6 Top Products for Closed Comedones

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Also known as whiteheads, closed comedones are among the most common skincare issues for most of us.

A woman in a towel is applying cream to her face.

But just because they’re common does not mean they’re welcome.

If you have them and you’re looking for the top product for closed comedones so you can keep them off your skin, read on.

Here are six best-quality options you might want to add to your arsenal.

Paulas Choice's Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Editor's Choice
  • Multi-awarded formulation
  • Contains salicylic acid and green tea for fast but gentle exfoliation
  • Safe for daily use for all skin types
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2%
Budget Pick
  • Advanced exfoliating serum 
  • Perfect for all skin types
  • Sloughs off multiple layers of the skin for a clean, glowing face
Peter Thomas Roth Goodbye Acne Complete Acne Treatment Gel
Premium Pick
  • Addresses multiple skin concerns
  • Has a 1% time-released mix of vitamin C, retinol, and vitamin B5 for treating scars

What Are Closed Comedones?

Whiteheads or closed comedones are white or yellowish bumps that typically appear on the forehead and chin, as well as on your neck, chest, and back. 

Like blackheads or open comedones, they form when oil or dead skin cells seal off the hair follicles. 

But unlike blackheads, closed comedones trap the icky substances in and create a raised bump on the surface. 

Blackheads, on the other hand, push through the opening in the follicle and get exposed to air, which gives them their black-dotted appearance.

Closed comedones are more common among teenagers, but they also affect around 10 to 20% of adults, according to experts

What Causes Closed Comedones?

If you have closed comedones and you’re wondering how you got them, one of the following is often always the culprit.

  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes brought about by fluctuations in testosterone or estrogen or through the use of substances like anabolic steroids or contraceptives
  • A diet that features high amounts of sugar, dairy, and saturated fat
  • Abrasive skincare products, including those that contain isopropyl myristate or propylene glycol
  • Excessive use of moisturizers, which leads to skin that is overhydrated
  • Cigarette smoking

Closed Comedones and Comedonal Acne

Comedonal acne is non-inflammatory acne that is characterized by the presence of closed comedones, as well as other types of bumps, to create skin that looks and feels rough. 

These other bumps are as follows:

  • Microcomedones. Miniature in size, these comedones are typically invisible to the naked eye.
  • Microcomedones. Microcomedones are closed comedones or whiteheads that measure between two to three millimeters in size. 
  • Open comedones. More commonly known as blackheads, these are formed much like closed comedones, except they break through the layer of the skin. This exposes the trapped dirt and oil to air, which turns the bump black.
  • Dilated pore of Winer. These are giant comedones or extra-large blackheads. They can only be extracted or excised from the skin. 
  • Solar comedones. These black bumps, which can be closed or open comedones, typically result from prolonged sun exposure, smoking, or radiation therapy. 

Comedonal acne is considered to be a mild to moderate form of acne. 

How To Treat Closed Comedones

However, just because it’s only mild or moderate does not mean that you should just let closed comedones sit.

When left untreated, closed comedones can turn into inflamed, pus-filled pustules that will spell more trouble for your skin.

And they can keep recurring, even stimulating the growth of other comedones. This is why you need to invest time and effort into finding the top product for closed comedones.

Luckily, there are plenty of options that are available if you’re looking for closed comedones treatments. The following substances are considered especially helpful:

Topical Retinoids

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, are the most effective comedolytic agents being used.

This makes them one of the top treatments for comedonal acne.

Retinoids are said to reduce comedones by a whopping 60% when used over three months. They do this by slowing down the shedding of follicular cells, which is what clogs the skin’s oil glands and leads to acne. 

There are various types of retinoids used to treat comedonal acne: tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Yet another effective treatment, benzoyl peroxide comes with bactericidal properties that make it beneficial for treating comedonal acne. 

What this comedonal agent does is kill acne-causing bacteria while facilitating faster cell turnover, which helps inhibit the formation of more comedones. 

It’s also highly convenient as it’s available over the counter.

Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid 

Finally, you can turn to AHAs like glycolic acid and BHAs like salicylic acid. 

Both wonderful ingredients in skin care (which is why they’re always compared), these two are also considered effective agents against closed comedones and comedonal acne. 

Glycolic acid helps your skin slough off dead skin cells more easily; as such, it removes substances that can clog pores and give rise to acne.

Salicylic acid, on the other hand, also has an exfoliating effect on your skin — with the added bonus of limiting oil production. This is why it’s present in a lot of anti-acne serums.

These ingredients are featured in many formulations of the top products meant to treat comedonal acne, like the six products we feature here!

6 Top Products for Closed Comedones

Paulas Choice SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Looking for the best product for comedonal acne? This one’s a strong contender.

Benefits: Unclogs pores; smoothes skin texture and tone; eases dullness and redness; reduces wrinkles and fine lines

Features:

  • Multi-awarded formulation 
  • Contains salicylic acid and green tea for fast but gentle exfoliation
  • Safe for daily use for all skin types

Plus, it promises to deliver results within four weeks!

If you want the top product for closed comedones, this gentle exfoliator from Paula’s Choice ticks all the boxes.

It features two powerful ingredients for fighting off acne, offers a variety of benefits for the skin, does not feel heavy on the face, and is reasonably priced!

Peter Thomas Roth Goodbye Acne Complete Acne Treatment Gel

For those with a little more budget, this gem is worth all the money in the world.

Benefits: Treats current acne while preventing future flare-ups; also targets other various skin concerns; ideal for both normal and combination skin

Features:

  • Delivers a potent formulation that addresses multiple skin concerns
  • Has a 1% time-released mix of vitamin C, retinol, and vitamin B5 for treating scars
  • Confirmed to offer skin benefits following a clinical study

With its list of perks, it truly deserves the claim behind its name.

