How to Address Closed Comedones: 3 Effective Ways
Do you know what closed comedones are? Or more importantly, do you know if you have them? Whether you’re in the know or not, one thing is clear—you can’t can’t care for your skin effectively unless you know exactly what you’re dealing with. If you have an interest in skin care or a background with breakouts, you’re likely aware that closed comedones are a type of acne but it’s possible that your familiarity stops there. It’s critical to note that not all acne is the same. Pimples, cysts, open comedones, and closed comedones are all different—requiring different methods of attack. To find out how to address closed comedones (and what they are in the first place), read on.
What are Closed Comedones?
Let’s get right to it—chances are you already know closed comedones by another name. And that name is…whiteheads. If you’ve ever complained about a particularly unsightly whitehead, the source of your frustration was exactly the same thing as a closed comedone. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a comedo is a clogged pore caused by skin debris combining with oil. A comedo can either be open, in which case it’s a blackhead, or closed, which makes it a whitehead. When the pore closes up, you see a tiny bump that is typically white in color—hence the name.
3 Ways to Address Closed Comedones
Waiting for a breakout to run its course isn’t always easy, but if you’re tempted to pop closed comedones or pick at your skin, it’s time to learn better ways to address this complexion concern. Picking at your skin won’t help get rid of closed comedones. Rather, it’s likely to lead to scarring, irritation, and even more whiteheads. That’s why a “hands-off” approach, where your hands are forbidden from messing with your skin, is well-advised in place of picking. That doesn’t mean you have to leave your skin to fend for itself, there are a myriad of ways to address closed comedones that don’t involve squeezing your skin. Consider these three ways to effectively handle closed comedones:
1. Over-the-Counter Topical Treatments
In most cases, whiteheads are easy to manage, with the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggesting topical formulas that you can purchase at your local drugstore. When picking products, look for any of the following ingredients:
Benzoyl Peroxide: The AAD suggests using a benzoyl peroxide—an ingredient the NCBI says promotes the resolution of comedones—face wash to help reduce excess P. acnes bacteria on your skin.
Salicylic Acid: The NCBI lists this beta hydroxy acid as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent that is capable of promoting exfoliation. Dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Jeanne Eyde also recommends salicylic acid to help prevent clogged pores and stop closed comedones from forming.
Glycolic Acid: Alpha hydroxy acids are another type of chemical exfoliator that can be used to prevent clogged pores. Dr. Eyde encourages the use of glycolic acid, which the NCBI states has an excellent capability to penetrate the top layers of skin, in particular.
Retinoids: Recommended by Dr. Eyde, these vitamin A derivatives are popular choices for unclogging pores and are available both over the counter and by prescription.
No matter which topical agent you choose to use, the AAD reveals you’ll want to give 6 to 8 weeks to see results. In other words, don’t expect them to appear overnight!
2. Prescription Strength Topicals
If attempting to address closed comedones on your own is unsuccessful, or you’d simply prefer to skip straight to visiting a dermatologist, prescription strength topical treatments are also an option. According to the AAD, dermatologists will typically recommend a retinoid for addressing both closed and open comedones.
3. Comedo Extraction
For stubborn whiteheads, the AAD shares that a procedure like comedo extraction may help. But don’t take that to mean at-home extraction is acceptable—only a dermatologist should perform this procedure.