We all want that flawless glowing skin.
Unfortunately, blemished skin is a reality for most of us.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the US with 50 million Americans affected each year.
There is noninflammatory acne characterized by comedones. And then there are the inflammatory varieties which include papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
Today we’re going to narrow the scope a bit and focus on one very specific type: Comedonal Acne. But before we talk about prevention and treatments, we’re going to explain what comedones are in the first place.
What Are Comedones?
Comedones are those annoying little bumps that often show up on the skin of your forehead and chin. A single one of these blemishes is known as a comedo. But if you have one, you’re likely to have several.
Common in people of all ages, they’re caused by oil, dead skin and bacteria that plug a hair follicle. There are also two types of comedones: open and closed.
The Difference Between Open and Closed Comedones
Closed comedones are white or flesh colored bumps that appear when a hair follicle is completely blocked by oil and debris and cut off from the air. These types of pimples build up under the surface of the skin until they’re big enough to be seen in profile. Although they are also referred to as whiteheads, they have no head and can’t be popped.
So contrary to popular belief, whiteheads are not those pus-filled pimples that are so tempting to squeeze. If a pimple does have a head that can be popped, it’s technically referred to as a papule or pustule.
However, if you get so frustrated with a closed comedo that you attempt to squeeze it anyway (which we don’t recommend), it can get infected with bacteria and turn into a red, angry and, yes, poppable pimple.
(Side note: If you’re still popping your pimples, stop! You are simply spreading bacteria and making a minor problem much, much worse. If the sight of a pimple is just too much for you to bear, cover that baby up with an acne patch and move on with your day. )
Open comedones, on the other hand, are known as blackheads. These types of pimples occur when oil, dead skin and bacteria in a hair follicle are exposed to air and oxidized. The result? Those frustrating little black dots on your skin.
The Cause of Closed Comedones
So what causes these pesky little bumps in the first place? It turns out that a variety of factors can be the culprit. Here are some of the major causes of comedonal acne.
That’s right. The very skin products that you’re using to make your skin beautiful could be the very reason you have recurring acne. Creams, moisturizers and lotions that have artificial dyes and fragrances could be leaving behind some debris.
Also, while a good moisturizer is essential for keeping your skin healthy, you want to find one that doesn’t leave behind an oily residue that could block your pores.
Our favorite? Juice Beauty’s acne-fighting line. It’s clean, organic and truly nourishing for your skin.
Oily makeup leaving behind oil that clogs your pores? Makes sense. When choosing any skincare product or makeup it’s helpful to look for products that are noncomedogenic which basically means they won’t clog your pores.
Although it’s not an absolute guarantee, it is a helpful place to start.
Are those little bumps concentrated around your hairline? If that’s the case, it could be oil or other pore clogging and irritating ingredients in your hair products. If that sounds familiar, it could be time to investigate a new approach to your hair care routine.
Damaged Hair Follicles
You probably know that picking at your face exposes your face to a host of pimple-causing bacteria. But squeezing or picking your blemishes can also rupture your hair follicle resulting in those pesky whiteheads or even folliculitis.
You can experience similar consequences from abrasive washing, chemical peels or even laser treatments.
It seems we just can’t get away from the negative effects of a poor diet. Since food is a culprit in most health conditions, it’s no surprise that your body’s biggest organ (your skin) is also affected.
High levels of dairy, sugar and fats all play a role in acne.
It’s bad for your breath, lungs and skin.
Changing hormone levels are often to blame for acne. Once you hit puberty, your sebaceous glands produce more sebum (aka oil). This excess oil can cause the hair follicle to get plugged up or clogged more easily, forming those irritating little bumps.
If you tend to get comedones around your chin area, this is one telltale sign that it could be hormone related.
But don’t think that hormones are only a problem for younger generations. Adults are prone to oily skin as well and experience hormonal changes that also increase oil production.
You may not like to chalk it up to genetics, but if your family struggles with acne as well, it could be an underlying cause. If this is the case, you may want to check with your dermatologist if your family members haven’t already.
High humidity opens your pores and makes it easier for dirt and other debris to enter, which can eventually lead to clogged follicles and comedones.
