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3 Theories I've Made about Causes of cystic acne

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hey guys, this is my first post

finally decided to join and stop lurking haha

Okay well let me give you some background info;

I'm 20 years old, soon to be 21 in college, Asian (korean), and pretty tan actually compared to most other asians


I never experienced severe acne until the ripe age of 19!!! LAST YEAR. winter time to be exact.

so of course, like many of you who experienced it unexpectedly, I was shocked.

the months of December through March were the most painful months of my life; I'm not talking little acne that some freak out and call severe. I legitimately had 5-6 monstrous purple cysts/nodules on my cheeks and temples and occasionally two or so on my jawline.

I'm a pretty good looking guy so this crushed my self-esteem and it was hard on my relationship with my girlfriend, who held me down throughout this painful time, which I love her for.

Anyways summer time came around and my skin cleared up. In fact all active acne disappeared and my scars healed pretty magnificently. If I had told you about my severe acne experience during this summer, you would've laughed and called me a liar.

So I felt good for about a good 6 months...until now recently. I live in NYC and the weather's switching up and turning cold again and I'm seeing the same pattern of events as last year. A couple pimples showed up...and now a cyst...and now another cyst (same areas as last year temple & cheeks). So i'm freaking out again but calming my mind by trying to get to the bottom of the problem:

So here are my THEORIES of the cause of MY cystic acne:

1. Seasonal change-clearly the big one that should stick out to you is that somehow for last year and soon-to-be this year's winter seasons, my cystic acne flares up.

2. Weightlifting/Working out-DISCLAIMER. Let me explain. I dont think working out causes acne. in fact, I think it helped me heal so marvelously last year. However I think abruptly STARTING to work out intensely and ABRUPTLY STOPPING working out has drastic effects on your hormones.

For example: I STARTED intensely bulking up and gained aroudn 20-25 pounds in a matter of 3 months (NO steroids) last year summer. Saw a few pimples but nothing big. Then winter came and my cystic acne came out of nowhere. So blaming working out and bulking, I stopped abruptly. THAT...I see now...was a mistake. Cysts and nodules spread even faster after I abruptly stopped working out.

Also* This year, I restarted working out after my active acne was gone in the summer. with no protein or anything really, all natural with just food and vitamins. all's been well....UNTIL the NYC weather started getting cold again, I just stopped working out for 4 days abruptly (not b/c I was worried about acne but because I was lazy) and I just got a cyst. first cyst of this school year.

3. Depression/Stress-This I believe is the primary factor. I remember last year when I stopped working out after blaming it for causing my cysts, I became very depressed. Didn't look directly at anyone, was ashamed to be with my girlfriend, blah blah blah. I went to tthe mirror frequently and looked at myself....and as I did this...MORE AND MORE cysts and nodules came. I think if I had somehow controlled my emotions the first time around and not blown up about the cysts in the first place...they would'nt have gone on as long as they did.

This is the TOUGHEST thing to swallow as who the hell doesn't get more depressed looking at themselves in the mirror? then you get even more depressed about not being social anymore and not being the person you used to be.

So these are my THREE main theories. Tell me if they sound like they make sense to you. I'm not saying they are for everyone but for me this is what I've definitely noticed-a definite pattern to my pain.

*also reminders-I never had acne before last year at the age of 19, around the time of starting to intensely workout, and second year of college...if that helps

Edited by newkidhere
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I've been lurking back onto my post a million times to see if anyone has had any similar experiences

also, after doing some research:

I feel

Vitamin D or at least the sun is very important to improve acne conditions

If the winter time reallly gets me down and depressed (I think I have S.A.D.)

and it gets so dark so quickly, so I barely get any sunlight...

I believe getting some Vitamin D should help

I've just ordered mine right now.

