Everything You Need to Know About Microcomedones, The Smallest Type of Blemish
We know that oil, makeup and dead skin cells can lead to blemishes, be it in the form of comedones, pustules, papules or cysts. But there’s another, perhaps lesser-known factor to consider when thinking about the formation of acne: Microcomedones. They’re essentially the precursor to breakouts and can either remain undeveloped (i.e. invisible) or “switch on” and manifest as a whitehead or blackhead. To get more information on microcomedones, we turned to Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
What Are Microcomedones?
In order for a pimple to form, there needs to be a combination of bacteria, inflammation and oil. But before this interaction takes place and skin flares, there also needs to be a “switch” turned on in something called a microcomedone. “The microcomedone is the earliest phase in comedogenesis and is an invisible precursor lesion,” says Dr. Marchbein. In other words, in the microcomedone stage, skin cells become stickier, start to accumulate inside the pore and can prevent sloughing. It’s during this critical time that a microcomedone will either stay invisible or combine with more bacteria and sebum to transition into a comedone.
Can You Stop Microcomedones from Becoming Comedones?
Here’s the good news: All microcomedones won’t necessarily become visible on the skin’s surface. “To try and prevent the switch from microcomedone to comedone, we treat the entire face, as opposed to spot treating, so that we are preventing new breakouts in addition to treating what is visible,” says Dr. Marchbein.
To address this, she recommends incorporating a prescription-strength retinoid into your routine as it will treat everything from microcomedones to inflammatory papules. “Retinoids can help treat blackheads and clogged pores by reducing the as well as speeding up the rate at which the skin turns over and regenerates,” she says.
If you’re looking for an over-the-counter option, Dr. Marchbein suggests the Avéne Cleanance Concentrate Blemish Control Serum, which is specifically formulated to interfere with the progression of a microcomedone to a comedone, the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Treatment or the CeraVe Acne Control Gel.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn