What Is Subclinical Acne (& How To Get Rid Of It)?

If you recently started noticing tiny, slightly red or flesh-colored bumps on your forehead, you might be dealing with something called subclinical acne.

Subclinical acne is not a term that’s thrown around frequently, and there really isn’t much information about this condition online.

This type of acne doesn’t manifest the usual blackheads or whiteheads but instead, it appears as small bumps with no head.

So what is subclinical acne? Is there a way to get rid of it?

What Is Subclinical Acne?

NB: I can show you how to never have acne again. If you have acne and want it gone, read this message.

What Is Subclinical Acne?

Those bumps that aren’t quite pimples but are still visible even after applying foundation is what subclinical acne looks like.

Subclinical acne can be flesh-colored or slightly red and it can make the skin’s surface look and feel uneven but never develop into the typical inflamed and pus-filled pimple.

Rather, subclinical acne is simply a clogged pore.

While mostly dominating the forehead, subclinical acne can also occur in large numbers on the cheeks, nose, and chin because the oil-producing glands in these areas of the face are highly active.

what is subclinical acne
This is how subclinical acne often looks.

What Causes Subclinical Acne?

These little bumps are caused by an excess of sebum, the waxy, oily substance released by the sebaceous glands.

Sebum serves as natural lubrication and moisturization of the skin and it is good to have it, however, accumulation of sebum, dead skin cells, and white blood cells can lead to overgrowth of bacteria, which can definitely cause subclinical as well as full-blown cystic acne.

But that may not be the only reason behind subclinical acne. Here are a few other factors that may be causing this condition for you:

Using bad skincare products.

Skincare is great and that’s why I love it. However, it is also hard work simply because not every product is meant for any skin type or skin condition.

But besides this, there are companies out there that produce flat-out bad skincare products. And by bad I mean using ingredients that can be harmful to the skin.

Many skincare products contain pore-clogging ingredients that can significantly worsen those pesky bumps across your forehead and also contribute for acne to start appearing in other areas too.

Many of these ingredients are advertised as moisturizing, hydrating, and softening. However, they tend to clog the pore and prevent sebum from flowing freely, which will result in worsening acne.

Additionally, there are also products containing ingredients that are too harsh, and stripping and using them might harm the skin’s moisture-holding capacity.

Therefore, the skin can become sensitized and dehydrated, which will trigger the sebaceous glands into overproducing oil and then?

You guessed it – clogged pores and more acne.

Poor hygiene.

Since we know that clogged pores cause subclinical acne, you need to take your cleansing routine seriously.

During the day we are exposed to a lot of pollution, dirt, and bacteria that stay on our skin, therefore, you need to remove all this with an adequate cleanser before going to bed and allowing it to thrive.

Oftentimes after washing your face, your skin is still covered in a layer of dirt, oil, makeup, and other impurities, so making sure it’s all off before you’re gone for the day is one useful way in improving subclinical acne.

Stress prevents healing.

Stress has long been suspected to induce acne flare-ups and it has been closely studied only to be confirmed by a west-controlled study some years ago.

Increased acne severity is significantly associated with the spike of the cortisol hormone. This directly stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum, leading to clogging of the pores and further inflammatory acne breakouts.

Research shows that psychological stress can indeed slow the body’s repair process. This is because the immune system plays a central role in wound healing, while stress alters your immune system’s ability to heal wounds.

Additionally, it can actively interfere with your daily skincare routine as we all tend to skip on our skincare regimens from time to time after a long, exhausting, and stressful day.


We all like to indulge in a delicious sweet snack, and hey, it’s certainly not a sin, however, the bittersweet truth about sugar is that it significantly exacerbates acne breakouts.

Processed foods such as sweets are designed to rapidly raise your blood sugar, thus contributing to excess production of the hormone insulin.

This directly causes increased secretion of androgen secretion, the main hormone that stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess oil and plays a role in acne development.

Additionally, a sugar rush makes your body work hard to get back to normal levels and this roller coaster of ups and downs can leave you feeling nervous, foggy, irritable, drained, and stressed.

How To Get Rid Of Subclinical Acne?

how to get rid of subclinical acne

Although subclinical acne is the least dangerous type of acne out there and is typically easy to maintain and get rid of, it doesn’t mean it should be neglected. It is still a condition that has the potential to worsen over time.

So here are several easy solutions to get rid of subclinical acne:

Don’t pick your acne.

We’ve all been warned by our dermatologists, estheticians, and even our mothers not to pop our pimples. But, you cannot help yourself, I get it.

However, as it turns out, when you squeeze a pimple, you inadvertently force all the debris from the pore deeper into the follicle. And this can cause the wall around the follicle to rupture, spilling all the infected material into the lower layers of the epidermis.

While you might be thinking that your skin will thank you for coaxing the pus and debris out of it, this is definitely not what happens in the deeper layers of your skin and you are, essentially, causing damage on a deeper level.

