Newsflash: Some of those persistent blackheads on your nose could be sebaceous filaments. Now you’re probably wondering: What are sebaceous filaments? Let us break it down for you.
The constant fight with pores can be brutal and endless, but the best way to combat an enemy is to know exactly what it is. What’s inside your clogged pore might be a blackhead or it might be a sebaceous filament. We reached out to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, to learn the difference between the two and how to treat sebaceous filaments.
First off, what are blackheads?
Blackheads are a form of comedonal acne that occur as a result of built up sweat, sebum, and dead skin cells in the pores. Blackheads are known as open comedones since the pore is open at the surface. Once outside air hits the clogged pore, the sebum oxidizes turning the pore a dark black/grey color, hence the name. They can occur in many different places but are most common on the nose. “The nose contains the most concentrated number of oil glands on the entire body,” says Zeichner.
So, what about those other (sometimes dark) pores on your nose?
Those are sebaceous filaments. Sebaceous filaments are not as common of a term as blackheads but you’re likely confusing the two (with good reason).
Unlike blackheads, sebaceous filaments are not a form of acne but a normal part of the human body that happens when oil forms around a hair follicle. “Oil within the follicles dilates the pores, making them look prominent,” says Zeichner. “The natural oil within the pores are known as sebaceous filaments.” So, they aren’t acne, therefore you can’t prevent sebaceous filaments from popping up.
Can you be pick or squeeze sebaceous filaments?
As someone who suffers from larger pores on my nose, I feel your pain when it comes to the helpless urge to squeeze all the junk out of those pores. But Zeichner says, “If they are not bothersome, no need to treat them. If you do choose to treat them, avoid picking which can cause more harm than good.” So, for all you pickers out there like me, let’s avoid getting out that magnifying mirror and rather treat these pores the right way.
How to treat them:
Think about sebaceous filaments and blackheads as cousins with similar beginnings (oil/sebum). The way we have to treat them is going to be the same. The safest and most effective way is by using chemical exfoliators like BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids). These acids work well because they exfoliate the skin, helping to remove excess dead skin cells and oil from deep within the pores. You can try using the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling in Green Tea, which is a combination of a physical and chemical exfoliator. While the acids work to clean out the pores, the green tea (which is a powerful antioxidant) will help to soothe any inflammation and protect against premature aging.
For more moderate cases, Dr. Zeichner suggests a leave-on product. The Dr. G Brightening Peeling Cream would work well since it contains a blend of AHA’s, BHA’s, and PHA’s to really target clogged pores while also working to lighten any hyperpigmentation. But don’t forget to load up on SPF after, as these chemical exfoliators will leave your skin more sensitive to light!
Along with using acidic treatments on a routine basis, try using a clay mask once a week. The Goodal Deep Clean Pore Glacial Clay will help to purify the skin, leaving it feeling fresh and congestion free.
Blackheads and sebaceous filaments are not as different as they’re made out to be so when it comes to treating them it’s no surprise that the methods are the same. Rather than separating these two into different categories, it makes more sense to think of them as kindred spirits: one as preventable and the other as a normal part of the skin.
As with anything in life, consistency is important. In order to get a grasp on minimizing the size of blackheads and sebaceous filaments, you’ll need to exfoliate on a regular basis. There’s no one time fix (or pore strip) that will get rid of them for good.