Everything You Need to Know About Closed Comedones

Everything You Need to Know About Closed Comedones

CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare
By: Danielle Gronich

Danielle Gronich, known as The Acne Guru™ is the formulator and CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare, a non-toxic skincare line that uses premium ingredients to correct acne, acne scars, DNA damage, and melasma. Danielle studied cellular biology and genetics throughout her education and has had a passion for solving acne

Danielle Gronich, known as The Acne Guru™ is the formulator and CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare, a non-toxic skincare line that uses premium ingredients to correct acne, acne scars, DNA damage, and melasma. Danielle studied cellular biology and genetics throughout her education and has had a passion for solving acne

Acne vs. Pimples: How to Tell the Difference Reading Everything You Need to Know About Closed Comedones 12 minutes Next Your Guide to Acne Purging

Closed comedones are actually very common in the skincare world and are nothing to be afraid of. Characterized by either skin-colored bumps on your skin or dark spots, comedones are a particularly frustrating type of breakout and can be pretty dang annoying to deal with.

If you’ve been dealing with clogged pores and suspect that those blemishes on your face may be comedones, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go ahead and dive deeper into what comedones are and how to treat them together. That way, the next time you do see one pop up on your face, you’ll already have the inside scoop on all of the information needed to banish them for good.

What are Closed Comedones?

Comedones is actually the plural of the word comedo, which simply describes the two most common causes of acne. These are whiteheads (also known as closed comedones) and blackheads (open comedones). Most people who deal with acne will experience comedonal acne at some point in their lives. (1)

Comedonal acne can be more likely to pop up in people who have a family history of this type of acne, and of course, those wonderful hormonal fluctuations of everyday life can also cause this type of acne to become more prevalent. On the upside, unlike other types of acne, comedones aren’t usually painful and can usually be treated easily.

What Causes Closed Comedones?

As we mentioned above, comedones can be caused by any of the usual culprits that bring about the rest of your acne woes. Comedones are actually extremely common in people whose pimples don’t result in inflammatory acne. In other words, this means that comedones can and do often come up on their own, without other types of acne surrounding them. 

If you are searching to answer what causes closed comedones on your own skin, look at your everyday habits. Of course, comedones can be caused by hormones raging in your body (for a variety of reasons, not just for puberty) or skin sensitivities and irritations. But comedones can pop up on their own in many situations.

If you use a lot of hair products, for instance, comedones may be more likely to pop up along your hairline. Also, if you have an item of clothing that is particularly tight around the hem (like a hat or shirt), comedones may start to show up in areas that chafe the skin. Furthermore, closed comedones can often appear on the facial areas where the skin is thinner, but they can also be present on the body (like your back and chest). (2)

Whiteheads and blackheads are usually very easy to differentiate from other types of acne, as they will be small and present with a particularly colored head. They can also feel hard and bumpy, though they should not feel like tiny rocks within your skin. And unlike inflammatory acne (such as pustules or nodules), these breakouts are not typically painful (unless they get infected by bacteria).

Closed Comedones vs. Milia

If you’ve read up on closed comedones then you’ve also likely come across something called “milia,” but when it comes to closed comedones vs milia, the two are normally easy to tell apart. Milia generally appear around the eyes and eyelids and are hard, white bumps that don’t “pop”. With that in mind, here’s what to look for when comparing the two.

Closed comedones are what happens when a pore gets clogged from an excess buildup of oils and dead skin cells that form a plug within the pore itself. These clogs can be in a singular pore or appear in a cluster. They are usually flesh-colored, though can appear darker or lighter in appearance (hence the name “whiteheads” and “blackheads”) and can look like bumpy, non-inflamed skin.

Milia, on the other hand, are very white or yellow bumps that occur in clusters on the skin. They are caused when dead skin cells do not leave the skin properly, and these dead skin cells get trapped within the skin, causing a cyst. Milia can be on the face or body and are not itchy or painful, though they may feel very hard. (3)

If you are unsure as to whether your blemishes are milia or comedones, it may be best to seek the advice of your dermatologist. They can help give you a proper diagnosis and let you know what your best treatment options are to get rid of them. Depending on the severity of them, chemical exfoliants can help extract them, or manual extraction may also be necessary.

How to Get Rid of Closed Comedones Naturally

Fortunately, comedones are one of the easiest types of acne to treat yourself at home without involving expensive dermatological visits or prescription medications. Sure, they can seem stubborn, but simple changes in your routine and some topical applications to your pores can clear this type of blemish up easily and with minimal damage to your skin.

Don’t feel daunted if they don’t vanish overnight, though. Remember, when it comes to how to get rid of closed comedones, trial, error, and patience are all going to be your friends. Once you start to see results and those unwanted bumps start to fade away, you’ll be happy you stuck it out!

Acne Fighting Products

Over-the-counter acne-fighting ingredients can help provide some of the best products for closed comedones. While these products occur in our bodies naturally, sometimes we need a concentrated shot directly on our blemishes to help them disappear. Look for products like our acne-safe scrub cleanser or a gentle mandelic acid serum (both of which are amazing for unclogging pores, if we do say so ourselves).

You may want to look for specific ingredients, as well, that can help target your particular acne woes more closely. Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and alpha-hydroxy acids are all naturally occurring ingredients that can help fight different types of pimples. Depending on your skin type and how sensitive it is, you may decide to choose one over the other.

