Why Do Closed Comedones Keep Coming Back?

Closed comedones are small, flesh-colored bumps that pop up on the skin’s surface when a plug of skin cells and oil become trapped within the hair follicle and causes the pore to swell, but because there is a thin layer of skin over it, the bump remains closed.

They can range in size and usually appear in areas of the body where the oil glands are most active, such as the forehead, cheeks, chin, and back.

Closed comedones are considered non-inflammatory acne; however, although rarely the case, these bumps have the potential to become a pimple if an overgrowth of bacteria accumulates inside the pore and triggers an inflammatory reaction.

In this case, a closed comedone can become a pustule, a papule, or even a cyst, depending on the severity of the inflammation.

But despite the risk of getting infected and turning into a full-blown breakout, closed comedones can be incredibly annoying to deal with because they often come back no matter what you do.

Which is why in this article, we will discuss why closed comedones keep coming back and how to get rid of them once and for all.

who do closed comedones keep coming back

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

Why Do Closed Comedones Keep Coming Back?

Closed comedones are one of those skin concerns that can stick around for a long time or keep coming back even after you think you have gotten rid of them.

Here are a few potential factors that may cause closed comedones to keep coming back:

Comedogenic Cosmetic Products

Comedogenic Cosmetic Products closed comedones

Skincare and makeup products containing clogging ingredients that prevent the normal oil flow through the pore are the most common culprit of closed comedones.

Certain ingredients like oils, butters, waxes, silicones, and emollients can block the pore at the opening or within the follicle, resulting in oil buildup inside the pore and eventually causing a closed comedone.

Therefore, the first step in treating closed comedones is to eliminate products that are potentially triggering them.

To do this, you need to go through the ingredient lists of all the beauty products you are using and try to figure out which ones might be causing you an issue.

For more information on comedogenic beauty products, check out my post on which ingredients you should avoid if your skin is prone to clogging and breakouts.

Dehydrated Skin

Dehydrated skin is another common culprit of closed comedones.

The reason for this is when the skin becomes dehydrated, whether that’s from using products that dry it out and compromise its moisture barrier, or hormonal imbalances, climate change, etc., it tends to overproduce oil to compensate for the dryness.

The excess oil then gets trapped in the follicle, leading to a closed comedone or pimple.

Therefore, if you suspect your skin might be dehydrated due to looking dry and dull and being sensitive and reactive, then it’s important to focus on replenishing the skin’s moisture levels by minimizing the use of cosmetic products and simplifying your skincare routine to include more hydrating ingredients instead of drying actives.

Excessive Oil Production

Besides dehydration, excessive oil production can result from hormonal imbalances or climate changes and occurs when the sebaceous glands overproduce oil, leading to an overload of oil in the pore.

This excess oil then gets trapped in the follicle and causes closed comedones or other forms of acne.

To treat this type of acne, it’s important to determine what’s causing this occurrence. If you have oily skin, which is a normal occurrence, you might benefit from a skincare routine that focuses on hydration and exfoliation to keep the pores free of buildup.

If you suspect hormonal imbalances are behind the overproduction of oil, it’s important to consult a doctor to discuss treatment options or try to regulate your hormones by introducing healthy foods into your diet or healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and reducing stress.

Finally, if the excess oil production is caused by a hot and humid climate, try using oil-free products, avoid wearing suffocating makeup when possible, and have a simple skincare routine focusing on hydration rather than aggressively drying out the oil.

Accumulation of Dead Skin Cells

Dead skin cells that don’t shed properly can accumulate in the follicle and block it, leading to a closed comedone or an acne lesion.

Exfoliation is key to keeping the skin clear of debris and preventing the buildup of dead skin cells in the follicle.

Using gentle exfoliating products like chemical exfoliants or retinoids that can help accelerate cellular turnover and force the clogs to be purged from the pore is helpful in these cases; however, it’s essential to be mindful of over-exfoliating as this can lead to dryness, irritation, and even more skin issues.


Purging is an initial stage of breaking out when introducing a product that contains ingredients such as exfoliating acids or vitamin A derivatives into your skincare routine.

