At any age in our life, acne is not something we want to deal with. It leaves many of us feeling self-conscious, and we will look toward many products and remedies to get rid of them. There are different types of acne that may plague us, and one type we don’t think of or are confused by is closed comedones. They are small bumps across the skin that are not red or inflamed.
How do you get rid of closed comedones? Closed comedones can be addressed with a variety of over the counter medications, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies. If the comedones are more severe, extraction procedures can be completed. Keeping closed comedones under control can be accomplished by staying away from products that clog your pores.
Gaining a better understanding of what closed comedones are will be helpful in identifying what kind of acne you have and how best to treat it. Different acne types require different treatments, making the characteristics of each type important in correctly addressing them.
We will dive into what causes closed comedones to arise and how you can best treat them.
What Are Closed Comedones and How to Identify Them?
Closed comedones are small bumps across the skin’s surface that are not red or inflamed like many other types of acne. They occur when skin cells or oil gets trapped within your pores or hair follicles.
There are different types of acne that people often confuse with one another, making it difficult to know exactly what is being discussed and treated.
Let’s clear up some of the confusion people have with the different types of acne as they are often mistaken for one another. Having a better understanding of the types helps us to identify closed comedones more easily and prevent them from getting worse.
Open vs. Closed Comedones
Comedones, both open and closed, occur when the follicle expands with the trapped skin cells and oils. Closed comedones completely obstruct the follicle and do not allow for an opening at the top while open comedones do have a distinct center point.
Open comedones are also referred to as blackheads, while closed comedones are whiteheads.
Blackheads are dark at the surface because of their exposure to the air, not because they are small pieces of dirt, which is what many people have come to believe. The buildup being exposed to oxygen leads to its color.
Whiteheads are skin-colored or slightly white because they have not been exposed to the air and are slightly underneath the skin.
Whiteheads are simply bumps with no clear opening, which means that whiteheads do not have pus coming out of them and cannot be popped. What people typically call whiteheads are actually a different type of acne. These appear to have a clear opening that has white or yellow pus and actually look white.
This graphic gives a great visual representation of all the different types of acne!
Inflamed vs. Non-Inflamed Acne
Most people think of whiteheads as the white or yellow pus that forms in an inflamed pimple. This is actually a different type of acne altogether. Acne can be divided into inflamed and non-inflamed acne. Inflamed acne is a more severe form of acne, while non-inflamed is much milder. Closed comedones fall into the non-inflamed category, which is easier to manage.
These different types of acne can be broken down further in helping to identify them. The first category is known as inflamed acne:
- Papules: Bumps under the skin that become pink and swollen. There is no visible center to them, and they arise when comedones become irritated, and the surrounding skin is inflamed.
- Pustules: These are the pimples with defined centers that fill with white or yellow pus. Bacteria and old cells form this pus. They look like inflamed whiteheads with a very distinct center.
- Nodules: These are large lumps located deep in the skin with no clear head. This is a more severe form of acne that causes tissue and cell damage on a deeper scale. This can lead to scarring.
- Cysts: Also found deep in the skin, these are large red or white lumps that are filled with pus. These are the most severe types of acne.
The other type of acne is non-inflamed, which is what closed comedones fall under:
- Whiteheads (closed comedones): There is no swelling that occurs, and they are typically not painful. They do not lead to scarring and are the least severe form of acne.
They are given their name for the slightly lighter color they reveal compared to healthy skin. They are seen as bumps and are found on your face, chest, neck, and back most commonly.
- Blackheads (open comedones): These are not inflamed as the skin around the dark center looks normal.
Blackheads are the same as whiteheads, but the center of the whitehead is opened and has been exposed to air. The contact with air is what makes it turn darker and appear black compared to your skin.
Knowing the characteristics of each type of acne will make them much easier to identify and therefore assess how you should go about treating them. Open and closed comedones are the least severe forms of acne, making them easier to treat and less invasive than many other forms.
What Causes Closed Comedones?
As mentioned, closed comedones are the plugging of hair follicles by skin cells and oils. This can occur naturally or be caused by the many products and elements that come in contact with our skin.
Comedones are most commonly found on your face (forehead and chin), neck, chest, and back.
Comedones come down to the overproduction of sebum. This is produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin, which is designed to keep the skin well-oiled and lubricated.
