One of the more common requests from clients is to get their “blackheads out,” when what they really are talking about are sebaceous filaments. While the two look a bit alike, the truth is they couldn’t be more different.

While blackheads are non-inflamed acne lesions mostly formed by dead skin cells and clogged oil, sebaceous filaments are your body’s built-in lubrication system that keeps your skin soft, moisturized and young looking.

Not everyone gets blackheads, but everyone has sebaceous filaments.

Exactly what are sebaceous filaments?

We are all mammals, which means our skin is covered in hair follicles. And in those follicles is not just a hair, but also a sebaceous gland that produces oil (otherwise known as sebum). This is nature’s way of making sure your skin stays moisturized – kind of like your own built-in spa treatment.

If you want to take a deep dive into filaments, you’ll find they’re made of triglycerides, wax esters and squalene and they live in the lining of your pores. They’re the conduits that channel the flow of sebum along your skin’s lining to moisturize it. You might also notice more filaments in your T-zone because that’s a naturally oily part of your face.

For people that aren’t acne-prone, it might be hard to spot filaments; at the most, they may appear as light gray or tan tiny dots. But for those of us do grapple with pimples and have larger pores or oily skin, a sebaceous filament can appear to be blackhead doppelganger, although not quite as dark.

What are blackheads?

Blackheads happen when sebum production is in overdrive. If you’ve got acne, you produce up to five layers of dead skin cells a day and loads of excess oil. Those dead cells and sebum combine with bad products, bacteria, and other impurities to clog pores. The black color is the result of oxidization, which happens when that sticky mixture is exposed to air. Unlike sebaceous filaments, which aren’t raised or bumpy, you can feel your blackheads because they’re normally raised and rough.

How to deal with sebaceous filaments

Before you try to get rid of your sebaceous filaments, just know it’s a futile mission. They’re there for good reason – to moisturize your skin – and they’re totally normal.

Following a good skin care routine, including exfoliating products and treatments might help make them less noticeable, but they’ll still be there. So don’t pick or otherwise try to “extract” or fight them; this can just lead to dilated or broken capillaries, which causes more problems without providing any kind of solution. Just keep to a daily cleansing regime to be sure your pores are clean and clear, so your sebaceous filaments can do their job moving oil through your skin without getting clogged up and forming a blackhead.

How to deal with blackheads

Blackheads, on the other hand, can be extracted and treated effectively by a professional. As tempting as it is, don’t try to squeeze or pop them; this can backfire, damaging or even scarring your skin and making the problem worse by spreading bacteria and dirt. Keep to your cleansing regime to minimize blackheads and the conditions that make your skin ripe for acne.

Here are a few products we recommend to keep your skin blackhead-free and also to keep your sebaceous filaments clear:

AlphaHydro 10 –This powerful serum addresses both ends of the problem skin spectrum: acne and signs of aging, including age spots and wrinkles. Specially formulated, mandelic acid is the first line of defense, helping fight acne, discoloration and scarring, reduce inflammation and brighten your overall complexion. It’s joined by niacinamide, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Together they leave your skin with an acne-free, healthy glow.

Daily A-Daily A is an easily layered, smart aging retinol serum that fits seamlessly into any regimen. The lightweight, oil-free formulation addresses signs of aging, such as fine lines, large pores, and uneven skin tones for a healthier, more youthful-looking complexion.

FreshRX– This gentle serum is specially formulated with the perfect lactic acid for gentle yet effective skin resurfacing. It reduces the appearance of fine lines and uneven skin tones while leaving your skin feeling soft, smooth and fresh.

 

If you have more questions about blackheads vs. filaments, contact us. We’re always happy to help you understand what makes your skin tick.