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Comedones – Whiteheads, Blackheads, And What Makes Them Worse


Comedones are tiny bumps that affect the skin, making it rough to the touch, and these bumps can be dark, white or skin colored. Most people know comedones by their more commonly used names – blackheads and whiteheads. These comedones are found at the opening of the pores on the skin, and on those prone to acne are usually found around the chin and forehead areas. The pigmentation of open comedones causes them to be dark, thus they are referred to as blackheads. However, those that are closed, and where the follicle is totally blocked, are referred to as whiteheads.

Comedones are a primary sign of acne. With the open comedone, or blackhead, excess oils collect in the duct of the sebaceous gland and the pigmentation makes them appear as black bumps on the surface of the skin. With a closed comedone, or whitehead, the trapped sebum remains underneath the skin, causing a bumpy effect but no actual coloring is visible.

These comedones can vary in size – for instance, comedones that are larger than around two or three millimetres in diameter are known as macrocomedones. Acne is not a condition that is exclusive to teenagers, as many people assume, and therefore both comedones and acne can affect a person at any age, such as during pregnancy or during a highly emotional period.

What can aggravate comedones?

There are a number of factors that can aggravate and exacerbate comedones, and these include:

* Injuries that result in rupture of the follicle, such as abrasive facial washes or pimple squeezing
* Over hydration or over moisturization of the skin
* Excessive hormonal activity
* Free fatty acids caused by bacteria
* Various chemicals, such as those found in dye and some cosmetics
* Emotional factors

Treatment for comedones

There are various treatments available for those with comedones, but these treatments may take some time to be effective and are certainly not overnight miracles. Depending on the severity of the condition sufferers may need to see a dermatologist in order to get effective treatment. Amongst the treatments available are: Tretinoin, Isotretinoin, Benzoyl Peroxide, and even extraction, which can be used on open comedones.

Those with open or closed comedones also need to ensure that they look after their skin properly. This means avoiding the temptation to scrub at the skin in a bid to get rid of blackheads, as the dark coloring is not dirt that can be scrubbed away, and scrubbing or abrasive washing may actually make the condition worse. Using a mild wash once daily, and patting the skin dry is the best way to keep skin clean. Also, those with comedones should avoid using oil based cosmetics, as these can aggravate the condition by adding to the build up of oil in the follicles.

For information on tea tree oil acne treatments for comedones, click here. Rebecca writes on salicylic acid and other treatments here.