When too much of this is produced, it clogs the pores and hair follicles it was supposed to keep hydrated. Bacteria are attracted to the buildup of sebum and lead to comedo or acne creation.
Some of these issues can be avoided while others are more difficult to control. There are many more factors that can be controlled, making closed comedones easier to manage than many more severe forms of acne.
Let’s look at the specifics of what can cause closed comedones.
Controllable Causes of Closed Comedones
All of these factors can be avoided or adjusted in order to better manage or prevent closed comedones from occurring. Paying attention to these areas and altering them is the first step you should take before considering medications and more invasive treatments.
- Makeup and Moisturizers: Many products are oil-based which may be clogging your hair follicles and pores more easily than choosing alternatives or wearing nothing at all.
There are specific dyes and chemicals (propylene glycol and isopropyl myristate) that are present in these products that can fill your pores. If you notice comedones around your hairline, your hair products may also include these.
- Diet: Dairy, fat, and sugar-rich diets are more likely to have a negative impact on the presence of closed comedones. Dairy has been linked to changes in testosterone, which can increase oil production on the skin.
Imbalances in fats cause inflammation which starts to show on the outside (skin) in addition to inside inflammation. Foods that spike your blood sugar levels are combatted with increased insulin production, which has been linked to acne.
- Stress: Stress has a large impact on our physical and physiological responses. Stress can impact the cells that regulate oils in our body, potentially causing pores to be blocked.
- Medications: A wide range of medications, including lithium, corticosteroids, barbiturates, androgenic steroids, DHEA, anticonvulsants, thyroid meds, and medicine with bromides or iodides (cough medicines and sedatives) can cause hormonal imbalances and can be controlled by changing doses or looking for alternative solutions or brands.
These drugs may contain testosterone or cortisol which increases oil production.
- Smoking: Comedonal acne is much more common in smokers than in non-smokers. Findings are not yet strong enough to pinpoint smoking as a clear cause, but there is a strong correlation.
- Washing and Irritation of Skin: Washing your skin too aggressively or picking at pimples and skin can cause irritation and rupturing of follicles. This may lead to the formation of new closed comedones.
- Humidity: Increased humidity can lead to an increase in sweating and oily skin, leading to greater pore blockage and therefore lead to more whiteheads.
Difficult-to-Control Causes of Closed Comedones
Some factors are more difficult to control, and often times cannot be consciously changed. Medications and other treatments may need to be employed to keep these under control.
- Puberty: The production of sebum (natural body oil designed to keep skin cells from drying out) is increased during puberty and fills the hair follicles, making them unable to keep themselves clean from bacteria and dead cells. This then leads to whiteheads being produced, and these factors make them more common in teens.
- Hormones: Imbalances in testosterone, impacts of menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can all impact the increased production of closed comedones.
- Genetics: Unfortunately, some people will be predisposed to whiteheads more than others. This can be hard to control and must be managed more closely.
- Pore Protein Production: Some people may produce more cells that are known to become inflamed within pores, blocking these areas.
Knowing the causes can help you to identify any lifestyle changes that need to be made or monitored in order to best keep your acne under control.
If you struggle with a cause that is more difficult to manage on your own, consult a dermatologist or physician for medications that can be taken.
How To Get Rid of Closed Comedones
There are multiple avenues to take when treating closed comedones. The first options are to look at factors that may be easier to manipulate or change in controlling closed comedones.
Making changes yourself should be done first before looking into medications and potentially more invasive treatments.
Changes to diet, skincare routine, makeup application, and stress management are a few of the steps you can take to better manage and prevent closed comedones.
Here are some tips you can try in order to make these changes a bit easier:
- Use oil-free cosmetics and wash your face after wearing makeup each day with soap and water.
- Keep dairy, sugar, and fats at lower levels in your diet to control acne.
- If you are feeling stressed, take some time out of your day to breathe, relax, and practice a little self-care. Your skin will thank you.
- Avoid smoking (for more reasons other than skin), but this will also have a positive impact on your skin.
- Use skin exfoliates every once in a while. This will help to break up skin cells and oil that can get trapped.
These areas should be monitored and altered before you jump immediately to creams and medications. It may be as simple as a makeup you are using, and you won’t know unless you try adjusting these categories.
Making these changes can prevent additional money and time being spent on combatting a problem that you have the power to alter and control.
