How to Remove a Comedo

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on May 22, 2023
4 min read

Anyone who has watched a pimple popping video online may be familiar with the word comedo. Dermatologists use comedo to describe the most common types of acne. A comedo can be either a whitehead or a blackhead. Most people have had comedonal acne at some time in their lives.

Comedones are pores or hair follicles that have gotten blocked with bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells to form a bump on your skin. They are not as inflamed and painful as some other types of acne. But they can be unsightly.

You may be more prone to comedones if other people in your family have a history of comedonal breakouts. Hormone fluctuations also increase your chances of developing comedones. 

Some people have a breakout of comedones around their hairline if they use heavy styling products. A comedo can also appear on your forehead if you frequently wear a hat that fits tightly against your skin.

There are ways to treat and prevent comedonal acne at home, and removal treatments you can get from a doctor.

A comedo can be one of two types. These are commonly called whiteheads or blackheads. The names come from how the blemishes look on your skin. They are small bumps that are either flesh-colored or have a dark spot on top.

Whiteheads. Whiteheads are blocked pores that have closed over. They are usually the color of your flesh or slightly lighter than the surrounding skin. They are not usually painful. You may have one at a time. They can also appear in clusters.

Blackheads. Blackheads are bumps with a dark spot on top. Unlike whiteheads, your clogged pore stays open. The dead skin and oils blocking it are exposed to the air. The oxygen in the air then causes the spot to turn a dark color.

Comedones are among the easiest types of acne to treat. They are close to the surface of your skin and respond well to over-the-counter topical medicines. You can find acne treatments that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid and use them to treat your comedones.

Speak with your doctor if you need stronger treatment to reduce or remove your comedones. They may prescribe a prescription-strength cream or oral medicine to manage acne. They might add an antibiotic as well if they think bacteria is making your blocked pores worse.

Videos of doctors using special tools to extract comedones are very popular online. But experts caution that trying to imitate pimple-popping videos can make your skin worse. You could hurt yourself and the actions might lead to infections and scarring.

You may have different types of blemishes on your face along with comedones. 

Other types of acne may be more painful with redness and inflammation. These tend to be deeper under the skin and may be complicated by the presence of bacteria. They may not go away with over-the-counter treatment. You should talk to your doctor about the following kinds of pimples.

Papules. Papules are raised bumps with no head that might feel rough or sandpapery to the touch.

Pustules. Pustules are raised blemishes that are filled with white or yellowish fluid. They are harder to treat and may require a prescription medication.

Nodules. Nodules form deep below your skin's surface. They look like red bumps that are larger than typical blemishes. Nodules are hard to the touch and don't heal quickly.

Cysts. Acne cysts are inflamed spots. They are soft to the touch because they are filled with fluid. They can lead to scarring if left untreated. These usually require treatment from a doctor.

Here are several steps you can take to reduce or prevent future comedo breakouts. 

Wash your face. Use a gentle cleanser twice a day. Be sure to wash your face after sweating.

Don't irritate your skin. Avoid products that are abrasive or drying. Use lukewarm rather than hot water to wash your face. Don't scrub your skin roughly. Use your fingers to wash your face instead of a sponge or cloth.

Shampoo regularly. Keeping your hair and scalp clean can prevent breakouts near your hairline or on your scalp.

Don't pick at your skin. Picking or popping blemishes can make them worse or cause scarring. Touching them can spread bacteria from your fingers and lead to infections.

Watch your diet. Avoid dairy and simple carbs like white bread, white pizza crust, white cereal, white rice, and other refined wheat.

Taking proper care of your skin can help prevent comedones and other types of acne. Contact your doctor if you have questions about acne or comedo removal.