Pimples + Cysts: To Ice or Not to Ice?

icing pimples cysts
You’ve probably heard the advice at least once in your life that it’s a good idea to ice pimples. That it will reduce swelling, inflammation, and speed up healing time. But there’s new, emerging research to show that icing may not be that great for you after all.

Ice does numb the area, which if inflamed can feel like a big relief. But once the ice is removed, the pain does come back. Some are saying it actually increases. Dr. Gary Reinl, author of the book Iced, states “Yes, (making something numb is good) if the short-term goal is pain control and the prevention of the body’s normal cellular and vascular response to injury.” Dr. Reinl is pointing to the fact that the previously thought positive affects of icing are short-term, but do not provide any kind of permanent benefits.

Another outtake from the journal of Sports Medicine: “When ice is applied to a body part for a prolonged period, nearby lymphatic vessels begin to dramatically increase their permeability (lymphatic vessels are ‘dead-end’ tubes which ordinarily help carry excess tissue fluids back into the cardiovascular system). As lymphatic permeability is enhanced, large amounts of fluid begin to pour from the lymphatics ‘in the wrong direction’ (into the injured area), increasing the amount of local swelling and pressure and potentially contributing to greater pain.” Simply put, icing may actually increase pain and inflammation after it has been removed. Of course, this research is still emerging, and place for your own experience is important to keep in mind.

My experience? I’ve noticed this with my own skin too. I’ve iced and iced and iced a nasty cyst, only to have it go down initially and come right back to life a short time later. Sports medicine has actually pointed to compression being more helpful and here I would agree. Moderate pressure on a cyst MAY (and I say that with caution!) help to minimize the size, but nothing too aggressive.

My Skin Nutritonist take is this: if your cysts or pimples are extremely inflamed, external icing is not an adequate counter for the internal inflammation level your body is at. Simply put, cooling inflammation is an internal job – though a plant-based diet, emotionally positive lifestyle, and healing damaged internal areas. That’s work that icing alone cannot fix.

-Elise May, CN + LE
”The Skin Nutritionist”

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