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What is a Comedone?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Comedones are forms of acne, which we may more commonly refer to as whiteheads or blackheads. A single whitehead or blackhead is a comedo or comedone, which means glutton in Latin. Comedones is a common plural form of comedo.

This type of acne tends to create relatively small black or white bumps on the face. Whiteheads look like they contain a tiny bit of pus, though this is mostly dead skin cells. Although they are still visible, they are called closed comedones because they have a little bit of skin over the top of them. The main difference between a white and a blackhead is that blackheads don’t have this skin closing. This means material in them oxidizes from contact with the air, and turn black or dark brown.

Material in a comedone, white or black, is really the same, and the two types form in a near identical way. Both are caused when follicles in the skin become blocked, usually by sebum, an oil produced by the sebaceous glands. As follicles get blocked, they widen and collect dead skin cells and a small amount of bacteria. Comedones can be very small, and merely look like a bump, but some get larger and more obvious when the follicle remains blocked. People may have a variety of comedone sizes, especially on their faces and especially if they are teens when sebum production is highest.

Many skin experts recommend that the best way to get rid of one comedone or many is through skin exfoliation. This means using a soap or face wash specifically designed to slough off dead skin cells. When this is combined with use of an astringent like benzyl peroxide, it will help reduce sebum present on the face. By clearing the skin of dead cells and reducing oil, you may have success in keeping comedones to a minimum.

Not all people have luck with this, and acne development is often a matter of age and inheritance. If you are troubled by frequent breakouts, you can see a dermatologist for prescription medications that may help. Some people turn to devices like a comedone extractor to get rid of these pimples. Extracting them can cause scarring and needs to be done with care so that you don’t spread bacteria to other parts of the face. It’s recommended you really be trained in how to remove comedones so you don’t end up with scars or infection.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By closerfan12 — On Aug 20, 2010

Humans aren't the only ones who get comedones. In dogs, there is a syndrome called Schnauzer Comedone Syndrome, which happens most often in miniature Schnauzers, but can occur in other dogs.

The dogs get lines of comedones, both open and closed, along their spine.

This can cause crusty sores, patchy hair loss, and a strong odor.

Although the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed with special shampoos and occasionally, antibiotics.

By musicshaman — On Aug 20, 2010

What is the best form of comedone treatment for someone with milia?

I keep getting milia around my eyes, and want to learn how to prevent them and treat them.

Can you help me?

By Charlie89 — On Aug 20, 2010

If you have a lot of comedones, you may want to consider investing in a professional comedone tool. They are also called comedone extractors, or blackhead removers.

They're pretty effective at comedone removal, but it does take time to get really good at getting them out.

The good thing is, they're pretty cheap and easy to find, and work really well.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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