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  5. Comedonal Acne: What, Why & Ways To Treat Them
According to scientific studies, 85% of people who get acne post adolescence have comedonal acne. It affects a large number of teenagers as well.

If you are bothered by blackheads and whiteheads on your face, you have comedonal acne. Thousands of Indian women find them roadblocks in their skin care game. But there are a variety of treatment options you can try to get rid of them. Keep reading to find out how.

What Are Comedones And How Are They Formed?

Comedones are hair follicles on the skin that get clogged by dirt, excess oil (sebum) and dead skin cells.

1. Appearance

Comedones appear as small, flesh-colored bumps on the skin [1] and are considered as mild acne. These are non-inflammatory acne. All inflamed pimples start with a comedo (singular form of comedone). If left untreated or infected by bacteria, they may turn into painful red bumps that are papules or pustules.

2. Who Gets It?

Comedonal acne can affect teenagers and adults as well.

3. Site Of Appearance

They are commonly found on the nose, chin and forehead.

What Causes Comedonal Acne?

1. Oily Skin

Oily skin is a result of overactive sebaceous glands [2] in the dermal layer of the skin.

2. Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalances can trigger comedonal acne. You may sometimes notice acne when you are around your period.

3. Heredity

Comedonal acne may run in families. If your parent has had comedonal acne, there is a high chance that you will have it.

4. Improper Skin Care

Improper cleansing and lack of moisturizing can lead to the buildup of dead skin cells and clog pores.

5. Comedogenic Skin Care Products

Certain skin care products may flare up comedonal acne.

6. Skin Treatments

Skin treatments like laser therapy or chemical peels can lead to comedonal acne.

7. Diet

Food high in sugar and fats have the tendency to cause breakouts in the form of comedonal acne.

Types Of Comedones

1. Open Comedones

When the clogging is deeper in the sebaceous glands (oil producing glands), it causes white heads [3] or open comedones.

2. Closed Comedones

When the clogged pores or hair follicles are exposed to air, they oxidise and lead to blackheads or closed comedones [4].

open comedone and closed  comedone

How To Get Rid Of Comedonal Acne?

OTC (over-the-counter) treatments like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoid work well for comedonal acne. Bear in mind that with any treatment for comedonal acne, it takes about three months to see visible results.

1. Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid)

Salicylic acid remains one of the first lines of defence to treat comedonal acne. It is fat-loving or lipophilic and penetrates the oil producing glands to unclog pores.

It kills P.acnes bacteria and reduces the inflammation or redness associated with acne [5]. Avoid using salicylic acid when you are using retinol as it may cause irritation.

2. Glycolic Acid (Alpha Hydroxy Acid)

Glycolic acid cleans the pores and removes the top layers of the skin, including comedones [6]. It can even out the skin tone and give you a radiant glow.

3. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide is also one of the effective topical treatments for comedones [7]. It has an antibacterial effect and unclogs pores.

4. Retinoids

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that help in skin cell turnover [8]. Common retinoids that can be used for comedonal acne are tretinoin and adapalene. Retinoids produce fresh and tender cells that are prone to sun damage.

It is important to use sunscreen while using retinoids. Never mix retinol with vitamin C as it can lead to adverse reactions.

5. Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a wonderful ingredient in skin care. It is a vitamin B3 derivative [9] and is excellent at controlling the excess production of sebum. It also reduces the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads. What’s more? It helps in giving your skin an even complexion.

6. Antibiotics

Comedonal acne is a mild form of acne that usually subsides with topical treatment. However, if there are inflammatory lesions along with comedonal acne, antibiotics can be used.

Tetracycline, doxycycline (Vibramycin), minocycline (Minocin) and erythromycin [10] are common antibiotics for comedonal acne. These penetrate the sebaceous glands and also prevent the colonization of P.acnes bacteria.


Never pick at a comedone as it can aggravate the condition. If your acne is not improving even after 3-4 months, it is advised to consult your dermatologist.

Home Remedies For Comedonal Acne

Even though home remedies for comedonal acne do not find a place in scientific records, they are being used by people for their efficacy.

1. Facial Steam

A good steam can open up the pores and clear comedonal acne. This is the reason why your salon facials use steam between scrubbing and massaging the face.

Apple cider vinegar H3 Apple cider vinegar is quite acidic and has the ability to dry the skin. It can remove the oiliness, clogged pores and associated comedones. Mix apple cider vinegar with warm water and apply it all over the face. Repeat a few times till you see the desired results.

Lemon juice H3 Lemon juice can absorb the excess oils and remove comedones. It can be applied either directly or can be diluted with water. Make sure you do not go out in the sun immediately after applying lemon on the face as it can lead to sun damage.

2. Honey

Honey’s sticky nature makes it seep into the pores and repair them. It is an excellent antibacterial agent and dries up the comedonal acne.

3. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel, a common astringent, is used in many skin care products like toners and cleansers. It causes the pores to shrink, thereby pushing the clogged dirt to push up and get washed away.

Tips To Prevent Comedonal Acne

Cleanse your face thoroughly twice a day to get rid of the dirt and dead skin cells.

  • Cleanse your face thoroughly twice a day to get rid of the dirt and dead skin cells.
  • Use a non-greasy, light textured moisturizer to avoid breakouts.
  • Follow it up with a broad spectrum sunscreen while you step outdoors.
  • Avoid scrubbing too hard as it can strip off the natural oils and trigger overproduction of sebum.
  • Be mindful of what you eat. Avoid foods rich in fats and sugars.
  • Never sleep with makeup on your face. Allow your face to breathe while you take the beauty sleep.
  • Avoid pollution and cover your face with a stole if you have to.
  • Do not pop or squeeze comedonal acne.
  • Use clean pillow cases to avoid transfer of bacteria onto the face.

When To See A Dermatologist?

Comedonal acne is curable with topical therapy like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or OTC retinoids. If you do not see your acne improving even after 3-4 months, you may consider a visit to the dermatologist’s office. Your doctor may prescribe a different approach like manual extraction or a higher strength retinoid.

Following a good skin care routine is as important as treating comedonal acne. Be patient while you are taking OTC treatments for comedonal acne. How have you managed comedonal acne? Let us know.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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