Comedones 101: What Are They and How to Treat Them

So you woke up in the morning, ready to seize the day. You can’t wait to get that first sip of coffee. You head to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and, oh no, there are small bumps on your face. Don’t panic– those are just comedones!

There are several types of pimples (papules) and, by extension, different types of acne. What you’re seeing on your face is referred to as comedonal acne. It’s a fairly common skin condition that affects a large part of the population, particularly teenagers and people with oily skin. 

The good news is that comedones are preventable and treatable with topical creams and pimple patches.  

What Are Comedones?

Comedones are flesh-colored, small bumps that typically form on the forehead or chin. A single bump is referred to as a comedo. 

A comedo is a clogged follicle blocked by dead skin cells and oil build-up. Your skin regularly sheds cells and forms new ones. Sometimes those cells get trapped in the follicles, along with sebum, the oil your skin naturally produces for moisturization. As a result, a plug forms inside the follicle, turning into a bump or papule. 

The presence of comedones doesn’t necessarily mean that you have comedonal acne. Some people may occasionally get comedones. However, if comedones appear on your face frequently, you may have comedonal acne. It’s relatively less severe than acne vulgaris, in which papules are much more inflamed. 

Some comedones may be too small and almost invisible. Nevertheless, it’s essential to treat them as they can turn into red, more inflamed pimples if they get infected with bacteria. 

Types of Comedones

There are two types of comedones: 

Closed Comedones (Whiteheads)

Closed comedones, also called whiteheads, form at the head of the follicle (pore) and appear white or yellow. These comedones may feel bumpy but are not inflamed. Although the plug of skin waste and oil blocks the follicle, it’s not entirely on the surface, making it appear closed. 

Open Comedones (Blackheads)

Open comedones, also called blackheads, form at the pore's opening and appear like a black dot. Blackheads occur when the dead skin cells and sebum trapped in the pore oxidize in contact with air and turn dark. 

Much like whiteheads, blackheads aren’t painful or inflamed. However, they’re more visible than whiteheads, especially big ones. 

Blackheads often appear on the nose, chin, and cheeks. Rarely, they can also form on the shoulders, back, and thighs. 

Causes and Risk Factors of Comedonal Acne

There are several risk factors for comedonal acne, including hormonal changes, especially during puberty. The excess production of androgynous hormones during puberty can result in sebum glands producing more oil. That extra sebum and dead skin cells get trapped in the follicles, resulting in comedones. 

Comedonal acne can also be a sign of acne vulgaris. In other words, comedones may get further inflamed and turn into red pimples, sometimes with pus. 

Environmental factors like high humidity or pollution may also increase the risk of follicles getting blocked and forming comedones. 

Most importantly, how you treat your skin can also cause white or blackheads. For instance, some chemicals in skin and hair products, like isopropyl myristate and propylene glycol, can cause closed or open comedones. 

Studies also show a link between acne and smoking, especially post-puberty. So adults who smoke may be more likely to develop comedonal acne. 

Believe it or not, what you eat also plays a role in the appearance of bumps on your face. Foods high in fats and sugars may increase sebum production, resulting in follicle blockage. 

Is Comedonal Acne Preventable?

Acne, in general, is not entirely preventable, especially if hormonal changes and inflammation are causing it. Still, there are some precautions you can take to prevent comedones on your face and other parts of your body. 

  • Cleanse your face daily at night with a gentle cleanser.
  • Use non-comedogenic skincare and cosmetic products, i.e., products that don’t block pores.
  • Avoid touching your face. 
  • Avoid products with chemicals known for causing and flaring up acne.
  • Exfoliate your face and body two to three times a week. 

Treatments for Comedones

Even if you take care of your skin and take preventive measures, bodily changes, pollution, weather, and lifestyle choices may still cause comedones. 

For mild comedones, topical creams can be used. These creams typically contain actives like azelaic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids. 

Blemish patches are also a viable treatment option, as they help absorb the excess sebum and reduce inflammation around the papule. As comdones can’t be popped, pimple patches can provide quick relief and prevent scarring. 

Severe and persistent comedonal acne may require medicinal intervention. A healthcare provider can prescribe medications that treat the root cause of the problem, which is excess sebum production. 

Whether you treat comedonal acne with topical or medications, it’s essential to wear SPF even if it’s not sunny outside. Direct UV exposure can exacerbate the issue and cause the skin to go red and dry.

Best Natural Ingredients to Treat Comedones

The safest route to fix comedones is to use products with natural ingredients. Here are the best natural ingredients to treat comedonal acne:

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is one of the most effective, naturally occurring ingredients to fight acne. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal pimples, be it comedones or pustules. Moreover, its antibacterial properties can ensure that comedones don’t turn into full-blown acne pimples that are painful and leave marks behind. 

A review published in the Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics found that tea trees’ antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties can help with acne sores. 

Charcoal and Clay

Charcoal and clay, often found in face masks, can help clean sebum and dirt from the pores. A 2012 study looked at the benefits of jojoba oil and clay masks and found them effective at treating mild acne. 

Plant Extracts 

Various plant extracts like Calendula officinalis, Matricaria chamomilla, Acacia nilotica, and rosemary officinalis have been found to have anti-acne effects. 

A randomized placebo-controlled study testing the efficacy of a facial serum containing Calendula officinalis, among other ingredients, showed that the serum had an anti-inflammatory effect and the ingredients had a high tolerance. 

Acne Patches to Save the Day!

The easiest, safest, and quickest way to heal pimples and comedones is acne patches. Avarelle’s blemish patches are created from well-researched ingredients, mainly hydrocolloid, that helps create moisture around the blemish and sucks out the dried sebum and dead skin cell plug blocking the pore. 

While hydrocolloid patch is effective at healing blemishes, its impact is compounded by natural anti-inflammatory ingredients such as tea tree oil and calendula oil. These acne-fighting natural ingredients have soothing properties that help accelerate the healing process. You get clear, clean, blemish-free skin with no visible comedones. 

Avarelle’s Acne Cover Patch Original, with tea tree, cica, and calendula oil, is the perfect remedy for closed comedones. Its use can help deal with the pimple in its early stages before bacteria gets to it and causes visible inflammation. 

Similarly, the Gunk Out Patch is the best choice for blackheads or closed comedones. Designed to suck out dirt and debris deep in the pore, this patch will clear out the comedones overnight, leaving you with clean, open pores. 

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