Pinterest tag What Is Subclinical Acne? Causes & Treatments – Rael
This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.
Woman touches subclinical acne spots on her forehead.

What Is Subclinical Acne? Causes & Treatments

When you get a pimple, your first reaction probably isn’t to decide what type of pimple it is; you just want to decide how to hide it and get on with your life. 

However, knowing the causes of your breakouts can help you treat them, and pimples come in different forms. Subclinical acne, for instance, is entirely different from cystic acne, which means the treatment to get rid of each type of acne will be different. 

If you’ve heard the term subclinical acne tossed around, you might think it means acne bumps that form deep below the surface of the skin, but it means just the opposite. We’ll cover what subclinical acne is, what causes it, and what you can do to treat it. 

What Is Subclinical Acne?

Subclinical acne is acne that forms just below the surface of the skin, in the epidermis. Unlike cystic acne, which can create deep pockets of discomfort in the deepest layers of your skin, subclinical acne usually presents on the surface as small comedones. 

Comedones are the clinical term for blackheads and whiteheads. Because subclinical acne is characterized by the presence of comedones, it is also sometimes referred to as comedonal acne. 

There are three main types of bumps you’ll get when you have subclinical acne.

  1. Whiteheads. These types of bumps happen because a pore on your skin gets clogged with dirt and oil. These bumps have covers over the top of them and are referred to as “closed.” The dirt and oil inside haven’t been exposed to oxygen, so they may appear white or yellow in color. 
  2. Blackheads. Blackheads also form from clogged pores, but the tops of the pores remain open, allowing the clogged pore to be exposed to oxygen. The oxygen turns the insides of the clogged pore a dark color, making it look black on your skin. 
  3. Papules. Papules are small, flesh-colored bumps that are the earliest stage of acne. They may or may not become whiteheads or blackheads. They usually appear in small clusters and may look more like a rash than acne. 

If you have subclinical acne, you’ll probably know. If you aren’t sure, here’s how you can tell if your acne is subclinical or something else. 


Subclinical acne happens on all areas of the face but is mostly present in the t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). Other forms of acne may be more concentrated on the cheeks and jawline. 

Subclinical acne usually forms several bumps at one time, which can make you think you have a rash. You may see a mix of papules, whiteheads, and blackheads. 

Other Forms of Acne

Other forms of acne may have large, painful cysts that become red and inflamed. You may also experience deep, under-the-skin bumps that never come to the surface. This type of acne is usually characteristic of cystic acne. 

Although there are some over-the-counter remedies that can help (especially if you wake up with a random under-the-skin bump), you may need to visit your dermatologist for more help. Nodules from cystic acne can be irritating and seriously affect your lifestyle, so if you can’t get relief, your dermatologist may be able to help. 

Causes of Subclinical Acne

Several different factors can cause subclinical acne, and your acne may have more than one trigger. Here are some of the most common. 


Hormones can change our skin behavior, making it more likely for you to develop subclinical acne bumps. When your body is producing more androgens like progesterone and testosterone, your skin naturally becomes oilier. 

When your skin produces more sebum (oil) due to increased androgen levels, the oil is also thicker and stickier than it normally is. This oil can bind to dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin and clog pores more easily, forming bumps. 

You may notice that your acne happens at predictable times throughout your cycle. If that’s the case, your subclinical acne may be triggered by hormones. 


Much of our skin’s anatomy is based on genetics. If one or both of your parents, or a sibling has subclinical acne, your chance of developing it is greater. Don’t worry; just because your family is acne-prone doesn’t mean there’s no hope for your skin. You’ll just need to be extra diligent about taking good care of it and using good skincare products


High levels of stress won’t cause a breakout, but it can make an existing breakout worse. This is why you probably notice a few extra bumps around finals or if you have a big meeting at work. However, the reason why stress causes subclinical acne flare-ups is really about hormones. 

The hormone cortisol is released in mass-exodus fashion when you’re under stress, and cortisol creates an inflammatory response in your skin, making existing bumps worse and making it possible for new bumps to form. 

Bad Skin Care Habits

We can all admit we’re not always taking stellar care of our skin, but making bad skincare habits a daily routine can definitely encourage acne breakouts and cause clogged pores. 

Pores clog because of excess oil, dirt, makeup, and dead skin. Keeping your skin cleansed properly is crucial in keeping your skin clean. It’s also important to make sure you’re using products to help keep your skin’s natural moisture level balanced. 


Drinking plenty of water can help keep your skin hydrated, but what you eat also makes a difference in whether or not you’ll get as many acne breakouts. Diet doesn’t cause you to have breakouts, but if you are prone to bumps, a diet high in foods that contain dairy and sugar can worsen your subclinical acne. 

A low-glycemic diet is often recommended for people who struggle with acne because spikes in blood sugar can trigger irritating responses in the skin. 

How To Get Rid of Subclinical Acne

Subclinical acne can be super irritating, but you have options to treat it so you can experience less frequent breakouts and more amazing skin days. Here’s the how-to guide.

First, Level Up Your Skin Care

If you aren’t taking good care of your skin, that’s the first place to start. Even if you’re already using skincare products and regularly washing your face, it might be time to consider some different products. 

Sometimes, the products created to help keep your skin clear can be drying to your skin. When your skin is dry, your sebaceous glands can start working overtime to produce more oil to keep your skin lubricated. 

This excess oil can clog pores and cause more bumps and breakouts. Instead of using harsh products that can strip your skin of natural oil, look for products that are natural, plant-based, and work synergistically with your skin to keep it hydrated. Rael’s skincare line focuses on keeping skin hydrated in the deepest layers, where new skin cells are formed. 

Keeping your skin fully hydrated and healthy can help balance your skin’s natural moisture, which can mean fewer blemishes.

Acne Patches

You’ve probably seen them before, but if you’ve never tried acne patches, what are you waiting for? Acne patches are small, barely visible stickers you place over bumps to help reduce them in a matter of hours. 

Acne patches work by using hydrocolloid technology to keep your bumps covered and protected while they heal. The ingredients in the patchwork absorb and dissolve excess oil and pus in your bumps, while the patch itself makes it virtually impossible for you to pick or prod at the bump and make it worse. 

You can grab an acne patch from Rael in several assorted sizes and even in formulas that can dive deep into the skin and reduce those under-the-skin bumps. Most patches take just a few hours to reduce the appearance of your bump, leaving your skin clear and clarified when you take off the patch. 

Chill Out

Life is stressful, but you can handle it. If you’re feeling especially stressed, consider talking to a friend or therapist or taking up yoga or meditation. Learning to manage your stress is important for your skin and your mental and physical health.

Get Rael

No matter what your skin throws at you, Rael has you covered (literally) with the perfect acne patches for the job. Don’t let a new bump make you mad. Just put a pimple sticker on it and forget about it. When your day is done, chances are, the pimple will be too.

At Rael, we help you have an empowered period with natural, holistic products that are gentle and effective for your skin and body. 


Acne - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 

Psychological stress as acne cause | Dermatology Times

Can the right diet get rid of acne? |  

Use coupon code WELCOME10 for 10% off your first order.


Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $60 away from free shipping.
No more products available for purchase