open comedones

The Battle Against Blackheads: Unlocking the Secrets of Open Comedones

What Are Those Black Dots on Your Nose?

open comedonesArticle Summary:

  • Open comedones are small, dark bumps on the skin, often called blackheads. They form when dead skin and oil clog pores.
  • Open comedones frequently appear on the nose because of the area’s high concentration of oil glands.
  • To treat them, exfoliate regularly with salicylic acid to prevent dead skin buildup. Use retinoids 1-2 times weekly to increase cell turnover and shrink pores.
  • Niacinamide is another helpful ingredient that regulates oil production. Professional extractions can also help clear hardened open comedones.
  • Avoid over-drying the skin, which can stimulate more oil production. Always apply SPF, as sun exposure can darken comedones.
  • See a dermatologist if over-the-counter methods don’t resolve stubborn open comedones. Prescription retinoids or procedures may be needed.
  • Open comedones (Blackheads) can be effectively treated and prevented with consistent exfoliation, retinoids, and proper extractions.

We have all dealt with them at some point – those small dark bumps that seem to congregate around the nose and chin area. While some mistakenly call them blackheads, the technical term for these blemishes is open comedones.

Comedones develop when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria clog up a pore. This plugged pore then enlarges, stretching the opening. When the contents of the blocked pore are exposed to air, they oxidize and turn black, resulting in telltale darkened bumps.

While open comedones (Blackheads) can occur anywhere on the face, they tend to populate the nose, crease, and chin because they contain a high density of oil glands. The nose is especially vulnerable thanks to the sebaceous filaments that cover the nasal pores. Sebaceous filaments are collections of sebum, dead skin cells, and debris accumulating in pores and appearing as tiny hair-like structures.

Treatment for Open Comedones (Blackheads)

open comedonesWhile open comedones are harmless, many find them unsightly and wish to remove them. Dermatologist Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy shares how to effectively treat and prevent open comedones through strategic skincare.

1) Exfoliate Regularly

To prevent pore blockages that lead to open comedones, it’s critical to regularly exfoliate. This removes the top layer of dead skin cells so they don’t build up and clog pores. Dr. Jegasothy suggests using a daily salicylic acid cleanser, which chemically exfoliates and dissolves oil and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Using salicylic acid cleansers consistently can help minimize open comedones over time.

2) Use Retinoids

Retinoids are one of the most effective ingredients for treating open comedones,” says Dr. Jegasothy. Topical retinoids like adapalene and tretinoin increase cell turnover to prevent dead cells from accumulating. They also regulate oil production and shrink enlarged pores. Using a retinoid 1-2 times per week at night helps reduce open comedones and prevents new ones from forming.

3) Try Niacinamide

Another beneficial active ingredient is niacinamide. This vitamin B3 derivative exhibits sebum-regulating effects to keep pore blockages at bay. Look for niacinamide in lightweight serums or moisturizers and use it daily. Many sunscreens also contain niacinamide, allowing you to reap benefits during daytime hours.

4) Perform Extractions Properly

While picking and scratching at bumps can cause scarring, Dr. Jegasothy notes that proper extraction by a professional can speed up the removal of hardened open comedones. She suggests seeing an esthetician monthly for extractions using a sterile lancet. Never squeeze blemishes aggressively, as this damages the skin. Follow extractions with a salicylic acid product to continue clearing pores).

5) Avoid Excessive Drying

Drying out the skin too aggressively can backfire and stimulate increased oil production, warns Dr. Jegasothy. Stay hydrated, avoid alcohol-based toners, and use oil-free gel moisturizers to provide light hydration without clogging pores. Look for skin-soothing antioxidants like green tea as well.

6) Protect From Sun

UV exposure can darken open comedones, making them more visible. Always apply broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen when going outside. Choose oil-free, non-comedogenic formulas specifically formulated for acne-prone skin.

When to See a Dermatologist

Make an appointment with your dermatologist for those with severe or stubborn open comedones unresponsive to over-the-counter care. They can determine if prescription retinoids or treatments like chemical peels or laser resurfacing are warranted to clear pores. Early intervention prevents lasting large pores or pitted scarring.

The Takeaway

blackheadsOpen comedones are harmless but can be an annoying skin nuisance. With a disciplined routine using salicylic acid, retinoids, niacinamide, and gentle exfoliation, you can successfully tackle existing bumps and prevent new ones from cropping up. Pay attention to any products that clog your pores and adjust your regimen accordingly. With time and consistency, you’ll uncover clear, smooth skin free of darkened plugs.


Open comedones, sometimes called blackheads, are darkened bumps that appear when dead skin and oil clog pores. They frequently pop up on the nose due to the high concentration of oil glands in that area. Regular exfoliation with salicylic acid, using retinoids 1-2 times per week, and correctly performing extractions by an esthetician can help clear existing open comedones. Niacinamide and oil-free moisturizers also help prevent new ones from forming by regulating sebum production. Avoid picking at bumps, and always apply SPF to prevent darkening. See a dermatologist if over-the-counter methods don’t resolve stubborn open comedones after a few months. With consistent care, these harmless but unsightly bumps can be controlled and minimized for smooth, clear-looking skin.