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Yes, many have had similar experiences. More dramatic and condensed is the number of people who have suddenly had their acne improve when they went camping (which put them in outdoor light all day, and dark all night -- possibly the quickest way to try to force someone to restore their natural melatonin cycle, if you don't take booze and lots of propane lights to party all night).

a) sufficient zinc superoxide dismutase (ZSOD) keeps P. acnes from instigating inflammation

b) melatonin stimulates cells to create superoxide dismutase; living in bright light during the day increases the nocturnal melatonin surge

c) living in dim indoor light increases carb malabsorption, which appears to interfere with the digestion of zinc

d) exercise can help or hurt the nocturnal melatonin surge, depending on the type of exercise and timing

e) carb malabsorption is also implicated in lessened ability to digest tryptophan; tryptophan is needed to create both serotonin and melatonin in the brain, hence the same root cause is shared by depression and acne (it's not that one causes the other)

f) a screwed up melatonin cycle also screws up your sleep, which encourages depression (some psychologists argue that depression IS disturbed sleep)

So, when you live in bright light during the day, "problem foods" (especially fructose sources) are less able to keep you from getting enough tryptophan and zinc to produce ZSOD to prevent acne. This is why people become endlessly frustrated by food that seems to cause acne sometimes, but other times can be eaten with impunity.

I don't believe Vitamin D matters much to your acne, except for the outside possibility that you are so deficient that it is affecting your ability to absorb zinc. Google "Vitamin D council" for how to get your serum levels tested and how to achieve a healthy, year-round level of Vitamin D (though I doubt it will fix your acne, Vitamin D is at least correlated with mental issues). The only way to know how much Vitamin D you need to take is to get your serum levels tested. Doses required can vary greatly, depending (at least) on how much body fat you have.

See link in sig for extended blather on same topics. :D

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This is exactly the same as me i have no Acne in summer and really bad skin in winter. It is so frustrating and i want to find a solution. I agree with everything you say about making it worse with stress and looking in mirrors all the time i am the worse at that and its weird cos it looks ok in some mirrors and looks really bad in others. I live in London so have similar climate and level of pollution as you and i am convinced that the weather makes such a big difference to my skin. I am going for a facial this weekend to get some tips for caring for my skin in winter. Im a bloke so am a bit nervous about this.

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I don't really know anything that can help, but that sounds horrible being clear and then suddenly having acne so late. I can see why you blamed the workouts.

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Hi there.

I totally understand what you're going through. I too have gone through waves of severe acne attacks that come out of nowhere. I also have been trying to looking for answers and only until recently I found a theory that holds 100% true for me. And it runs pretty close to your theories.

My belief is that acne (more specifically flammatory acne (nodules, cysts)) is caused by hormonal imbalances. When I look back at the times when my acne was very severe, in every case I could say that my hormones were wacked out! At those times I was either stressed, depressed, or had a sub par functions to my vital body cleansing organs. All of those things contribute to fluctuations in hormones. So I think you're situation is very similar. It seems that every winter your horomones are all over the place. I would first look into ways you can better manage your hormones in the winter time or balance out your body more (i.e. stopping and starting workouts)

For me I normally get break outs every year however I've been acne free for about 3 years now.

The biggest factor for me was by health. I had a sub par liver, colon, and kidenys. Once I got that back up to par I no longer get those severe breakouts.

Here my blog on how I did it.


hope that helps.

Good luck!

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Vitamin D3 seems to help the overall appearance of my skin in the winter. I don't eat a lot of dairy, and I'm blonde and somewhat fair. I tan quite well, but sun overload sometimes causes my skin to get worse.

Anyway, I used to break out EVERY YEAR around december quite badly. Then it would heal up and then I'd break out again in the spring. Guess what? It was stress from finals! I didn't break out this year because I'm finally done with school and don't have to deal with that anymore. Random breakouts are probably due to some kind of stress, because I would always be somewhat clear during summer and in the fall. Winter and spring were just bad. I can't believe I never connected the dots, though.

If you think it's the weather, you should probably take some D3 and spend some time in a tanning bed. (doesn't have to be a lot, maybe like 3 mins) if you aren't too fair and can handle it. Before I found my current regimen, I'd go into a tanning booth for like 3-10 minutes twice a week. It really seemed to help.

If you think it's stress or depression, that's harder to deal with, and I guess you'd just need to find something that helps you de-stress on a daily basis.