How to Treat Closed Comedones
Comedones may not be red and painful but they’re still annoying. These rough little bumps often form in clusters, creating uneven and bumpy patches of skin most commonly found on the chin and forehead. Is there anything worse than putting on your perfect OOTD only to discover that while you can cover up the color of a pimple, you can’t cover up the texture of one so easily?
Sometimes closed comedones will go away on their own, but that can take weeks or months.
If you want to get rid of yours sooner rather than later, check out these treatment options that range from over-the-counter products to professional services and everything in between.
Over The Counter Products
One of the easiest ways to treat closed comedones is by adding some acne-fighting ingredients to your skin care routine.
Not only is it an inexpensive option, but it’s also non-invasive. Win!
Do keep in mind, however, that you need to have patience when using any topical treatment as they can take up to several weeks or even months to deliver results. Here are a few to consider:
Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in most over-the-counter acne treatments. It dries out acne and can even destroy the bacteria in your skin that causes breakouts in the first place. Therefore, it can be quite effective on closed comedones.
Acne prone skin tends to have a slower cell turnover, making your pores more susceptible to getting clogged up with dead skin and thus preventing your natural oils from escaping.
Salicylic acid, however, helps your skin shed cells faster. And that can help to remove debris from clogged pores and prevent future ones from getting backed up. In other words, sometimes getting rid of the top layer of your skin is all you need to do in order to unclog your pores.
Glycolic acid is also great at exfoliating the skin and helping to get rid of that extra dead skin that is clogging our pores. A huge favorite of ours? Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment by Sunday Riley. Made with ultra pure, formaldehyde-free glycolic acid, it’s also vegan, cruelty free, paraben free, sulfate free and Phthalate-free.
Just keep in mind that this chemical does increase sensitivity to the sun, so if you use it, make sure you apply a daily sunscreen as well.
There are a variety of different retinoids, such as tretinoin, isotretinoin, and adapalene. Some of these require a prescription, so if you’ve tried other medications and haven’t seen improvement, it’s time to head to your dermatologist. There’s a good chance your derm will give you a prescription for one of these.
Like some of the products we mentioned above, retinoids help to speed up the process of turning over skin cells. The faster you shed your skin cells, the less likely they are to clog your pores, and the quicker you can clear blockages.
That being said, retinoids can be irritating, especially when you’re first starting out with them. Be sure to limit the application to only a few days if you’re new to this topical treatment.
Also, be particularly careful when mixing retinoids with other exfoliants. Combined with certain ingredients (such as chemical exfoliants), they can be quite irritating to the skin.
One of our favorite retinoids is Maelove Moonlight Retinal Serum. With a .11% concentration of retinaldehyde, it gives you prescription level benefits to improve skin tone and is also antibacterial which helps to fight acne. But the good news doesn’t stop there. This truly super serum also contains a blend of nourishing ingredients like squalane, hyaluronic acid and tea extracts to help you avoid irritation. In other words, there’s a good reason it gets so many rave reviews!
Talk To the Experts
If topical treatments don’t work, your dermatologist may prescribe you an oral medication. People have been fighting acne with azelaic acid for years through prescription medications. This powerful agent helps to kill bacteria and clear out pores, making it an effective option for treating closed comedones.
Your dermatologist may also be able to speak to hormone therapy. It’s not an effective method for men, as it’s used to minimize the effect of testosterone in women. It works because testosterone in women can increase the production of oil, which can create the comedones in the first place.
There are a variety of different drugs and medications that doctors may prescribe, including birth control pills, which can minimize the effect of certain hormones on the body and skin.
Other medications that may be prescribed include antibiotics, Accutane (or isotretinoin), and spironolactone which is sometimes used in conjunction with oral contraceptives to reduce sebum production.
However, just as with topicals, these medications can make your skin more prone to burning so always be sure to wear sunscreen.
Home Remedies to Treat Comedones
Prefer to treat your closed comedones in a natural, organic way? There are a variety of foods and natural ingredients that you can use to make an instant home remedy. Some people prefer to start with these, while others turn to home remedies as a last resort when nothing else seems to work. Either way, these natural ingredients have proven to be effective in some people.
