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What Is Closed Comedonal Acne? (Causes, Treatments and More)

As you navigate the topic of skincare, you're likely to encounter the term "closed comedonal acne." This rather unwieldy term might seem daunting at first, but fear not! By the end of this comprehensive guide, you'll know what it means and how to handle it.

This type of acne, more commonly known as whiteheads, is a common skin condition experienced by many, affecting teenagers and adults. However, the more we understand it, the better we can manage it. So let's dive into the world of closed comedonal acne.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Closed comedonal acne, recognizable as small, skin-colored bumps, forms when hair follicles are clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells.

  • Maintaining a regular skincare routine, including cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing, can help manage and prevent closed comedones.

  • Diet and lifestyle factors can contribute to acne, making it important to consider these aspects along with appropriate skincare and treatments.

  • Products like Exposed Skin Care can be highly effective in treating comedonal acne, offering both gentle and powerful solutions in reducing and preventing breakouts.

Close up of nose with many whiteheads

Understanding Closed Comedones

Comedonal acne is a type of acne characterized by the presence of comedones. Comedones are hair follicles clogged with excess oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. This form of acne manifests in two primary forms: closed and open comedones.

Closed Comedones vs Open Comedones

  • Closed Comedones: Also known as whiteheads, closed comedones are bumps that appear white or skin-colored. They are caused when dead skin cells and oil clog a pore and remain beneath the skin's surface, creating a tiny, skin-colored bump. As the pore is completely closed, the trapped substances aren't exposed to air and thus remain white.

  • Open Comedones: These are commonly known as blackheads. Like closed comedones, they are caused by a clog of oil and dead skin cells, but the key difference is that the top of the pore is open. The dark appearance is due to the surface sebum and skin cell mixture becoming oxidized when exposed to air.

Closed comedonal acne often appears as small, non-inflamed, skin-colored bumps on your skin, primarily on the forehead and chin. It is, however, less noticeable than its inflammatory counterparts, like pustules or cystic acne, but it can be just as persistent and challenging to treat.

What Causes Closed Comedones?

Understanding what causes closed comedones is a crucial step toward prevention. Just as with other types of acne, the formation of closed comedones is mainly due to an overproduction of sebum and an accumulation of dead skin cells in the hair follicle.

Oil Production

Excess oil production can occur for various reasons, including hormonal changes, certain medications, and even stress. When too much oil is produced, it can cause a clog in the hair follicle, leading to the development of a comedo.

Side view image of woman with whiteheads on the cheeks

Dead Skin Cells

Our skin naturally sheds dead skin cells to make room for new ones. However, sometimes this process doesn't go as smoothly as it should, and these dead skin cells can get stuck, mix with the oil, and create a plug in the pore.

Products and Lifestyle Factors

Your choice of skin care products can significantly influence whether you experience comedonal acne. Some products may be too heavy or occlusive for your skin type, leading to clogged pores. Moreover, certain hair products like oils and pomades can contribute to the formation of closed comedones if they come into contact with the skin.

Furthermore, frequent touching your face or not cleansing the skin properly can also cause acne breakouts. Lifestyle and diet factors can also contribute, though they affect individuals differently.

How To Treat Closed Comedonal Acne

While closed comedonal acne can be stubborn, various effective methods exist to treat it. The best approach often involves a multi-faceted skincare routine to exfoliate dead skin cells, decrease oil production, and prevent clogged pores.

Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide

Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are popular over-the-counter treatments for acne. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that works by exfoliating the skin and clearing the pores, while benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and helps clear the pores.

Woman pouring salicylic acid on her face with dropper


Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and are highly effective at unclogging pores and preventing new comedones from forming. They promote skin cell turnover and reduce the skin cells' stickiness that can lead to clogs. While retinoids can initially cause some skin irritation, the skin usually adjusts with continued use.

Manual Extraction

In some cases, manual extraction by a skincare professional might be necessary. This process involves using a sterile tool to remove the blockage from the pores. However, this should not be attempted at home as improper technique can lead to scarring or further skin irritation.

Other Topical Treatments

Other ingredients, such as glycolic acid, tea tree oil, and azelaic acid, can also help treat closed comedones. Glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), exfoliates the skin, while tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Azelaic acid can reduce inflammation and help the skin renew itself more quickly, reducing the likelihood of pore blockage.

Preventing Closed Comedonal Acne

Treatment is just one side of the coin; prevention is equally important. It involves understanding your skin and adapting your skincare routine to cater to its needs.

