Comedonal acne is a common type of acne characterized by the presence of comedones on the skin. Comedones are non-inflammatory, clogged hair follicles or pores that can appear as either open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads). They are caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells, oil (sebum), and bacteria within the hair follicles, leading to the formation of small bumps on the skin’s surface.
What causes comedonal acne?
Typical blackheads and whiteheads are caused by trapped hair follicles. Your skin cells normally shed at the surface, allowing new skin cells to form. Sometimes, dead skin cells can get trapped within the hair follicles. When combined with the natural oils in your pores (sebum), a plug can form.
This type of acne primarily affects adults with oily skin. Other risk factors for comedonal acne include:
- High dairy consumption
- Diet that consists of a lot of fats and sugars
- Overhydrated skin, usually from using the wrong moisturizer
- High humidity
- Follicle injury from “picking” skin or popping comedones
The occurrence of comedonal acne are:
Excess Sebum Production: When the sebaceous glands produce too much oil, it can contribute to pore blockage and the formation of comedones.
Dead Skin Cell Accumulation: A buildup of dead skin cells can mix with oil and clog pores, leading to comedones.
Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during puberty, menstruation, or hormonal disorders, can increase oil production and contribute to comedonal acne.
Genetics: Acne tends to run in families, so if you have a family history of comedonal acne, you may be more prone to it.
Certain Cosmetics and Hair Products: Some products can be pore-clogging, leading to comedone formation.
Diet: While the role of diet in acne is still being studied, some individuals may find that certain foods can exacerbate comedonal acne.
How to Prevent Comedonal Acne
Minor comedone acne outbreaks can be prevented or reduced by changing the way you care for your skin. Here are a few simple tips that may help prevent pore blockage:
- Wash your face twice daily. Cleansing acne-prone skin more often than needed can cause irritation and leave skin dried and inflamed. Inflamed skin is more vulnerable to infection, increasing the risk of acne pimples. You really only need to wash your face twice a day at most, usually in the morning and before you go to bed at night.
- Use skin products that will not clog your pores. Use non-oily moisturizers, cleansers, and cosmetics that are designed to prevent pore blockage. Some are labeled non-comedogenic while others advertise themselves as anti-acnegenic.
- Keep your makeup brushes and applicators clean. Sebum and dead skin cells can quickly build up on bristles and pads. You can usually remove them with warm, soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly and allow them to air dry.
- Take your makeup off before bedtime. Sleeping with makeup on your face can clog pores. Use a fragrance-free, non-alcohol makeup remover to avoid irritation and get cosmetics off your skin. Some products are made with glycerin or aloe vera to help moisturize your skin, too.14
- Wash up after strenuous activity. Do not let perspiration and oil stay on your skin. Take a shower and immediately rehydrate with a light, oil-free moisturizer.
Treatment options for comedonal acne include:
- Topical Retinoids: These are derived from vitamin A and are effective in preventing the formation of comedones and promoting skin cell turnover. They help to keep the pores clear and reduce the formation of new comedones. Common topical retinoids include tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene.
- Salicylic Acid: This beta-hydroxy acid helps to exfoliate the skin, unclog pores, and reduce inflammation. It is available in various over-the-counter products, such as cleansers, toners, and spot treatments.
- Benzoyl Peroxide: It is an antibacterial agent that can kill the acne-causing bacteria and also help to clear out the pores. Benzoyl peroxide is available in different strengths and can be found in cleansers, creams, and gels.
- Topical Antibiotics: In some cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe topical antibiotics like clindamycin or erythromycin to reduce bacteria on the skin’s surface and control inflammation.
- Chemical Peels: Certain chemical peels, such as those containing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), can help to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores, reducing comedonal acne.
- Extraction: In a professional setting, a dermatologist or esthetician may perform manual extraction of comedones using special tools. This should not be attempted at home, as it can lead to skin damage and infection.
- Lifestyle and Skincare Habits: Adopting a consistent skincare routine with non-comedogenic products, avoiding excessive makeup use, and keeping the skin clean can also help prevent comedonal acne.
Comedonal Acne Treatment – Frequently Asked Questions
The time it takes to see results from comedonal acne treatment can vary depending on the severity of the acne and the chosen treatment method. It may take few weeks to see noticeable improvement. Consistency and patience are key during the treatment process.
No permanent side effects but some common side effects of comedonal acne treatments include skin dryness, redness, or irritation. This is especially true for topical retinoids or chemical peels. It’s important to follow the instructions provided by your dermatologist or skincare professional and use any prescribed medications as directed.
Mild cases of comedonal acne can be managed with over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. However, for more persistent or severe comedonal acne, it is advisable to consult with a dermatologist who can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend suitable treatment options.
While lifestyle changes alone may not completely resolve comedonal acne, adopting good skincare practices can help prevent further breakouts. This includes cleansing the face twice daily, using non-comedogenic skincare products, avoiding excessive oil-based products, and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.