What you thought were blackheads on your face (usually on the t-zone) may be actually sebaceous filaments. Due to marketing and lack of knowledge this is a common misconception.

Difference between blackheads and sebaceous filaments

How they look like

Blackheads are well, one black, and two, are much more harder. When they “pop” out they are rigid. While sebaceous filaments are more white or flesh colour almost. They are less rigid when they pop out.

What causes them

Sebaceous filaments occur naturally in your body. They occur due to a collection of sebum and dead skin cells around a hair follicle. They usually cause enlarged pores which are often mistaken for blackheads.

Blackheads on the other hand are caused due to clogged hair follicles and contain an oxidized version of melanin.

Left is sebaceous filaments, and the right is blackheads.

What can you do about sebaceous filaments?

Honestly, to remove them? Nothing. You can’t do anything. They occur naturally in the body and you don’t want to get rid of them. If you try to get rid of them by popping them, they will just come back the next day. While blackheads can be removed for a much longer period of them. You can reduce the appearance of them but there are a few things you mustn’t do to make them more noticeable/bigger:

  • Use nose strips
  • Steam your face
  • Remove them
  • Use too many products

I know all of this feels good and satisfying but they will ultimately enlarge your pores. I know this from personal experience. The earlier you stop this, the better.

What should be my skincare routine?

Just have a good skincare routine, there are many routines out there and I understand they are overwhelming. It’s definitely a trial and error situation unfortunately and your skincare routine would generally be unique to you but at the least your skincare routine should have a cleanser, tone, and moisturizer (sunscreen if possible) to set the stage.

Ensure that the product you are using is not hazardous. You can use this site: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/users-guide-to-skin-deep/ and be consistent. Don’t keep trying new products out because you will never nail down what doesn’t work and what does. The caveat is that if you start breaking out, have inflammation, get sick, etc from a product throw it out immediately.  This has happened to me a few times and I had the notion that I didn’t want to waste money, better to lose the money then scar and ruin your skin.

I have sebaceous filaments for the longest time and still do! I stressed over the sebaceous filaments, I notice them on my face and self-conscious. Turns out, a lot of people don’t even notice them on my face and hardly see them unless they are super close to my face. So, don’t worry it’s not the end of the world if you have them.

Good luck on your skin care journey.

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