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Closed Comedones: Identifying and Treating Comedonal Acne

Below, we will cover what closed comedones are, how to recognize them when they develop, why they occur, and what treatment options are available.

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Comedonal acne is one of the most subtle forms of acne.

So much so, that it may be difficult to even tell that those comedones are considered acne in the first place. But, as sneaky as these little bumps are, there are many over the counter or prescription treatments that can help clear them up and smooth things out.

Below, we will cover just what comedones are, how to recognize them when they develop, why they occur, and what treatment options are available.

What are closed comedones?

To the untrained eye, a comedone may look like one or many small bumps on the skin, with a skin-colored or white appearance. This bump comes from the pore being clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and debris.

Once the pore is clogged, it is closed off to the air by a thin layer of skin cells, making this have an appearance closer to a “bump” than your classic pimple with a “head” to it.

Open comedones differ from closed comedones in that the oil plug clogging the pore is open to the air in open comedones, making the oil oxidize and turn brown or black, forming what is referred to as a blackhead.

What causes closed comedones?

Closed comedones can appear any place where you have pores, but the most common locations are the face, back, chest, or neck. When there is an excess of oil production or too many dead skin cells hanging around, these things can mix together and form the plug inside of the comedone pore.

Situations where you may have an oil excess include puberty and other hormonal changes. And excess dead skin cells can build up when the skin is not exfoliated regularly to slough them away.

Comedones can also form from using a comedogenic or “pore-clogging” skincare product, or from an irritating reaction from hair products. If your comedones tend to pop up in certain areas, it is good to consider what products you are using on that area, as they may be contributing to the comedones.

How to treat closed comedones

You can start treatment of your closed comedones by using over-the-counter exfoliants like glycolic acid, and salicylic acid to help slough off extra skin cells and help comedones clear. You can also look for validated over-the-counter acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide to help extract oil plugs from the comedone.

If you think that your comedones formed from an occlusive face cream or irritating hair product you have been using, stop using the product until the comedones clear, and consider switching to something that does not make your skin react.

Comedones tend to respond well to consistent over-the-counter treatment options, but if the comedones keep coming back or worsen, it may be time to speak with a doctor about prescription acne treatments for daily use.

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