If you want your acne-fighting product to do a little bit of everything, the Peter Thomas Roth Goodbye Acne Complete Acne Treatment Gel lives up to the promise of its labeling.

It fights and prevents acne, treats scarring, soothes the skin, offers anti-aging benefits, and improves skin tone and texture. Talk about a complete gel!

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

In search of something that is endorsed by medical bodies? This one has that covered.

Benefits: Effective at locking in moisture; fragrance-free; suitable for normal to dry skin; ideal for daily use

Features:

  • Continuously releases moisture into the skin to support the skin barrier
  • Contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides for optimal skincare
  • Has a non-greasy, lightweight formulation 
  • Accepted by the National Eczema Association and American Diabetes Association

With that kind of résumé, you know you're in great hands.

A formulation that has been developed with dermatologists, the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is widely hailed to be the top moisturizer for closed comedones.

A woman's hand holding a jar of cerave moisturizing cream

This powerful all-around cream is not only good at providing moisture to minimize potential dryness and irritation from acne, but it’s also designed to keep your skin hydrated long after the application of the product.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash with Salicylic Acid

Want better-looking skin in seven days and treat comedonal acne at the same time? This Neutrogena staple is a must-have.

Benefits: Oil-free and lightweight; provides deep but gentle cleansing; suitable for daily use; does not irritate or over-dry skin

Features:

  • Contains 2% salicylic acid with MicroClear technology that treats and prevents acne right at the source
  • Delivers clearer skin in as short as a week
  • Recommended by dermatologists

And with its affordable price, it makes great skin accessible for everyone!

If you need an anti-acne product that has the backing of dermatologists, the Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash is exactly what you’re looking for.

With its simple but effective formulation, it’s a no-nonsense wonder that can clear your skin up in just a week, which is why it’s considered the top cleanser for closed comedones.

Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2%

Want a budget buy that over-delivers? The Ordinary's got you covered.

Benefits: Ideal for dull, textured skin; affordable; sloughs off multiple layers of the skin for a clean, glowing face

Features:

  • Advanced exfoliating serum that is perfect for all skin types
  • Free from alcohol, silicone, oil, and gluten 
  • Cruelty-free

And the best part? It does all that in only 10 minutes!

If you’re looking for the top AHA for closed comedones, this exfoliating serum from The Ordinary is the obvious answer.

Packed with an exhaustive list of skincare goodies such as AHA, BHA, and hyaluronic acid, it offers more than mere acne treatment and prevention — without breaking the bank!

EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46

Got sensitive skin? This gentle, nourishing product is perfect for you.

Benefits: Suitable for sensitive skin; comes in tinted and untinted formulas; provides UVA/UVB protection

Features:

  • Dermatologist-recommended formulation
  • Contains niacinamide, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid for optimal benefits
  • Paraben-free, oil-free, and fragrance-free

It can also be worn with or without makeup, as it glides on smoothly without any residue!

For days of fun in the sun, this SPF 46 product from EltaMD is the little all-rounder that you need.

It helps calm and clear acne, improves skin tone and clarity, restores suppleness and youthfulness, and protects against UVA/UVB rays — all in one 12-ounce bottle!

Natural Treatments for Closed Comedones

Natural remedies for treating closed comedones also exist.

The following are considered especially beneficial:

  • Honey. Honey contains antimicrobial agents, which may be helpful in unclogging pores filled with acne-causing bacteria.
  • Tea tree oil. According to a 2019 study, tea tree oil features antimicrobial properties that may be effective at reducing acne sores. Similarly, tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory.
  • Aloe vera. For closed comedones, aloe vera has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can treat and prevent bumps. At the same time, it’s an excellent moisturizer.
  • Jojoba oil. An anti-inflammatory, jojoba oil is also believed to mimic the natural oils of the skin, making it an effective agent alongside other ingredients for skin conditions like acne. 
  • Green tea. Green tea contains polyphenols that have been found to control sebum production and treat acne. Drinking or using products with green tea can be beneficial for acne. 
  • Rosemary oil. Rosemary oil features anti-septic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. This means that it can reduce swelling associated with acne, as well as ease scarring and dark pigmentation and help minimize oil production. 
  • Coconut oil. Made up of medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that can kill acne-causing bacteria. 
A woman holding a bottle of face serum.

FAQs

Is There a Skin Type That Is More Prone to Closed Comedones?

Closed comedones and comedonal acne can happen to anyone, but those with oily skin are more prone to developing these conditions.

What Triggers Comedonal Acne?

Comedonal acne can flare up when your skin encounters anything that either irritates it or triggers excess oil production.

Examples include using a rough exfoliating agent, squeezing your bumps, or getting a chemical peel.

Which Is Better for Closed Comedones: Retinol or Salicylic Acid?

Retinol is considered better for treating closed comedones as it can prevent them.

Salicylic acid, on the other hand, can only address them once they’ve cropped up.

However, you need a prescription to get access to products with high concentrations of retinol.

The Best Way To Care for Acne-Prone Skin

Whether you opt for natural or synthetic treatments in your choice of the top product for closed comedones and acne-prone skin, it’s important to remember to be mindful and careful about it.

If you’re going for chemicals, test-patch a portion of your skin first before going all the way. Some products, like tretinoin, for instance, can cause purging.

And if you opt for natural remedies, seek the guidance of a professional to ensure your safety.

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Author

  • Kat

    Kat brings a seasoned voice to our beauty blog with 13 years of dedicated writing experience. Her deep-seated passion isn't just limited to words; she's always on the pulse of emerging makeup trends. Beyond her articles, Kat crafts hand-made crochet swimwear and sundresses, and effortlessly steps in as a muse for beauty photoshoots. Kat holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

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