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How to Treat Comedonal Acne

Comedonal acne occurs below the skin surface. According to the nonprofit organization The Acne Group, a comedo develops when the hair follicle just below the skin becomes clogged with dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells and hair 1. The result is referred to as a blackhead when the surface of the comedo is open and projects a dark color. Comedones that remain covered with skin are called whiteheads. Whiteheads typically don't break through the skin, but push up the surface with an inflamed bump often filled with puss. The condition is common and usually is considered a mild to moderate form of acne 1.

Wash your face with a mild cleanser no more than twice a day. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, too frequent washing can irritate sensitive skin and cause additional breakouts 2. Use lukewarm water and gently rub the cleanser on your face with your fingertips in the morning and at night. Also, rinse skin with a mild cleanser after exercising to remove bacteria and sweat.

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Apply an over-the-counter topical cream to the comedones. Use an ointment or cream that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide for best results. Wait about 15 minutes after washing or showering to apply the medication because wet skin is more absorbent and can be more easily irritated.

Use sunscreen and cosmetics that are oil-free. Hair gel and other hair products also should be oil-free to avoid clogged pores. Look for products that are labeled as noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic to make sure they are designed for acne-prone skin.

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Consult with a dermatologist if your acne doesn't respond to over-the-counter treatments. According to the Mayo Clinic, a number of prescribed medications are available to reduce comedones and their unsightly appearance 3. Products that prevent clogged pores include those made with vitamin A derivatives such as tretinoin and tazarotene.

Wear hairstyles that keep your hair off your face, especially if you have oily hair. Wear hats and scarves that sit loosely on your head to prevent clogged pores.


Mild to moderate acne usually clears up within four to eight weeks following a proper treatment regimen. Be patient as you continue with the process, and then continue the cleaning and treatments to prevent additional breakouts.


Don't pop or squeeze comedones because you can cause an infection. Open acne sores can lead to permanent scarring. The American Academy of Dermatology cautions that popping blackheads and whiteheads can cause your acne to spread.

Don't touch your face. Habitual touching transfers more dirt and oil to your face and can cause additional breakouts, according to the Mayo Clinic.