Additionally, popping your pimples can leave long-term damage and will absolutely result in developing acne scars.

This is because every time your skin is damaged, there is a possibility that as it heals, tissue will be lost. And this is how you get depressed or pitted acne scars.

The greater the trauma done to the skin, the bigger the chances of tissue loss are.

Moreover, there are dark marks too and this is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and is caused by inflammation. Popping a pimple causes inflammation, so you are more likely to see hyperpigmentation spots once that pimple heals.

Just keep your hands away from your face and have a snack instead.

Avoid using oils or rich cleansers.

Since the forehead is the area that tends to get oiliest throughout the day and subclinical acne is typically most abundant in the forehead, the last thing you want to do is apply oil in an attempt to soften it.

Oils, regardless of what everyone says, are not hydrating for the skin and are the number one factor for acne breakouts to begin with.

Due to their molecular sizes, oils cannot penetrate the skin so they end up sitting on the surface and clog your pores. People often say that oils soften their skin, however, softening and hydrating is not to be confused.

We receive hydration from the deeper layers of our skin and by using ingredients known as humectants that help draw moisture from the environment and into your skin.

Oils, on the other hand, are known as occlusives, therefore, they don’t perform the same action on the skin as humectants do.

Yes, oils will soften the skin, but that doesn’t mean that your skin is hydrated. Your skin is just soft.

Additionally, heavy or rich cleansers can also exacerbate subclinical acne. The logic is simple – if this acne happened to be because of oil that clogged the pore, the last thing I want is to add more oil to it, right?

While foaming cleansers tend to be a bit overdrying for the skin, you cannot go wrong with a gentle gel cleanser that contains soothing and hydrating ingredients.

Exfoliate your skin.

In the simplest terms, exfoliation means physical or chemical removal of dead skin cells in order to speed up the natural shedding process and reveal a brighter and more radiant complexion.

While skin cells naturally shed and fall off in a process known as desquamation, dead skin cells can often remain trapped on the skin’s surface and build up on top of each other.

This is what causes clogging of your pores and essentially leads to acne breakouts. Therefore, exfoliation should happen regularly in your routine if you have subclinical acne.

Regular exfoliation removes the dead skin cells away and prevents the pores from clogging, therefore, subclinical acne should be leaving the building soon after you get into the habit of exfoliating.

Hydrate your skin.

One excellent way to hydrate your skin is by incorporating toners and essences into your skincare routine.

While toners or essences are not an essential part of a skincare routine, and anyone could do without them, they are still the best means of giving your skin a quick shot of hydration.

Toners come in a liquid consistency and penetrate the skin easier, therefore, a good toner that contains hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or green tea that can quickly bring your dull skin back to life in a matter of seconds.

On the other hand, essences are what follows a toner. They typically have a slightly thicker consistency than a toner, but they still feel more lightweight than a serum.

Essences are the hydrating layer that properly primer the skin to best absorb your serums and creams. Moreover, they provide your skin with an additional shot of hydration following your toner.

Toners and essences can be helpful in banishing subclinical acne because they will keep the skin hydrated, therefore, the sebaceous glands will produce less oil to clog the pores.

Additionally, great hydration will further improve the overall health and appearance of your skin.

Avoid heavy makeup.

While you may have the urge to cover it all up, probably the best option for your skin is to leave it as clean and protected as possible.

Turn to good skincare and sunscreen to protect you from daily pollutants while you give your skin a break from clogging foundations and heavy makeup.

Makeup plays a huge part in clogged pores. Products are usually formulated with heavy alcohols and fragrances to make them smell nicer and last longer and we already discussed what these can do to your skin.

If you are dealing with subclinical acne, this may only be making your situation worse, so giving your skin the needed break will definitely improve your condition.

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6 thoughts on “What Is Subclinical Acne (& How To Get Rid Of It)?”

  1. I think this is me!! Combination skin but last oct i decided to use a sweet almond night oil religiously every night for 6 weeks!! Stupid decision! Bumpy forehead! Still battling with it now 🙁

  2. Hi Simone,

    First of all thank you for all this information. It clarified a lot of things I did wrong in my skincare routine. I have combination skins with quite a lot of bumps on my nek and cheek area. Do you perhaps know any good toner or essence? I am already using the jumiso snail scentella cream. P.s. What if I’d use a 2% bha? Can I still sunbathe a little bit?

    Thank you

    • Hi Amira!

      I’m so happy my article helped you realize what’s not working for your skin! This way, you can make a positive change and opt for something that will make a difference for you.

      Instead of opting for toners or essences, perhaps you will benefit more from a simple hyaluronic acid serum.

      The 2% BHA might be an ideal solution for any existing bumps and if you are not sure what to opt for, I have written a few reviews on different BHA products that may help you.

      Sunbathing, on the other hand, is something I don’t recommend because this can damage the skin over time, therefore, make sure that you are always protected with high SPF when you’re out on the sun.


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