If changes to lifestyle are not effective, changes can be made with medications and topical ointments to help keep this acne at bay. In the most severe cases, medication procedures may need to be performed.
Lack of care in controlling closed comedones can lead to the formation of pimples and inflammation.
Some of these treatments include:
- Over the counter medication: Salicylic acid and glycolic acid are two ingredients that help improve your skin’s ability to produce and replace cells. This prevents pores and follicles from getting clogged.
- Benzoyl peroxide: Found in most over the counter and prescription acne medications, it works by introducing oxygen into the pores, which kills the bacteria inside. It also works to clear the cells of debris and keep them from clogging.
- Retinoid: These ingredients help to quicken the cell turnover process, which increases skin shedding and prevents clogging of pores. These should be used in moderation at first as they can be quite irritating to the skin for new users.
- Birth control: Oral contraceptives change the hormone balances in your body, and many of them have had positive impacts on your skin.
- Oral medication: For more severe forms of acne or closed comedones, dermatologists may prescribe an oral treatment plan. This is typically used when topical treatments do not work. This targets acne at a deeper level and maybe more effective, especially if you have closed comedones in harder to reach areas for topical treatment.
- Extraction: In more severe cases, dermatologists can remove and unclog the buildup that is causing the acne. This should be done by a professional rather than at home to avoid infections and more serious damage to the skin. This is not a preventative treatment, so you will need to incorporate a plan to prevent future comedones.
You should consult your physician or dermatologist before taking these medications and treatments.
Some over the counter treatments should be fine to try, but more intense treatments will require prescriptions and advice from your doctors based on your personal medical history.
Natural Remedies for Closed Comedones
There are some remedies you can try that use simple ingredients that you can often find around your home. These are less expensive and often times more natural. Natural alternatives may be less harsh on your skin and better for the overall environment.
Natural remedies should also be used with caution as they do not always undergo the same testing as other products.
Here are some natural remedies you can try that will help to prevent and manage closed comedones:
- Vitamin A cream: Vitamin A has positive impacts on the skin in both reducing inflammation and encouraging the growth of healthy cells. These help to turn over skin cells and prevent pores from becoming clogged.
- Witch hazel: Comes from a plant and works to open up your pores. You can apply it with a cotton ball two times a day to help clear up acne.
- Honey: With antiseptic and antibacterial qualities, honey can be helpful in managing oily skin and acne. Apply a thin layer on your face for 10 minutes to let dry and rinse off. Raw honey works best with more natural properties.
- Aloe vera: This natural plant product is found in many over the counter acne medications and is said to help in managing closed comedones and other acnes. Use by itself has not had conclusive results, but it works well in combination with other acne medications.
- Homemade face mask: Combine 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of honey to apply as a face mask. Remove once it has dried. This should be done somewhat sparingly as lemon juice can be harsh on many people’s skin. These ingredients are used because they help to tighten pores, allowing for less buildup potential. Lemons can help absorb oil with their acidic qualities.
- Tea tree oil: This is a natural ingredient that can help manage bacteria and inflammation. For these reasons, they can aid in the maintenance and clearing up of whiteheads.
- Tomatoes: Lots of over the counter creams contain salicylic acid, and so do tomatoes! This acid helps to unclog pores and absorb skin oils. You can use tomatoes to make a skin mask. Combine tomato pulp with sugar and apply it in a circular pattern. Leave on for a few minutes and rinse off. You can also just put tomato slices on your face if you don’t want to exfoliate.
Many of these natural alternatives are sold over the counter and found in a drug store. Many of these ingredients are active in other acne medications and prescriptions because they have proven to be effective.
Whether using them alone or in other products, you can count on these ingredients to provide naturally effective benefits.
Skin Care Routine To Prevent and Get Rid of Closed Comedones
In addition to medications, lifestyle changes, and anything involved outside of physically working with your skin, there are simple routines you can adhere to for clearer skin.
These will vary between different people as everyone has different skin types and hormone production. Trying these strategies out has been helpful for a majority of people.
You do not need a crazy intensive routine to prevent whiteheads from popping up. Simple habits daily can help to eliminate unwanted acne. Some of these tips include:
- Washing your face: Use a mild soap and wash your face once per day. You can do this in the evening after your face (and any other areas closed comedones appear) has accumulated oils and sweat from the day.
