Whether you have closed comedones or open comedones, there's a treatment suitable for you. Learn everything you need to know about comedonal acne today with Vida Glow’s Senior Research Scientist and Product Formulator, Lauren Dewsbury.
What are comedones?
Comedones are small, clogged hair follicles or pores on the surface of the skin. They can manifest in two main forms: closed comedones and open comedones. Closed comedones, commonly known as whiteheads, appear as small flesh-coloured or white bumps on the skin's surface. On the other hand, open comedones, often referred to as blackheads, are similar bumps with an open pore, giving them a darker appearance.
What is comedonal acne?
Comedonal acne is characterised by the presence of both open and closed comedones on the skin. It tends to be more on the milder side relative to big inflamed nodular pimples.
Closed comedones, or whiteheads as they’re usually called, form when a pore becomes clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. These trapped substances block the follicle, causing a small bump with a closed pore. Closed comedones can be difficult to extract manually, and incorrect extraction can lead to inflammation and even potential scarring.
Open comedones, or blackheads, are like closed comedones but they have an open pore. Interestingly, the dark colour of blackheads is not caused by dirt, but the result of the oil and debris trapped within the pore oxidising and changing colour. While open comedones are typically easier to extract, be gentle or have your beauty therapist do this for you to prevent further skin damage.
What causes comedonal acne?
There are a host of factors that can contribute to the development of comedonal acne. Excess oil production, hormonal fluctuations, our genetics, and the use of certain medications can increase the likelihood of comedone formation. Additionally, the presence of sebaceous filaments, which are naturally occurring structures that shuttle oil from the glands up to the skin's surface, can further contribute to the formation of comedonal acne.
Ok, let’s discuss treatment. Approaches to comedonal acne treatment can vary and typically involve a combination of skincare practices and clinical interventions. Here are some of the most common treatment options:
Manual comedone extraction by a dermatologist or aesthetician can effectively remove both closed and open comedones without causing any skin damage.
Over the counter or prescription topicals containing actives like retinoids, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide can help to unclog pores, reduce comedone formation and clear the skin. Gentle cleansing with mild, non-comedogenic products, regular exfoliation to remove dead skin cells, using clay masks to absorb excess oil, and incorporating astringent ingredients like tea tree oil or witch hazel into your skincare routine is also very beneficial.
In some cases, medications like the oral contraceptive pill or retinoids may be prescribed to manage comedonal acne in more severe or chronic presentations.
In-clinic treatments like chemical peels, LED therapy or microdermabrasion can help to improve skin texture and reduce comedone formation.
Scientific evidence for more natural approaches to comedonal acne treatment is a fast-growing space and we are learning more about how our internal health affects our skin. The gut-skin connection describes the bidirectional link between the gut and our skin. Poor gut health can lead to acne and other inflammatory skin conditions, so nourishing gut flora with specific probiotic strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus and balancing the gut microbiome is key. Other actives like zinc, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown in clinical research to reduce the symptoms and severity of comedonal acne.
Acne isn’t a one-fits-all approach – our skin’s biology is unique and should be treated as such. But if you’re struggling with acne symptoms like comedonal acne, there are still several methods you can implement to help improve your skin’s health and clarity. With the right research, routine and professional guidance you can find a solution right for your skin’s needs.