What are comedones?
Comedones refer to skin bumps, which are a result of clogged pores. A single bump or lesion is called a comedo. Skin pores can be fully or partially blocked and often lead to the formation of whiteheads and blackheads.
Mild acne involves the presence of whiteheads and blackheads, and is usually called comedonal acne. This skin condition forms because sebum (skin oil) and dead skin cells block the pores of the skin. The usual spots of comedonal acne are on the nose, chin, and forehead.
The blockage of skin pores is the primary cause of comedone formation. During stressful times and when hormones are imbalanced, excess sebum is produced. When sebum does not naturally flow through open skin pores, it causes the formation of a small bump on the skin called a comedo.
Comedones are formed when debris blocks the hair follicle and sebaceous duct. This blockage can also cause inflammation that can lead to acne. The condition can also get worse when skin pores are blocked by other irritating substances such as makeup or dirt.
Types of Comedones
There are two types of comedones: open (blackheads) and closed (whiteheads).
1. Open Comedones
Open comedones are more commonly called as blackheads. As the name suggests, blackheads get their name due to their dark color that describes the top of a comedo. However, blackheads can also develop into different colors, such as brown, yellow, or gray. Most people mistakenly think that blackheads are dirt present in the pore. Actually, blackheads turn dark in color because of oxidation.
Oxidation occurs when the pigment called melanin, which is found in sebum, gets in contact with air on top of an open comedo. If not oxidized, the color of the blackhead would be more yellowish instead of black.
2. Closed Comedones
Closed comedones are also called as whiteheads, which are painless small bumps on the skin. Whiteheads similarly develop like blackheads. Their only difference is that in whiteheads, the opening of the pore is obstructed, so no oxidation occurs because sebum is not exposed to the air. When whiteheads become quite obvious, they are called milia. Acne can also result when whiteheads become infected with bacteria.
3. Other Types of Comedones
- Microcomedones - These are very small comedones, which are invisible to the naked eye.
- Macrocomedones - These are closed comedones that are larger than 2 mm.
- Giant Comedo - A type of cyst with a large blackhead-like opening in the skin.
- Solar Comedones - These comedones are also called as senile comedones since they are normally found in middle-aged and elderly men, especially those who have been excessively exposed to ultraviolet radiation.
Mild cases of comedones or acne can be treated at home using over-the-counter medicine. However, severe cases may require medical attention. Consult a doctor if you have uncontrollable acne or comedones. In some cases, patients are referred to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating skin problems, for further evaluation.
Comedolytic topical medications can be used. Treatment using these medications should be applied 1-2 times a day or according to your doctor's instructions. It may take weeks, months, or even years before significant improvements are noticed, which is why long-term treatment is usually required.
Below are some of the topical agents used for treating acne-related skin problems:
- Azelaic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid in combination with sulfur-resorcinol
- Glycolic acid
- Retinoids (adapalene, isotretinoin, and tretinoin)
Medications that require doctor's prescription for comedonal acne include:
- Hormonal therapy
Comedonal acne can also be improved by taking antibiotics, although these are often prescribed to people who have inflammatory acne.
For the removal of persistent comedones, a surgical treatment may be required. Surgical procedures may include:
- Electrosurgery (diathermy or cautery)
1. Tea Tree Oil
A study has found that tea tree oil may have the same effects as benzoyl peroxide without the latter's negative side effects (skin peeling, inflamed skin, dry skin, etc.). Tea tree oil possesses antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria in the skin pores. It can help unclog the pores, thereby reducing the occurrence of comedonal acne.
A gentle facial wash using tea tree oil can be made by adding five drops of tea tree essential oil to two teaspoons of raw honey. Combine this mixture and apply it on your face. Leave it on for a minute before rinsing it off.
2. Witch Hazel Liquid
Although no product can truly shrink skin pores, witch hazel can help reduce their appearance by regulating excessive oil production, the development of blackheads and whiteheads, and sweating. It also helps in skin repair as well as improves skin texture.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which can help protect against bacterial infections, including the accumulation of dead skin cells and excess sebum in the pores. It also helps restores the skin's pH balance.
You can wash your face two times a day using mild soap and water if you have comedonal acne. Other preventive measures include:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding the consumption of foods high in sugar
- Limit fat intake
- Following a low-dairy diet
You should also avoid the following:
- Squeezing, popping, or touching comedones
- Using irritating skin care products
Other preventive measures include:
- Tighten the pores - You can lessen the chance of oil and dirt from building up by finding a pore-tightening skin care product. Just make sure that it suits your skin type. The chances of getting clogged pores are less if the skin pores are smaller.
- Regular exfoliation - Regular skin exfoliation promotes faster skin resurfacing. In this method, the skin pores can be cleaned and the accumulation of oil and dirt is prevented, thereby reducing the risk of having clogged pores.
- Proper selection of skin care products - Choosing the right skin care products for your skin type is very important. Make sure that the products you use do not clog skin pores. Some of the best skin care products have an oil-regulating mechanism.
- Take good care of your skin - The presence of comedones can make your skin more susceptible to infections and acne. You can get rid of blackheads and whiteheads as well as prevent the recurrence of comedones by taking good care of your skin. You can modify your skin care regimen to achieve favorable results. Moreover, make sure that the products you apply to your skin will not clog pores.
Comedones may not be threatening at first. However, they can develop into other skin issues, which can be annoying. Following the preventive measures and natural remedies above may help improve your skin without spending a fortune at skin clinics.