Acne is one of the most common skin conditions recorded in adults and teenagers. While the prominent characteristics of acne are inflamed red bumps and pores clogged with sebum or pus, not all acne exhibit these traits.
Whiteheads and blackheads are non-inflamed and pustule-free acne and are known as comedonal acne.
What is Comedonal Acne?
Comedonal acne is caused when sebaceous or oil glands overproduce oil and the excess oil along with dead skin and other debris block the hair follicles. These are of two types, blackheads, which are ‘open’ comedone and whiteheads, which are ‘closed’ comedones.
When the sebum is left in the open follicle, the colour of the sebum turns black leading to the formation of a blackhead, whereas when the sebum is not exposed to the outside environment and remains tucked under the skin, a small bump appears which is known as whiteheads,
Comedonal acne is usually observed in teenagers and adults. While they can appear on any part of the body, they are most generally recorded on the chin, nose and forehead.
Causes of Comedonal Acne
While comedonal acne is commonly caused when our pores are clogged with oil and dead skin cells, there are several other factors at work as well.
- Hormones: An imbalance in our hormones may trigger the overproduction of sebum while the dead skin may accumulate in the hair follicles rather than shedding resulting in comedonal acne.
- Oily Skin: People with oily skin are more prone to comedones as acne is an outcome of clogged natural oils and dead skin.
- Skincare: A poor skincare routine can lead to dead skin cells clogging the pores. Since comedonal acne can also appear on the rest of our body, sweaty clothes and poor hygiene may result in body acne.
- Diet: A diet that involves unhealthy amounts of sugar, certain dairy products and fatty foods can also be an acne-flaring factor.
- Over-hydrated Skin: Over-hydrating especially with wrong products can clog the skin pores. When selecting skincare products and beauty products, choose from a variety of oil-free and non-comedogenic products.
- Environmental factors: Pollution, high humidity, dirt, etc. can clog the skin pores.
- Skin Treatments: Harsh treatments like certain chemical peels, over-exfoliation, laser treatments, skin picking, pimple popping, etc. can result in comedonal acne.
- Hair Care Products: Haircare products like hair spray, gels, heavy oils can also be a factor leading to comedones.
- Smoking: Studies have also shown smokers are more prone to comedonal acne than non-smokers.
- Heredity: It can also be genetic.
Types of Comedones
Blackheads are small bumps with a plug of oil and dirt clogging the skin pore. It is exposed to air which darkens the bump to black/brown colour.
Unlike blackheads, whiteheads are small bumps that are trapped underneath the skin with a plug of oil and dirt clogging the pore.
Treating Comedonal Acne
Natural or home remedies are also being used by people to treat comedones though their effects are still being investigated. Before choosing a natural remedy, a consultation with your dermatologist is always worth it.
Tea tree oil:
Tea tree oil is a favourite of skincare enthusiasts due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It may be helpful in treating comedonal acne by inhibiting excess natural oil and reducing skin inflammation.
Loosening of skin pores and getting rid of the oil plug using steam. It also aids in controlling sebum production and preventing the accumulation of sebum and dirt in the pores.
Charcoal or clay masks:
In the last few years, charcoal masks have gained popularity among skin experts and enthusiasts. The dried mask helps strip off the dead skin and pulls out the sebum and dirt accumulated in the pores.
Comedonal acne can be treated at home with the help of over-the-counter skin products containing benzoyl peroxide, retinoid, Azelaic Acid, Glycolic Acid or salicylic acid.
Commonly used in anti-acne treatments, benzoyl peroxide treats and prevents acne by killing acne-causing bacteria and helping the pores shed dead skin and excess natural oils.
Retinoids are known for their acne management properties as they “act against comedones” and consist of anti-inflammatory properties. They also aid in skin cell turnover and influence the shedding of dead skin. Topical retinoids that can be used for acne treatment include tretinoin, adapalene and isotretinoin.
Note: When using retinoids in any form, sunscreen is a must. Experts strongly prohibit never combining retinol with vitamin C.
Considered as one of the most effective acids for acne treatment, salicylic acid works by slowing down the shedding of skin cells inside the follicles and thus, preventing clogging of the pores.
As a vitamin B3 derivative, niacinamide inhibits the overproduction of sebum and prevents comedonal acne.
SkinQ Suggests: Our Ph balanced Daily Glow Cleanser with the active ingredient niacinamide deep cleanses the skin to remove dirt and surface oil without damaging the skin barrier.
It is commonly used in acne treatments due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It also prevents the clogging of pores by breaking down the keratin protein.
As one of the most effective AHA, glycolic acid helps in getting rid of dead skin cells and thus, prevents clogging of the pores. It also cleans the skin's pores and prevents comedones.
Prevention is always better than cure, and these are a few tips that you can practice to prevent the appearance of comedones:
- Wash your face at least twice a day, but remember, excessive washing can dry out your skin and influence acne
- Avoid over-exfoliating
- Keep your skin clean from sweat and natural oils
- Use oil-free and non-comedogenic skincare and beauty products
- Moisturise your skin but don’t overdo it
- Always go to bed with a clean face i.e. without any makeup
- Practice a healthy diet
- Don’t pick on acne or skin in general
SkinQ Suggestion: Add our Acne Control Elixir Serum specially formulated for oily skin to your skincare routine. With active ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide, azelaic acid and retinol liposomes, it has proven to prevent skin clogging and thus, inhibit comedonal acne.
Comedonal acne may not be painful and induced with pus, but they still deserve your attention and must be prevented. While most people focus on external treatments for preventing and treating acne, a good diet goes a long way for healthy skin.
In cases when over-the-counter products and home remedies fail to show the desired result, you should visit your dermatologist to get a proper medical diagnosis and treatment.