No one wants to deal with stubborn blackheads. However, often, people think they have blackheads when they actually have something called sebaceous filaments, which can make your pores look large and clogged like a blackhead would. While blackheads and sebaceous filaments look similar, they are not the same thing, which means that each of these pesky skin problems must be treated differently. People often try at-home blackhead remedies (like pore strips) on their sebaceous filaments and get absolutely no results, since sebaceous filaments simply can’t be removed in the same ways blackheads can. So how exactly are sebaceous filaments different from blackheads? And how do you get rid of sebaceous filaments vs. blackheads? Read on to learn the differences between these two pesky skin issues and our top treatment recommendations for each.
The Difference Between Sebaceous Filaments vs. Blackheads
Blackheads are black bumps that appear on your pores due to clogged hair follicles. Everyone has some sebum (a natural skin oil) and some dead skin cells in their pores. However, sometimes, our pores can collect too much sebum and dead skin cells, which clogs the pore. If a clogged pore is open to the air, it can turn black due to oxygen exposure, which causes blackheads. Blackheads are technically a mild form of acne, since acne is a skin condition that includes any hair follicle that has become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. We often think of acne as being just various kinds of red pimples, but blackheads and whiteheads are also acne.
Now, how are sebaceous filaments different from blackheads? First off, sebaceous filaments are not a type of acne. And, in fact, their presence on the skin is perfectly normal and healthy. A sebaceous filament is a pore that contains a significant amount of oil and dead skin cells. When you have sebaceous filaments, it can look like your pores are a bit “full” and pores can look grey, which is why people often confuse sebaceous filaments with blackheads. However, sebaceous filaments do not clog the pores. A blackhead or whitehead “plugs” the pore, but our pores can still breathe and operate healthily when we have sebaceous filaments.
So, blackheads are a type of acne that plugs the pores, while sebaceous filaments are a normal condition in which the pores contain some dead skin cells and oil. While sebaceous filaments are technically normal and healthy, we understand that many people are very bothered by the presence of sebaceous filaments. So with all this said, let’s move on to how you can treat sebaceous filaments.
Treatments for Sebaceous Filaments and Blackheads
As we mentioned in the last section, sebaceous filaments are normal and healthy. But if you dislike the sebaceous filaments on your skin, you have options to get rid of them.
Our top treatment recommendation for those who want to get rid of their sebaceous filaments is regular professional facials with extractions. Sebaceous filaments are caused by dirt, oil, and debris (like makeup) congealing within the pores. While this is accumulation is normal, you can have it extracted if you dislike it. If you are prone to sebaceous filaments, we generally recommend getting your sebaceous filaments professionally extracted once every skin cycle (every 4 to 6 weeks). Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently get rid of sebaceous filaments with a single treatment or skin care products. But regular professional extractions can remove the oil, dirt, and debris within your pores that accumulates each skin cycle, greatly reducing the appearance of your sebaceous filaments.
Professional extractions are an excellent way to remove sebaceous filaments. However, we do want to caution you to only get sebaceous filaments extracted by a professional— never try to extract sebaceous filaments at home. Sebaceous filaments are very challenging to extract if you are not a trained and experienced aesthetician or dermatologist. They aren’t “plugged” like blackheads and so they do not “pop” out like blackheads sometimes do. (This is why sebaceous filaments simply do not respond to common at-home blackhead treatments like pore strips or peel off face masks.) People often do a lot of harm to their skin trying to extract sebaceous filaments on their own. It takes specific techniques and expert understanding of the skin to know how to remove sebaceous filaments without damaging the skin. If you try to remove sebaceous filaments at home by squeezing them or pushing at them with an extractor, you’re likely to just damage, infect, or irritate your skin, while also doing very little to actually remove sebaceous filaments.
While professional extractions are the only way to effectively remove sebaceous filaments, excellent at-home skin care can help maintain your results in between facials. Since sebaceous filaments are caused by excess oil and debris accumulating in the skin, properly cleansing and exfoliating the skin can help minimize the amount of oil and debris that accumulates within your pores.
Now, what about blackheads? How do you treat those? Regular facials with extractions are also an excellent way to remove blackheads. (Note: Just like with with sebaceous filaments, we do not recommend trying to extract blackheads at home. This can cause damage to your skin and can spread bacteria, which would worsen your acne.) However, since blackheads are a type of acne, other treatments can also work well for blackheads. Some options we commonly recommend to our patients with acne include our Acne Facial (which includes LED light therapy to fight bacteria) and our VI Peel (which is excellent for purifying acne skin conditions). If you’re prone to getting blackheads or any other type of acne, we recommend consulting with one of our experienced aestheticians at a custom facial appointment. All of our facials are medical grade and customized to your exact skin. At a facial appointment at the Z Center for Cosmetic Health, your aesthetician will give you a full skin analysis and recommend the ideal skin care routine for your unique skin issues.
Ready to get rid of those pesky sebaceous filaments or blackheads? Make a facial appointment at the Z Center for Cosmetic Health by calling us at (818) 264-4084 or by using our online appointment form.
Dr. Michael Zadeh is a Board Certified Surgeon and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Zadeh’s accomplishments in the field of Surgery and Non-Surgical Aesthetics along with his commitment to superior patient care have made him a winner of multiple awards and honors.