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Im in a similar situation as my acne seems to flare up much more in winter, I think this has to do with us being indoors most of the day. In dry, artificial heating environments. But more so I think it has to do with the amount of sunlight we recieve directly and indirectly. The winter days are so dramatically shorter than summer that this may be a huge cause. Im going to try to actively wake up early as the sun rises in the winter and get as much light as possible (doesnt need to be direct sun but just sun). And when sleeping Ill try to blackout my room of any possible light leakage.

But really, acne's causes and affects seem to be different on everybody.

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wow it's been a while since I've been back here, didn't think it was going to get much traction.

good to see it did.

Here's an update from where i am now since my first post:

as you are well aware it is late December...almost 2010 in NYC

the weather has become increasingly cold, but not that dramatic compared to last year

Acne update:

....my face is a mess!

BUT WAIT HOLD ON! funny thing is, I think I brought it upon myself this time.

As mentioned in the first post, I thought dry skin and harsh winds and weather had a link so I started using more and more moisturizer which helped ALOT. pimples disappeared, face was clear.

However, I used Pond's Dry skin cream....

and eventually...i faced a NEW ENEMY: no, not cysts....MILIA

I assume it was the heavy Pond's cream but my face became ravaged by milia (which I had to do research to figure out what these small hard white balls were on my face). They have taken over my forehead and my jawline as well a small portion of the temples, lower cheeks.

I noticed a couple but I thought they were nothing, and then they spread...I ignored them for the most part


a lot of these milia have finally come to the surface, albeit due to alot of picking on my part (frustration from being essentially clear yet having little white bumps). So 2 things:

1) these milia have become essentially mini-papules now (Which FREAKED me out at first because I misdiagnosed them as my old pals, cysts and nodules)

2) After they became papules, they became pustules. and surprisingly, popping turned out to be BENEFICIAL. of course right after popping you regret it after but the morning after some good sleep, I must say the temple where these pustules were, look a lot better. So maybe popping pustules is not so bad (but PUSTULES ONLY, not in the papule stage, you gotta see the white coming out)

So yeah, turns out being too concerned about cysts and nodules from the weather change ended up backfiring. Using a heavy cream actually gave rise to a new problem in milia and now I am currently dealing with these milia becoming papules, as I continue to wear away top layers of skin to get them out.

Talk about irony.

**However, I must say I am starting to get a little alarmed as now I am no longer able to see the clear-cut differences between my old cysts and these new papules. Every papule scares me, making me believe it is a cyst...only to find it become a pustule (which despite being ugly, do not seem to scar my skin and so I like them MUCH more than cysts).

As of now, my forehead is starting to clear of milia but yet...I am starting to get cyst-like bumps on my forehead more often, but I believe this is because the whole forehead is damaged from my picking and squeezing (hey it's hard not to pop a pustule staring you in the face!) and so the walls of the skin breed more and more pimples

So what have I done since then?

drop the ponds cream, started using jojoba oil and aloe vera (mostly aloe vera) for moisturizer

and some astringent and regular neutrogena facial cleanser that new green redness soothing stuff

seems to work

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Also, has anyone else freaked out about a bump headless pimple, believing it was another cyst coming

and then realizing days later that it is nothing but a blind pimple or a papule?

This happens to me all the time, it's pretty unsettling. right now, i have a large bump behind my ear that can easily be a cyst but this is why I don't think it is, due to personal experience:

1) Cysts/Nodules seem to be so deep that when they pop up, they pop up BROWN/PURPLE/BLACK (at least on my asian skin)

2) You feel Cysts/nodules coming. i can't explain it, but even the dormant one i have in my cheek right (still a faded black/brown color) still has a weird inner ache at times.

*I had one pop up back in October

and it was then I realized

"OH now I remember the difference between you and the regular guys"

I wish there were clear-cut differences between different types of acne so you can be relieved when a papule pops up, instead of being like FUCK ITS ANOTHER CYST! (not to say papules don't suck, they suck but they just don't seem to do as much deep damage)

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I think you just needa listen to whatever your girlfriend..

STOP touching ur face all the time and pokin around areas that arent pimples

chove you

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