vs Pimple

Cystic acne presents itself as large, painful cysts situated beneath the surface of the skin. Conversely, hormonal acne manifests in small reddish-pink bumps on areas such as the cheeks, jawline, and chin.

The origin of cystic acne lies in surplus oil production and obstructed pores, whereas hormonal imbalances trigger the onset of hormonal acne.

To effectively treat cystic acne, it is necessary to use treatments that can minimize inflammation and manage sebum production. Conversely, hormonal acne requires a treatment approach that tackles the underlying hormone imbalances leading to its formation.

Aggressive scarring is more probable with cystic acne, whereas scarring due to hormonal acne is less likely.

The Difference Between Cyst And Pimple: Cyst Vs Pimple 

The primary contrast and difference between cyst and pimple are:

  • A pimple is a minor protuberance that typically disappears on its own or with non-prescription medications, whereas a cyst is a bigger spongy protrusion that can cause significant discomfort and requires more attention.
  • Generally, a pimple is smaller in size and does not cause any pain as compared to a cyst or boil which usually appears as one big lump.
  • A pimple is a membrane pouch that contains oil, debris, and dead skin cells. In contrast, a cyst is a pocket filled with both solid and liquid substances.
  • A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that is enclosed under the skin, whereas a pimple refers to an elevated red mark on the skin filled with oil, bacteria, and dead cells.
  • Pimples are typically just bothersome, whereas cysts can cause significant discomfort.

Causes of Cystic Acne:

To learn the causes of cystic acne you should know what is cystic acne and what does cystic acne look like. Cystic acne is a severe form of inflammatory acne that results in pus-filled pimples forming deep beneath the skin. This type of acne develops due to oil and dead skin cells blocking pores, allowing bacteria to enter and cause swelling as well as inflammation. As it produces painful breakouts, cystic acne often leads to scarring more commonly than other types of acne. Cystic acne can be caused by several factors:

Teenage years: Cystic acne is more likely to develop in teenagers.

Family History: An individual may be more susceptible to cystic acne if there is a family history of it.

Hormonal Changes: Cystic acne may be caused by hormonal fluctuations that can occur during teenage years and sometimes menopause.

Stress: Acne outbreaks, particularly cystic acne, can worsen with increased levels of stress.

Seeking assistance from a dermatologist is advisable when dealing with causes of cystic acne, as the treatment of cystic acne vs hormonal acne can pose serious challenges.

Typically, oral antibiotics and potent topical gels or creams are utilized in the treatment process; however, it may take several months to effectively eradicate this condition.

If you're exhibiting symptoms of cystic acne, and can’t seem to understand the difference between cyst and pimple, consulting a dermatologist for tailored guidance on management and care would be beneficial for your situation.

What Hormone Causes Cystic Acne?

After knowing what hormone causes cystic acne you will be surprised. The main culprits behind cystic acne are two hormones - testosterone and DHEA-S. Testosterone is typically associated with male bodies, but it exists in small quantities within healthy female systems as well. Its levels can skyrocket due to insulin resistance, contributing to unhealthy imbalances. 

Although medical professionals aren't entirely certain about the root cause of cystic acne, they have noted that a group of hormones known as androgens play a significant role in the formation and appearance of cystic acne. As puberty hits during adolescence, hormone levels surge which generates alterations on your skin leading up to blocked pores eventually causing breakouts.

What Causes Hormonal Cystic Acne? 

What causes hormonal cystic acne and what relationship cystic acne has with hormonal imbalance is something dermatologists are still studying in depth. The development of hormonal cystic acne can be influenced by several factors, including:

  • Undergoing hormone imbalances along with notable changes in estrogen and progesterone levels.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)  is an example of a medical condition that is faced by women and it can cause cystic acne.
  • Hormonal Cystic Acne can be worsened by certain medications, including testosterone, lithium, and steroids.
  • Risk factors related to the environment can be a cause of cystic acne.
  • The likelihood of developing cystic acne is also increased due to genetics.


To sum it up, the causes of hormonal and cystic acne are diverse, making it difficult to differentiate between cyst vs pimple, many underlying conditions like menopause, PCOS, and hormonal imbalance can cause the appearance of hormonal and cystic acne.

We hope this article was helpful for you in understanding the difference between cystic acne vs hormonal acne. Now with the help of above mentioned analysis on cystic acne and what causes hormonal cystic acne, you can easily differentiate between what does hormonal acne look like and what does cystic acne look like. 

Consult a dermatologist and get hormone blood tests and if you see what hormone causes cystic acne elevated in your report. Try making lifestyle and dietary changes to solve your skin issues. Consistency is the key to eliminating acne, consistently work towards your health goals and eradicate this irritating skin condition from the root!

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