Closed Comedones | Causes | Side Effects | Prevention | Treatment
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Closed Comedones - Causes, Side Effects, Prevention and Treatment

Published on Mar 28, 2022 and last reviewed on Jul 16, 2023   -  5 min read


Nobody wishes to have rough and bumpy skin. Closed comedones or whiteheads are the cause of such an appearance. Read the article to know about closed comedones in detail.

What Is Comedonal Acne?

Comedonal acne are small bumps that form close to the skin surface and are different from regular inflammatory acne. They are of different types, namely,

  • Whiteheads or closed comedones.

  • Blackheads or open comedones.

  • Solar comedones.

  • Microcomedones.

  • Macrocomedones.

  • Giant comedones.

What Are Whiteheads or Closed Comedones?

The hair follicles are a tunnel-like structure that gets the shape of a bump when filled with a plug. A single bump is called comedo, while a group of bumps is called comedones. Closed comedones are formed when the underlying hair follicles are closed by a plug formed by oil or dead skin cells. These closed comedones most commonly occur on the face, neck, chest, and back. Closed comedones appear white or yellow in color and are rightly called whiteheads.

In Whom Are Whiteheads Prevalent?

Although most commonly seen in adolescents, closed comedones can occur among people of all groups. In a few cases, individuals might get whiteheads only after they become adults. It has been reported that almost every individual develops whiteheads at some point in their life.

Where Do Whiteheads Most Commonly Occur?

Since closed comedones are formed due to the trapping of dead skin cells and oil inside the hair follicle, it can occur anywhere in the body where sebaceous glands are present.

However, closed comedones most commonly occur in the following areas:

How Are Blackheads Different From Whiteheads?

Both blackheads and whiteheads are types of comedonal acne; the difference is that blackheads are open comedones and whiteheads are closed comedones. Blackheads appear like dark spots on the skin, while whiteheads appear white or yellow in color. The appearance of blackheads might seem like they contain trapped dirt, but that is not the case. The color is only due to irregular light reflection. In whiteheads, the formed oil plug is not exposed to air, so it does not appear black or brown like open comedones.

What Causes Whiteheads?

The formation of closed comedones has been attributed to the inflammation of sebaceous glands or hair follicles. Sebaceous glands are located close to the skin, producing sebum, an oily substance that hydrates the hair and skin. Most of these sebaceous glands are connected with a hair follicle. Inflammation of the hair follicle or sebaceous gland can occur due to any of the following:

  • Abnormal Keratin Formation - Keratin is a protein needed to grow and repair hair, nails, and skin.

  • Raised sebum production.

  • Presence of an increased number of acne-producing bacteria.

In addition to this, specific makeup and hair care products might also aggravate the formation of closed comedones. Using oily creams and lotions can clog the hair follicles, resulting in the formation of closed comedones.

How Are Whiteheads Manifested?

As they are only a mild form of acne, closed comedones usually do not exhibit any symptoms except for slight pain in some cases. The presence of white or yellow bumps on the skin is the characteristic feature of closed comedones.

What Is the Effect of Whiteheads?

Whiteheads are not a severe condition that affects the physical health of an individual. But the effect it brings on the appearance has a mental and psychosocial impact.

Can Closed Comedones Spread From One Person to Another?

Closed comedones are not caused by any microorganism and, therefore, not contagious; that is, they cannot be spread from one person to another.

How Can We Identify Whiteheads?

Since whiteheads or closed comedones are easily recognizable, visual examination is all that is needed to identify them. Even without the help of a healthcare professional, it can be identified. However, a dermatologist's assistance should be sought when it occurs with severe acne.

How Can We Treat Whiteheads?

The following methods can treat whiteheads that appear on the face:

A. Over-the-Counter Medications:

  1. Salicylic Acid - It acts by dissolving the dead skin cells that clog the pores and removing the affected skin layer. These are available in the form of cleansers or lotions. These should be used for a period of at least eight weeks to have the maximum effect.

B. Prescription Medications:

When over-the-counter medications are not helpful, prescription medications can be taken with advice from a dermatologist. The following are the prescriptions medicines most commonly suggested:

  1. Benzoyl Peroxide - It helps treat whiteheads by removing the bacteria which aggravates the formation of acne. An important side-effect of using Benzoyl peroxide is irritation; however, lower concentrations do not produce much skin irritation. Washes or face-on gel are the available forms.

