Dermatologists refer to blackheads and whiteheads as comedones. They are small bumps, flesh-colored, white or dark. Comedones give the skin a rough texture and are found at the base of a pore or follicle.

Comedones are not the same thing as acne. Acne refers to a disease, and comedones may or may not be a an indicator of an outbreak of acne. Comedones, clogged pores, can occur in people who are not suffering from acne. This distinction is important - a single blackhead does not mean that the sufferer has acne.

What are comedones?

Comedones are blockages in the pores of the skin. The blockage itself can be composed of one or all of the following: sebum that has hardened from exposure to air, dead skin cells, dirt or pollutants in the air. The sebum can have a glue-like effect that can bind together disparate elements into a blockage.

Comedones occur either just at the surface of the skin or just below it. Deeper in the skin, the sebaceous gland continues to produce sebum. But now, because of the comedones, the sebum has nowhere to go. This excess sebum builds up in the pore, causing it to swell. This swelling creates the bumps that are characteristic of comedones.

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Comedones that form at the surface of the skin are oxidized by exposure to the air and take on a dark coloration. These are called blackheads. Those comedones that form below the surface of the skin do not take on this color and are known as whiteheads.

What causes comedones?

Comedones have their roots in the production of sebum. Sebum is a necessary oil which helps keep the skin supple, smooth and waterproof. But, during times of hormonal imbalance or from other causes, the sebaceous glands sometimes go into overdrive, producing more sebum than the skin needs -- sometimes more sebum than the follicle can move to the surface of the skin. This excess sebum can combine with other elements as outlined above and harden into comedones.

Treatment of comedones

A regular anti acne skin care regimen, with daily cleansing, exfoliating and toning helps to clear up comedones. Doing this daily makes a big difference.

Removal of comedones is a professional task and should never be tried at home. Resist the urge to pinch, prod, pick at or pop a comedone. You can damage the surrounding skin and cause an infection in this manner, even give yourself a scar. So hands off.

Read the reviews of anti acne skin care products below to see which are most effective against comedones.

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