Skin Care Routine

A good skincare routine is a cornerstone of clear, healthy skin. Cleanse your skin twice a day with a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser. Also, exfoliate regularly with a BHA or AHA product to remove dead skin cells and prevent them from clogging your pores.

African American woman doing her skin care routine

Choose Non-Comedogenic Products

Non-comedogenic products are designed not to clog pores. Therefore, opt for these types of products, especially if you have acne-prone or oily skin. This applies not only to skincare products but also to makeup and hair products.

Pay Attention To Your Lifestyle

A balanced diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise can improve skin health. Although there's no one-size-fits-all diet for acne, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is generally beneficial.

Embracing Exposed Skin Care: Your Ally Against Acne

Exposed Skin Care has earned its reputation as one of the best products for closed comedones, acne, and other blemishes.

Exposed Skin Care Basic Kit

This dermatologist-approved range of products provides numerous benefits in managing acne-prone skin:

  • Targeting Inflammatory Acne: Whether you're dealing with hormonal acne, inflamed acne, or giant comedones, Exposed Skin Care is designed to combat all types of acne. It helps reduce inflammation and lessen the appearance of pimples.

  • Prevention and Treatment: The products treat existing comedones and prevent closed comedones from forming. By clearing clogged pores, they get rid of closed comedones and inhibit the development of new ones.

  • Sensitive Skin Friendly: People with sensitive skin can benefit from this line as well. It's formulated to be gentle yet effective, reducing the risk of skin irritation.

  • Comprehensive Care: It addresses all forms of comedonal acne, from whiteheads (known as closed comedones) to blackheads (open comedones are also a concern).

  • Achieving Smoother Skin: Regular use can lead to smoother skin by treating white or skin-colored bumps, commonly known as comedones.

Remember, while products like Exposed Skin Care can effectively manage acne, it's also important to understand what causes acne and to maintain a consistent skincare routine.


Understanding and managing closed comedonal acne, a common type of acne can feel overwhelming. It is crucial to realize that closed comedones, commonly recognized as white bumps or whiteheads, can develop anywhere on the skin. These comedones are caused by an accumulation of oil and skin cells in the hair follicle, creating a layer of skin over the pore and blocking it.

The journey to treat comedones, including white and blackheads, starts with education. Learning what causes these acne forms and how they develop is necessary. Understanding the causes will help you find appropriate treatment options, including products labeled non-comedogenic, designed to prevent acne and closed comedones.

Several ways are available to treat comedones, from over-the-counter products to prescription-strength topical treatments. Brands like Exposed Skin Care offer comprehensive solutions for treating comedonal acne. However, remember that what works best can vary between individuals; some may find success with certain products or treatments more than others.

If signs of acne persist or worsen despite trying various treatment options, it may be time to see a dermatologist. Acne can also be a symptom of underlying health issues, so seeking professional medical advice is recommended when dealing with persistent breakouts.

In conclusion, the path to clear skin is not always straightforward, but you can successfully treat and prevent comedonal acne with patience and consistency. The goal is healthier skin, and with the right knowledge and tools, it is an attainable objective. Remember, every step taken towards understanding and addressing your skin's needs brings you closer to vibrant, acne-free skin.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the difference between closed comedonal acne and open comedonal acne?

The difference lies in whether the pore is open or closed. In closed comedonal acne (whiteheads), the pore is blocked completely, trapping sebum and dead skin cells beneath the skin's surface. On the other hand, open comedonal acne (blackheads) is when the pore is open, allowing the trapped substances to oxidize and turn dark.

2. How can I treat closed comedonal acne at home?

You can treat closed comedonal acne at home by maintaining a good skincare routine that includes regular cleansing and exfoliation. Topical treatments like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinoids can also be effective.

3. Can my lifestyle and diet affect my skin and cause acne?

Your lifestyle and diet can influence your skin's health and may contribute to acne. While it varies from person to person, a diet high in processed foods and sugars may worsen acne in some people.

4. Is there a way to prevent closed comedones?

Prevention strategies include maintaining a good skincare routine, using non-comedogenic products, and paying attention to your lifestyle and diet.

5. What causes closed comedones to form?

Closed comedones form when hair follicles become clogged with excess oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. Factors like hormonal changes, certain medications, stress, and using comedogenic skincare or hair products can contribute to their formation.

6. Is it safe to manually extract closed comedones at home?

Manual extraction should ideally be left to skincare professionals as improper technique can lead to skin irritation, scarring, or further breakouts.

7. How long does it take to treat closed comedones?

The duration to treat closed comedones may vary depending on the severity of the acne and the individual's skin response to treatment. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Consistency is key in acne treatment.