  2. Azelaic Acid - A naturally found acid in wheat, rye, and barley called Azelaic acid, helps remove the bacteria and decrease swelling.

  3. Retinoids - Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that prevent the clogging of pores, which is evident by the peeling or color change in the skin.

  4. Oral Contraceptives - In women, taking oral contraceptive pills along with the above topical treatment has been proved to have an additive effect.

C. Other Treatment Methods:

  1. Microdermabrasion - In this method, the superficial layer of the skin is removed to unclog the pores. This is usually done with the help of a specialized pump.

  2. Laser Skin Resurfacing - In cases where there is excess sebum production, laser skin resurfacing is advised. During this procedure, short, concentrated, pulsating light beams are targeted on the whiteheads, which reduces the amount of sebum produced.

  3. Chemical Peels - In some cases, a mild chemical is used to peel off the top layer of skin, thus treating whiteheads.

What Should I Do to Manage Whiteheads?

  • Do not touch or squeeze the whiteheads.

  • Clean the items like helmets, pillow covers, cell phones, sunglasses, clothes, etc., that come in contact with your face.

  • Be cautious while shaving in areas where whiteheads are present.

What Should I Do to Prevent Whiteheads?

  • Use a mild cleanser and warm water to wash your face.

  • Do use non-comedogenic makeup products.

  • Always use a moisturizer.

  • Do not forget to remove the makeup before going to bed.

  • Take frequent hair baths.

  • Do not touch your face often.

  • Make sure the hair care products do not contact your face.

Can I Squeeze My Whiteheads?

It is not advisable to squeeze the whiteheads for the following reasons:

  • There can be a scar formation.

  • Bacteria can enter the whiteheads and bring about an infection.

  • Skin irritation can occur.


Whiteheads or closed comedones are a widely prevalent, less severe condition. However, they can have a severe toll on the mental health of the affected individual. Therefore, it is advisable to reach out to a dermatologist and get the earliest treatment when it occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Get Rid of Closed Comedones?

Closed comedones or clogged pores can be treated with the help of over-the-counter products like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. In severe cases, your dermatologist might prescribe some medications for treating clogged pores, or blemish extraction procedures can also treat clogged pores.


Can We Squeeze Closed Comedones?

Closed comedones are similar to blackheads. However, they have a small opening that connects them to the skin, and professional guidance might be required to squeeze the closed comedones out of the skin.


How Long Does a Closed Comedo Last in Our Skin?

A closed comedo can last for between a week to three weeks. However, in some, it can last for more than three weeks and might require professional treatments and medications to cure.


Why Do Some People Have More Closed Comedones?

Closed comedones are common and are seen more among pre-teenagers and teenagers, as sebaceous glands produce excess amounts of oil during these years of life. Also, if you notice that you get more closed comedones constantly, you might have a type of acne problem called comedonal acne.


Is It Compulsory to Have Treatments for Curing Closed Comedones? Or Do They Go Away on Their Own?

Treatment requirements depend upon the severity of closed comedones you have. Most cases do not require any treatment. However, some severe issues with the constant and increased number of closed comedones need dermatologists’ help.


How to Stop the Formation of Closed Comedones?

Having an appropriate skincare regime can help avoid the formation of closed comedones. Mentioned below are some of the familiar yet effective skincare routines to follow to prevent the formation of closed comedones,
- Use a mild face wash and lukewarm water to wash your face twice daily.
- Avoid applying any oil to the face.
- Over-the-counter skin care products containing salicylic acid and glycolic acid can prevent the formation of closed comedones.


Are Closed Comedones Caused Due to Fungi?

No, closed comedones and fungal acne are two different conditions. Fungal acne is known to be caused due to any fungal infection whereas, on the other hand, closed comedones are condensed oil and sweat accumulated in the sweat gland, which forms bumps on the skin.


What Are the Foods That Cause Closed Comedones?

Food that contains high dairy content or foods that are high in sugars and fats can cause closed comedones. However, having the foods mentioned above in moderation does not usually cause any complications.


Can I Use Vitamin C to Reduce Blackheads and Closed Comedones?

Vitamin C effectively reduces blackheads and closed comedones as they reduce sebum oxidation by functioning as an antioxidant.


Are Closed Comedones Pimples?

Closed comedones appear as blackheads or whiteheads rather than pimples. This condition is more common among young adults and can be seen in their foreheads and chin giving a textured non-smooth appearance to the face.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
16 Jul 2023  -  5 min read




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