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Causes of Solar Comedones & Treatments to Get Rid of It

What are Solar Comedones?

Comedone refers to clogged pores. They are a type of acne that looks like small bumps on the skin.

Solar Comedones or Solar Acne is small skin-colored papules that occur due to prolonged sun exposure. They are mostly seen occurring on the face of middle-aged or older people. It is observed that approximately 6 percent of adults over the age of 50 years have solar acne.(1)

What are Solar Comedones?

Solar Comedones are non-inflammatory and appear symmetrically on the face typically along the temples and around the eyes. Sometimes they can also show up on the neck, earlobes, and forearms.

Solar comedones are also known as senile comedones, sun acne, Favre-Racouchot syndrome, or nodular elastosis with cysts and comedones.

Types of Solar Comedones

Solar comedones are of two types:

Closed (Whiteheads)

These are the whiteheads or plugged pores that are closed all over. They appear as small white or skin-colored bumps. The color depends on the skin tone of a person. These types of solar comedones start as whiteheads and turn into open comedones over time.

Open (Blackheads)

Open solar comedones are the clogged but unsealed pores. They show as a black spot on the top of the pore.

The black spot is not due to dirt but is the oil exposed to air.

Causes of Solar Comedones

The factors that lead to solar comedones are:

Chronic Sun Exposure

The most common cause of solar comedones is long-term sun exposure. They are seen occurring on the exposed area of the body such as the sides of the temples.

It is commonly seen occurring in those with outdoor jobs such as farming. It can also be seen in those frequently sunbathing.

Sun exposure causes solar acne due to the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation, a form of energy produced by the sunlight. These rays are also responsible for damaging DNA in the skin cells and causing premature skin aging. It also leads to damage to the elastic tissue in the skin causing solar elastosis. This causes thickened, yellowish, and wrinkled skin along with solar comedones.

Heavy Smoking

Solar comedones can also be seen occurring more in those smoking cigarettes for many years.

This factor along with sun exposure increases the risk of solar comedones.

Cigarette contains harmful chemicals that damage the skin. Also, the heat from it produces radiation that could also affect the skin.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is used in the treatment of cancer. This can damage the skin and lead to comedones and other lesions.

Solar comedones due to radiation therapy can develop between 2 weeks to 6 months after the therapy is completed.

They can occur anywhere in the body but are mostly seen occurring on the face, neck, and scalp.

The Risk Associated with Solar Comedones

Solar comedones are not cancerous but people can have cosmetic concerns related to them.

The main causes of solar comedones is related to health risks. Sun exposure and frequent cigarette smoking can increase the risk of:

  • Skin cancer
  • Poor immune functioning
  • Premature skin aging

Also, cigarette smoking can increase the risk of:

Treatment for Solar Comedones

Solar comedones can be treated with a combination of several procedures that include:

  • Medication
  • Lifestyle change
  • Surgical techniques.

Solar Comedones Extraction

Comedone can be extracted manually but they can recur.

Doctors use a device called an extractor to squeeze out the bumps and unblock the pores.

Surgical Techniques to Get Rid of Solar Comedones

There are also a few other procedures other than extraction that include:

  • Dermabrasion
  • Curettage
  • Comedone excision
  • Laser resurfacing

Depending on the severity of comedones the method is chosen.

Topical Retinoids

Retinoids exfoliate the skin and promote collagen formation. This reduces comedones occurrence.

Topical retinoids dry up the skin, therefore, their excessive usage should be avoided. It is also recommended to apply a light moisturizer after using them.

Lifestyle Changesto Get Rid of Solar Comedones

There are several lifestyle changesthat can slow down the occurrence of comedones.

This includes:

  • Avoiding sun-exposure during 10 am and 2 pmor wear a hat if there is an urgent need to go
  • Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or 50
  • Quit smoking

Solar comedones occur due to sun exposure, smoking, or radiation therapy. These comedones are not harmful but their causes are. Avoiding the causes can prevent comedones from occurring as well can keep away the other health effects that are caused due to them.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 5, 2021

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