Sebaceous Filaments are cylindrical structures on the skin that are either white or yellow in color commonly found in areas where you have rich density of sebaceous follicles (oil glands) like nose, cheeks, forehead and more prominently on the sides of the nose - the common areas where where you have a lot of sebaceous glands. They are tube-like structures that lie on the pore. Their function is basically to take oil from the sebaceous glands and bring it to the surface of your skin in order to hydrate the skin. So they are normal structures of the skin. You can’t get rid of them, but you can minimize the appearance of them.
These are not the same as Blackheads or Whiteheads.
Blackheads vs Sebaceous Filaments
This is how blackheads look like.
And this is how Sebaceous Filaments look like.
Blackheads and Whiteheads are the 2 types of skin lesions called the comedones. Blackhead is an open Comedone, and Whiteheads are closed comedones. Comedones are actual plugs (blockages) within the pores.
Sebaceous filaments can look like enlarged darkened pores and are easily confused with blackheads. Blackheads is a blockage (plug) on top of a pore which blocks the sebum from escaping the pore. Sebaceous filament has no plug in the pore, it is just a thin hair-like structure that does pass the oil to the surface of the skin.
Blackheads and Whiteheads are related to acne and start off with tiny comedone. With time, the plug becomes more prominent and you get a pimple or a papule. Sebaceous filaments are just protruding stuff out of the skin which are not acne-related at all and are on the surface layer of the skin as a result of the natural skin turnover. Sebaceous filaments will not give rise to acne. However, people with oily skin tend to have both; acne and sebaceous filaments due to excess sebum production or large pores.
Sebaceous Filament looks like a dark dot on the skin. It can also be gray, yellow or clear. Blackheads are very prominent dark plugs at the top of the pore.
If you squeeze Sebaceous Filaments (don’t do that), a white or yellow colored worm-like structure may come out. If you extract a blackhead (don’t do that), the dark plug comes out. Do not squeeze or try to extract anything manually. It will lead to permanent damage to the pore, scarring or injury to the skin.
What causes sebaceous filaments
Sebaceous Filaments are caused by sebum that is normally produced by our skin to lubricate our skin and keep it hydrated. Any excess sebum sits on top of our skin and we call it sebaceous filaments. It is noticeable in people with large pores or people with oily skin rather than people with dry skin who have smaller pores. However, you will generally find these in every type of skin and in the areas where you have a lot of sebaceous glands like nose, cheeks, forehead and more prominently on the sides of the nose
These cylindrical shaped sebaceous filaments on the face are actually composed of 10-30 layers of dead skin cells with a mix of bacteria or oil. Presence of Sebaceous Filaments does not mean that your face has been dirty. They are formed as a part of normal skin cells turnover and overproduction of sebum. The only change needed from your end is to use the right products in your skin care routine that will tackle your sebaceous filaments and oil production.
How to get rid of Sebaceous Filaments
4 simple steps to getting rid of sebaceous filaments.
- Use a 2% Salicylic Acid cleanser regularly, which will remove the oily sebum within the pores by dissolving the dead skin cells. Lather the cleanser/face wash with Salicylic Acid in the areas where you have sebaceous filaments and leave it on for about 2-3 minutes and then rinse it off.
- Use a Retinoid (or Retinol which is less potent). It controls the amount of sebum production
- Use 1-2% Benzoyl Peroxide. It also controls the sebum levels and also minimizes the appearance of pore size.
- Exfoliate once or twice a week. It keeps your pores clean and dissolves excess oil, dirt and dead skin cells.
- Apply an oil-free moisturizer.
How to prevent sebaceous filaments
Once the sebaceous filaments are cleared from the face, they will come back soon. The pores of that area of the skin will refill again within 30 days so they are not permanently removed and do come back if you have oily skin or large pores.
- Double cleanse.
- Daily use of 0.5% to 2% Salicylic Acid as a cleanser will get rid of any Sebaceous Filaments that you may have, and also prevent any further sebaceous filaments from forming as it breaks down the oil in the pores and cleanses it off.
- Avoid using comedogenic products that are likely to clog pores. Look for labels like “non-comedogenic” and “oil-free” in your skincare products. They will not have ingredients that could potentially clog your pores.
- Do not use products that overly dry out your skin - especially the ones that have “denatured alcohol”. Use a thick Moisturizer to avoid drying out the oily parts of your face as the skin will try to compensate for the dryness with further overproduction of sebum.
Best Products to get rid of Sebaceous Filaments
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($18 | 237ml)
A gentle exfoliator in the form of cleanser which is a good choice for you if you are facing recurring acne, blackheads, whiteheads or sebaceous filaments on your face.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane ($8 | 30ml)
This is a good start to including Retinol in your skin care routine even if you don’t have sensitive skin. You can go up to 1% and 2% Retinol as your skin gets used to Vitamin A.
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($29 | 118ml)
If you want to use a leave-on product as a Salicylic Acid rather than a cleanser, then this one is recommended as it will not dry you out to cause further production of sebum. It’s moisturizing as it contains Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiolxane and Dimethicone. It has no fragrance, no essential oil and no denatured alcohol.
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