Once you find out you’ve got subclinical acne, all you’ll want to know is how to get rid of it.

Those skin-like bumps you see paying you a sudden visit one fine morning—yeah, that’s subclinical acne.

A few of them on discreet places like under the chin or jaw is totally fine and manageable. But a whole squad of them suddenly deciding to chill on your forehead? That’s when the frustration kicks in.

Don’t let frustration beat you down yet though!

Understanding subclinical acne better can help you deal with it. And you'll soon say goodbye to it without frustration consuming you.

So, come along with me as we take a look at subclinical acne and how to get rid of it.

What is Subclinical Acne?

subclinical acne

When acne isn’t exactly acne yet, that’s when it’s called subclinical, meaning not detectable. It doesn’t look like a full-blown breakout yet. But the cause for it and the eventual breakout is mostly the same.

Subclinical acne is superficial acne, appearing below the skin. You’re likely to come across this term often in the web. But for dermatologists, the term they use is comedonal acne.

As you could guess from that term, comedones are the acne blemishes that appear below the skin. They are flesh-colored small bumps that love to appear on the forehead and chin [1]. When most of the blemish you find on your skin are these flesh-colored bumps, that’s when it’s called subclinical acne or comedonal acne.

And it’s not all flesh-colored bumps you’ll see by the way. That’s one type of comedone called closed comedones or whiteheads. Along with whiteheads, you’ll also see open comedones or blackheads.

Both whiteheads and blackheads are non-inflammatory acne blemishes. This means acne bacteria hasn’t infected the follicles yet. So, you typically don’t see any redness along with these blemishes.

Subclinical Acne Causes and Prevention

Blemishes in comedonal or subclinical acne form when our hair follicles or “pores” become clogged with debris. Like dirt and our own skin oil called sebum [1].

For acne to form, clogging is a prerequisite. After clogging comes the more painful and pus-filled acne blemishes. And that’s why subclinical acne has the same triggers as other forms of acne [1, 2]:

  • Hormonal changes, increasing activity of sex hormones that trigger acne
  • Skin oil (sebum) build-up, which adds to the clog
  • Using oily, heavy skin care and cosmetic products
  • Eating some acne-triggering foods like milk and sugar
  • Stubborn dead skin cells adding to the clogs
  • Smoking (comedonal acne is more common in smokers than in non-smokers)
  • Stress, which triggers hormonal changes

Hormones are more complex and can often call for help from your OB or derm. Luckily, the other causes are manageable for us. We can do enough to help prevent subclinical acne.

You can also read more about acne triggers from this post on Pretty Blooming.

How to Get Rid of Subclinical Acne?

subclinical acne

Want to have even the slimmest hope of getting rid of subclinical acne? If so, you need to have a basic skin care routine in place.

That means washing your skin twice daily (morning and evening) with a mild cleanser and water.

Then moisturize with a non-oily moisturizer. And in the morning, top it all off with a non-oily sunscreen.

Sunscreen doesn’t really connect directly to subclinical acne. But it’s a skin care step that will save you from the dryness and irritation brought by sun damage.

Got your basic routine down? You can now move on to using products with ingredients that target the comedones of subclinical acne.

Your number one weapon is exfoliating. But not in the scrub-your-comedones-off way. I’m talking about using mild-strength chemical exfoliants. 

Look for exfoliating acids like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and azelaic acid. At low concentrations, they can be mild enough so you can eventually use them daily.

And you might be wondering what’s so special about these acids. Well, they are keratolytic. Meaning they can get rid of the excess skin that’s contributing to your subclinical acne.

Other over-the-counter options you can use for comedones are benzoyl peroxide and retinol. Both have keratolytic properties that can help pare down the pesky bumps you’re dealing with.


Next time you see a whole squadron of these flesh-colored bumps, do not panic! 

Remember all that we talked about today. And act fast but cautious dealing with the pesky bumps.

If you do, your subclinical acne won't have any chance of becoming a full-blown breakout.

Thank you for reading and I hope we meet again soon!

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