Lemon juice can dry up the skin and get rid of oil. It also minimizes inflammation and swelling. To try this home remedy, apply lemon juice to the skin for 10 minutes then rinse it off with cold water.
Tea Tree Oil
Bacterial and fungal issues are often treated with tea tree oil, a natural product that exists in a variety of beauty and skincare products. Tea tree oil is often used to treat skin infections, but it can be effective on comedones in that it helps to reduce bacteria.
Tomatoes contain salicylic acid, making them an effective way to unclog pores and pull out those extra oils in your skin. The best way to apply tomatoes is to create a face mask with a teaspoon of sugar. Leave it on for five minutes and rinse off with cold water.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Like some of the over the counter acids listed above, apple cider vinegar can dry out the skin. To try this method, simply apply some with a cotton ball and let it sit for about twenty minutes. Rinse off with cold water when you’re done.
Witch hazel is another natural remedy that acts as an astringent and can help to balance out the moisture level in your skin. You can use it twice a day in place of your normal astringent.
Charcoal or Clay Masks
Charcoal and clay masks are especially good at treating both closed and open comedones as they help to dry out trapped oil in your pores and can even draw out dead skin cells and trapped dirt.
Medical Procedures to Treat Comedones
Invasive surgical procedures should always be a last resort. If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t get rid of your closed comedones, it might be time to think about a surgical option.
Can you stand the cold? You may want to consider cryotherapy. As part of this procedure, your medical professional will apply liquid nitrogen to your closed comedones. This will freeze them so they can be extracted and destroyed.
Microdermabrasion is sometimes referred to as “skin resurfacing.” And that’s because it literally changes the surface of the skin. Used on everything from fine lines to closed comedones, this procedure uses tiny crystals to remove the surface layer of the skin. Getting rid of that top layer of skin helps to unclog your pores.
Unless you want a scar, never attempt to do a blemish extraction at home! This should only be performed by a dermatologist or an esthetician with professional medical experience.
The process starts with steaming the skin to soften it and expand the opening of the pore. With their fingers or with an implement called a comedone extractor, the professional will try to bring the sebaceous plug out of the pore. By manually removing the plug, you can see improvement in the skin almost immediately.
How to Prevent Comedones From Forming in the First Place
How to Prevent Comedones from Forming in the First Place
Left untreated, closed comedones can become red, inflamed and painful. If they become inflamed they can become even harder to treat.
Closed comedones can be stubborn and take weeks or months to get rid of, so it’s always best to do what you can to prevent them.
Here are a few things that you can do right now to keep those hard little bumps from surfacing on your face ever again:
- Use oil-free and noncomedogenic cosmetics and skincare products
- Wash with a mild cleanser twice a day
- Never go to bed with your makeup on
- Maintain a regular exfoliation schedule
- Resist touching your face
- Quit smoking
- Change your diet to one that’s low in sugar, dairy and fat
- Reduce stress by doing yoga or practicing different methods of meditation
- Exercise more to increase blood flow and improve overall skin health
If you’re doing all the right things and still suffering from closed comedones, it may be time for medication. If you’ve tried to remove closed comedones on your own with no success, make an appointment with a dermatologist and follow their prescribed treatment method until your skin improves.
What is the Best Way to Treat Closed Comedones?
The best way to treat closed comedones is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. But when they do surface on your skin, here’s what you can do to treat them:
- Use topical solutions such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids
- Have your dermatologist look at your skin and come up with next steps you both agree on
- Try home remedies such as tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar
- Look to surgical methods such as microdermabrasion or blemish extractions
Untreated, closed comedones can turn into painful, inflamed pimples. So once you do get rid of them, follow a strict skincare routine and take preventative methods. With the right habits, you can prevent them from returning ever again!
You might also be interested in: 9 Methods And 20 Killer Products For Removing Blackheads
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Sherry De Alba
Sherry is a freelance writer who worked as an actor before transitioning to an award-winner career in advertising. During a vacation to Mexico, she fell in love and never left. Sherry (aka Cherita) now spends her time bouncing between the US and Mexico writing, running, cooking, meditating and exploring lots of cool stuff on the other side of the wall.view post