3 Ways to Address Closed Comedones (A.K.A. Whiteheads)
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 care for your skin effectively unless you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Closed comedones are a type of acne, and as you likely know, all acne is not the same. Pimples, cysts,open comedones and closed comedones are all different — and require different methods of attack.
What Are Closed Comedones?
Let’s get right to it — chances are you already know closed comedones by another name. If you’ve ever complained about 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 pore clogged by skin debris combined 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, though. There are myriad ways to address closed comedones that don’t involve squeezing your skin. Consider these three ways to effectively handle closed comedones:
Address Closed Comedones With 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 acne 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 recommends the BHA salicylic acid to help prevent clogged pores and stop closed comedones from forming. One product we like for the task is La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Acne Toner, an exfoliating toner with salicylic and glycolic acid that helps to remove pore-clogging debris and smooth skin texture.
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. For easy use, opt for product-soaked pads like Urban Skin RX Clear & Even Tone Clarifying Glycolic Pads, formulated with glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid that promote even skin tone while also removing excess oil. The pad itself is textured, too, providing extra exfoliation.
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. We like our retinoids affordable, which is why we swear by L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle + Firming Face & Neck Cream. This daily moisturizer contains Pro-Retinol A and Stimuplex and promises firmer skin in just four weeks.
No matter which topical agent you choose, the AAD recommends giving products 6 to 8 weeks to see results. In other words, don’t expect them to appear overnight!
Address Closed Comedones With 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.
Address Closed Comedones With Comedo Extractions
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.