- Temperature: Water temperature matters to keep your skin healthy. Too hot of water can either burn your skin or dry your skin out. Use lukewarm to warm water for cleaning and rinsing.
- Exfoliate: This essentially means that you are removing dead skin cells from your skin. You can do this with certain face scrubs, brushes, and patterns of rubbing your skin.
Make sure that you are not going overboard by scrubbing too hard or too often as these can actually damage your skin. Exfoliate only a few times a week to remove dead cells, even skin smoothness, help to fade scars and dark spots and brighten overall complexion.
- Sun protection: Wearing sunscreen is important to make sure your skin is well-protected from harmful rays. If you are looking to protect your face, use face-specific sunscreens as many are full of oils and can clog your pores.
- Haircare: Oil from your hair can clog your pores and cause unwanted acne and closed comedones. You should be washing your hair frequently and making sure that hair products are kept away from your face. These products are often full of oils that are known to clog.
- Sanitize Your Personal Items: Things you put up against your face or head regularly should be cleaned. This includes your phone, sunglasses, and pillowcase. Bacteria, oils, and dirt can build up and be causing acne without you even knowing it.
- Makeup: Take makeup off after every use to prevent buildup. Make sure you are using products that are oil-free if you are prone to oily skin or have had issues with closed comedones.
Old makeup should be changed out to prevent bacteria, and makeup brushes and sponges should be cleaned after use. Cells can live in there and enter follicles once reapplied to your face.
Adhering to any of these strategies that are applicable can make a world of a difference for your skin routine. Not all of these will work for every individual so pick and choose ones that you can use to your advantage.
Things to Avoid to Get Rid of Closed Comedones
This article has done a lot of telling you what to do, but let’s cover some of the things you should avoid doing to keep your closed comedones under control.
When they appear, there are some things you should stay away from in order to help them heal and go away as quickly as possible.
- Don’t pick at them: There is no central open point on closed comedones, meaning that you would have to break the skin to take out the contents. This can lead to infection and inflammation.
It transforms a comedo into an inflamed pimple, making a small issue a bigger one. It may be tempting, but do not pop them! Your fingers are typically dirty too, exposing your skin to more bacteria.
- Harsh chemicals: Vinegar and citrus can be used to help dry out and tighten pores, but these can be incredibly harsh on your skin. Avoid this treatment method, especially with frequent use, as it may cause skin irritations for healthy skin.
These are the two main areas you should be careful of. There are certainly more proactive things you can do to help manage these comedones than try to physically get rid of them.
Prevention is the most effective step you can take in your care routine to not only treat existing closed comedones but also not allow new ones to make their way through.
Summary: How to Getting Rid of Closed Comedones?
We’ve broken down the specifics of closed comedones and how they differ from other forms of acne. They are small bumps that are neither red nor inflamed.
Luckily, they are some of the least severe and the easiest to treat. Tackling them in their first stages is important to avoid them becoming more serious and transforming into inflamed acne.
They can appear for a variety of reasons, ones that you can control and others that are related to your physical makeup.
For causes that can be controlled, lifestyle changes and routines can greatly benefit.
For more difficult problems to solve, medications and extractions may be necessary. There are natural alternatives that many patients may find more helpful.
The most common causes to be mindful of are:
- Oily makeups and moisturizers
- Hormonal imbalances and genetics
Once you have identified the cause of the closed comedones, it will be easier to choose a treatment plan. Treatment is all about consistency and should be taken seriously until all the symptoms clear up.
Once the comedones are gone, it is important to maintain a routine that prevents new ones from arising.
With this knowledge now under your belt and actionable steps to take in treatment and prevention, you can keep closed comedones out of your life. When they do appear, you will know exactly what to look for as potential causes and know how to take care of them.
Acne can feel like the end of the world and embarrassing, especially when it’s on your face! The good thing about closed comedones is that they are the least severe form of acne and can be caught early to prevent greater inflammation from occurring.
The combination of lifestyle changes, natural remedies, and over the counter medication can make a world of a difference! There’s no reason to stress about closed comedones because they are quite easy to treat, especially with the incredibly wide variety of treatment plans!
If one of these causes stuck out as a potential trigger for your closed comedones, start there and make necessary changes to stop them. If that isn’t it, use our list to land on the one that keeps those comedones away!