Witch Hazel

It’s important when treating your acne to look for things that are specifically non-comedogenic. Just FYI, but this just simply means that the ingredients in a particular product will not block or clog the pores in your skin. That said, witch hazel is an amazing over-the-counter non-comedogenic astringent that can work wonders on your clogged pores.

Not only does it leave your skin feeling nice and clean, but it can also help remove any residual bacteria (that pesky C. acnes) that can cause comedones. Witch hazel can dry out sensitive skin, though, so make sure you’re only using it as instructed. We suggest starting out using it only a couple times a week, then slowly titrate up once you know how your skin will adapt to it. (4)

Honey

Surprisingly, this pantry staple is supposed to do all kinds of good things for the skin, and it may help clear up acne. Honey actually has naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient and is also antibacterial. Not only is it incredibly yummy, but honey can be used directly on the face or in a mask made with other safe, common household ingredients. (5)

Remember to find pure honey though, as other additives can be harmful to your skin and lead to more breakouts. We recommend using local, organic, and raw honey, as it can contain good-for-you allergen-fighting ingredients to help ward off bad reactions and inflammation. (6)

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a naturally occurring antiseptic that has become a popular ingredient in many facial cleansers and treatments. This should always be diluted before applying topically. Be careful to read up on the tea tree you buy and make sure you know the ingredients and that they are organic, though. You don’t want to put just anything on your skin. (7)

Tea tree oil can also be harmful if ingested, so use it topically only and keep it away from your mucous membranes (like your nostrils, eyes, and mouth). That said, if you have extremely sensitive skin, you may want to stay away from this one, or talk to a dermatologist first before experimenting with it.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has certainly become very popular over the years for a whole myriad of naturally occurring benefits, so it’s no surprise that it may be good for your skin as well. With antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, swiping apple cider vinegar over your skin as an astringent can help clear breakouts by killing harmful bacteria and clearing out any gunk trapped in your pores. (8) Taking ACV orally as a dietary supplement is also extremely beneficial for helping to stimulate healthy digestion and reduce inflammation.

Steam

Yes, you read that right: steam. A simple steam bath on your face can do wonders for your skin whether you have acne issues or not. You can buy an expensive facial steamer, but you don’t need to get that fancy, as a basic setup can do the trick just as nicely.

Simply take a hot shower (but don’t let the hot water hit your face directly, as that can actually backfire and make your breakouts worse), or fill a bowl with hot water and then hold your face close without touching the hot water. You can drape a towel over your head above the bowl to concentrate the steam towards your face and neck, too, if you like. (9)

How to Prevent Closed Comedones

Closed comedones in the form of whiteheads and blackheads can be prevented before they start, or even as they start to form. When you are buying new skincare products for your routine, remember to always look for products that are labeled as non-comedogenic skincare for the best results.

You’ll also want to be sure to cross-reference our pore clogging ingredient list to help make sure you avoid any blemish-causing hiccups, too. While investigating your daily routine, you may also investigate the clothes you wear. Synthetic materials or dense, tight weaves that may be more likely to trap dirt can be more likely to cause comedones to pop up in your skin.

Are you getting whiteheads or blackheads consistently in one particular spot, for instance? Think about what you may be wearing that hits that spot in particular and if they may be the hidden culprit.

We know it’s a given, but we still want you to remember to keep your clothes clean, even if they don’t necessarily look or smell dirty. Think about your favorite winter hat, for instance, and when was the last time it was washed… yikes. (And while we’re on the subject, you’ll also want to wash your pillowcases regularly, too, to help ward off any potential acne breakouts.)

The Takeaway

Closed comedones in the form of whiteheads and blackheads may sound like scary, unfamiliar things. However, in reality, they’re actually very common and easily treatable. Whether the comedones are popping up on their own or as part of a larger acne issue, whiteheads and blackheads happen to nearly everyone. 

The first step is learning about the issue and knowing how to treat your closed comedones once and for all. And with that knowledge now tucked securely away in your back pocket, you’ll be better armed with the tools to go fight your blemishes – and finally get that smooth, bump-free skin you’ve always wanted.


Sources

Source 1: Acne Vulgaris - StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459173/

Source 2: Is sports equipment causing your acne? https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/sports-equipment

Source 3: Milia - StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560481/

Source 4: Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Acne Effects of Hamamelis virginiana Bark in Human Keratinocytes https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35740016/

Source 5: Antibacterial Potency of Honey https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6589292/

Source 6: Honey as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Its Molecular Mechanisms of Action https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5822819/

Source 7: Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16418522/

Source 8: Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/

Source 9: Impact of Water Exposure and Temperature Changes on Skin Barrier Function https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8778033/

 

CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare
By: Danielle Gronich

Danielle Gronich, known as The Acne Guru™ is the formulator and CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare, a non-toxic skincare line that uses premium ingredients to correct acne, acne scars, DNA damage, and melasma. Danielle studied cellular biology and genetics throughout her education and has had a passion for solving acne

Danielle Gronich, known as The Acne Guru™ is the formulator and CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare, a non-toxic skincare line that uses premium ingredients to correct acne, acne scars, DNA damage, and melasma. Danielle studied cellular biology and genetics throughout her education and has had a passion for solving acne