The reason this happens is that these ingredients bind to specific receptors in the skin and increase cellular turnover, meaning that the existing clogs that were going to turn into pimples at different points in time are all going to come to the surface of the skin at the same time to be healed.

This can cause anything from blackheads, closed comedones, and full-on cysts, but is a temporary stage that should calm down after several weeks of using the product as the skin gets used to it.

However, introducing exfoliating products or retinoids into your skincare routine while you’re still using other clogging products will keep you in the purging stage for longer because as soon as you purge the clogs, more are created almost immediately.

Therefore, keep an eye on your skin’s reaction to new products and simplify your routine if you notice consistent breakouts.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as pollution accumulating on the skin can also be one of the main causes of closed comedones.

This is because pollutants contain free radicals, which are molecules that cause oxidative stress to the skin cells, leading to abnormalities in the skin structure and an increase in sebum production, both of which can block the pores and cause closed comedones.

Therefore, to combat free radicals, it’s important to keep your skin clean by cleansing it once or twice a day and introducing an antioxidant component such as vitamin C or a retinoid into your routine, as these help neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from further damage.

Additionally, wearing sunscreen daily is also essential to protect the skin from UV rays, which are another source of free radicals that can lead to closed comedones and skin damage.

Lifestyle Habits

Lifestyle Habits closed comedones

Lifestyle habits such as smoking can also cause closed comedones and acne, as some studies show tobacco can stimulate a nicotine-sensitive neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine leads to cellular modulation and differentiation, inducing hyper-keratinization and influencing oil production and composition, as well as reducing antioxidant agents and increasing peroxidation of sebum components, such as squalene.

This means that smoking can not only lead to the overproduction of oil but can actually change the composition of your skin oil, making it oxidize inside the pore and clog it up, leading to closed comedones.

Therefore, if you’re a smoker, it is recommended to quit to reduce your chances of developing closed comedones and acne.

Dirty Makeup Brushes

Dirty makeup brushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria and clog the skin with product buildup.

Therefore, it’s important to regularly wash your makeup brushes, especially if you are using them daily.

Once a week is generally a good habit to get into, as this will help to reduce the chances of clogged pores from product buildup and bacteria.

The Best Treatments for Closed Comedones

Closed comedones may be a nuisance that keeps returning due to using heavy products, skin dehydration, environmental factors, etc., but they can be reduced and even prevented with the right treatments.

The most effective methods for treating closed comedones are chemical exfoliation and retinoids; therefore, here are a few of my favorite suggestions for both.

COSRX – AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

COSRX – AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

The COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid is a lightweight toner that contains 7% glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin and help dissolve excess oil and dead skin cells stuck inside the pores.

Along with the main active ingredient, the toner also contains soothing niacinamide and skin-repairing panthenol, which help repair damaged skin while also calming down any redness or irritation caused by the exfoliation process.

Excellent for weekly use, this toner helps to reduce the appearance of closed comedones and prevents them from returning.

Paula’s Choice – Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid, $34

Paula’s Choice – Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid

The Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution by Paula’s Choice is an excellent option for anyone dealing with closed comedones and acne, as it contains 2% salicylic acid, which helps to clear out clogged pores, reduce inflammation and redness, and prevent future breakouts.

Lightweight and fast-absorbing, this exfoliating solution can be used twice to three times a week and is gentle enough for all skin types.

Vivant Skincare – Derm-A-Gel, $74

Vivant Skincare – Derm-A-Gel

The Derm-A-Gel by Vivant Skincare is a targeted corrector serum for retinoid beginners containing vitamin A propionate, a component that gently increases cellular turnover without causing severe side effects often associated with starting a retinoid.

Additionally, the serum also contains pigment-inhibiting kojic acid that helps fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, along with lactic acid to gently exfoliate and hydrate the skin, urea, which is a natural compound that promotes rehydration on a cellular level, as well as niacinamide, a barrier-strengthening antioxidant that helps reduce redness, soothe sensitivity, and minimize breakouts.

The Acne Solution: Your Ultimate Guide To Flawless Complexion

An extensive, no-nonsense course showing you how to never have acne again, from a licensed Esthetician specializing in oily/acne-prone skin.

Leave a Comment