So, you think you’ve got a blackhead. You’ve tried everything to get rid of it—peel-off masks, nose strips—to no avail. What you thought was clogging your pores (that gross gunk and dead skin!) is not coming out. Not even the best magnifying mirror can reveal what is going on.
If you’ve ever been in this predicament, chances are you don’t actually have blackheads but are actually suffering from sebaceous filaments. Sebaceous filaments are a natural part of the skin’s follicle that look like blackheads, but aren’t full of the oil and can’t be eradicated in the same way. If you want to figure out if you have them and how to get rid of them, read on for answers from Dr. Craig Kraffert, board certified dermatologist and president of Amarte Skin Care.
What are sebaceous filaments? What’s the difference from blackheads?
“Much of the difference is semantics. Blackheads, technically speaking, have a dark cap that is thought to occur as a result of oxidation. Blackheads also tend to tightly fill and widen oil gland ducts. Blackheads behave like bottle-cork plugs. Sebaceous filaments, on the other hand, do not have oxidation-induced darkening of the portion nearest to the skin surface. They tend to be narrower and, at times, longer than blackheads. As such, they typically do not cause complete blockage and impaction of the oil gland unit.
Here’s a funny picture from Reddit that helps illustrate what sebaceous filaments look like on the skin.”
What causes sebaceous filaments?
“Like blackheads, sebaceous filaments also represent condensation of oils and skin scales within the oil gland duct but the condensation is not fully congealed and does not usually result in complete obstruction of the duct. Blackheads occur when skin scale and skin oils solidify to form plugs in the ducts leading from oil glands deep in the skin to the skin surface.
If your nose strip isn’t releasing any of the toxins you would normally see with blackhead extraction, it’s probably sebaceous filaments. Sebaceous filaments is still a clogged pore but not to the extent of a blackhead.”
Can you get rid of them at home? If so, how?
“With proper cleansing and care, sebaceous filaments can be softened, dissolved and lifted up and out of the oil gland ducts. If you’re nervous about removal, it’s best to seek the help of a professional.”
How can you prevent sebaceous filaments?
“It is important to eliminate oil, dirt, debris, and makeup to prevent these materials from congealing in pores and creating sebaceous filaments. Cleansing with gentle cleanser or a mild exfoliant is best. I recommend using a cleansing exfoliant like Amarte Daily ExfoliPowder because the plant-seed based exfoliants will effectively remove any particles congealing at the surface, but are gentle enough for daily use, so you could use it every day.”
What products get rid of filaments?
“The best ingredients to include in such a regimen include retinoids, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and, to a lesser extent, AHAs. These ingredients work best when they are part of a pleasant regimen that is fun and easy to use, as strict ongoing compliance with an anti-blackhead regimen is essential and, people being people, if it isn’t fun, it might not get done.”