Sebaceous Filaments and Blackheads: Everything You Need to Know

Sebaceous filaments and blackheads are two common skin conditions that can negatively affect the appearance of the skin. Since they both tend to appear on the face, many people believe that they are the same thing, but they are actually two very different things.

If you've ever felt that you have one too many blackheads, then read on to discover the truth about sebaceous filaments and blackheads and whether blackheads really are the menace that plague your delicate skin.

What are Sebaceous Filaments?

The terms blackheads and sebaceous filaments are often used interchangeably. However, they are two very different things. Your skin naturally produces an oily substance thanks to your sebaceous glands. This oil, known as sebum, helps keep the skin moisturized and protected.

Some people have naturally higher sebum production, which can often lead to a buildup of sebaceous filaments in the skin's pores. These sebaceous filaments can often look just like blackheads and can appear in similar areas. Sebaceous filaments however, are much smaller than blackheads, more like wisps of hair, and have a more white or even yellowish appearance.

What Should I Do if I Notice Sebaceous Filaments?

While sebum production is very natural, the buildup of sebaceous filaments can cause your pores to appear larger, and many of us then get the urge to purge the skin in an effort to shrink those large pores. Unfortunately, there is no real way to do this. In fact, pore size is genetically determined, so while you may be tempted to try and squeeze out sebaceous filaments, you might find you're fighting a losing battle.

Many medical professionals even suggest that you leave sebaceous filaments alone. While it may be satisfying to see the filaments squeeze out, the pore will only fill back up as a natural part of your sebum production. What's more, you run the risk of scarring your face in the process or even spreading bacteria that could cause a breakout.

If you're really determined to reduce the appearance of sebaceous filaments, then consider adding a high quality clay mask or a regular exfoliation into your skin routine and find a face wash that contains salicylic acid.

Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: Is There a Difference?

While sebaceous filaments are part of the skin's natural oil production, blackheads are different. Blackheads are clogged pores, and they're caused by dead skin cells that have built up in the pores and are blocking the drainage of your natural oils.

Blackheads tend to appear on the nose, chin, and cheeks. Blackheads get their name from the dark or "black" coloring, which results from an open-pore whose blockage has been exposed to the open air and has had a chance to oxidize. Should the blockage stay closed, these dots are called whiteheads because they haven't had the chance to oxidize and so retain a lighter coloring.

What Should I Do if I Notice Blackheads?

While your first instinct may be to try and squeeze the blackhead out yourself, that's actually the last thing you should do. If you try to squeeze a blackhead, you are not only opening yourself up to the risk of scarring your skin, but also the chance of causing a more significant breakout by spreading bacteria. In a worst-case scenario, you could even end up with a nasty skin infection. The best way to deal with blackheads is to take the following steps to prevent them in the first place.

5 Ways to Prevent Blackheads

  • Washing and Moisturizing Daily. One of the easiest ways to prevent blackheads is to wash your face twice a day with a cleanser containing salicylic acid. This will help keep skin pores clear and prevent the buildup of dead skin cells, which can then clog the pore and cause blackheads.
  • Exfoliate Skin Once a Week. Exfoliating once a week will help remove dead skin cells and keep your pores from clogging up in the first place. Don’t overdo the exfoliation. You’ll want to give your skin a break between treatments.
  • Use a Face Mask Twice a Week. While exfoliating skin once a week is important, it's not the only step you should take to prevent blackheads. The other thing you can do is use a high-quality face mask once or twice a week. A highly quality clay is very porous and will absorb and remove dead skin cells, keeping your pores clear. It's also worth noting that some masks include salicylic acid, which can help to unclog pores and prevent blackheads from forming in the first place.
  • Prioritize a Healthy Diet What you put into your body can also significantly impact the way your skin behaves. Make sure your diet is filled with healthy fruits and veggies, and avoid junk food, poor quality oils and too much sugar.
  • Visit a Dermatologist Finally, if you notice a recurring problem with your skin, it's important to visit a dermatologist. They can help diagnose the cause of your problem and determine the best course of action.
  • 5 Ways to Treat Blackheads

    There seem to be hundreds of options available to treat blackheads. If you're struggling with stubborn blackheads, here's a shortlist of 5 treatment options you might want to consider:
  • Salicylic acid. One of the best ways to prevent blackheads is to use a salicylic acid solution. Salicylic acid penetrates the skin and helps unclog pores.
  • Glycolic acid. Another excellent option for those who are looking to treat blackheads is glycolic acid. This is an alpha-hydroxy acid found in many skincare products. The acids help to break down the dead skin cells on the surface of the face and help unclog pores.
  • Retinoids. Another option that many people consider is retinoids. This is a type of vitamin A that is used in skincare products, and it can be used to help treat blackheads. Vitamin A helps to promote cell turnover, which can also help to unclog pores. When skin cells are shed, the top layers of skin peel away and leave new fresh cells giving you a healthy glow.
  • Face Masks. It doesn't matter where you turn. Face masks can be found just about anywhere. However, when it comes to effective blackhead treatments, you want to look for a face mask that contains high quality ingredients that include additions such as salicylic acid and glycolic acid.
  • Pore Vacuums. Pore vacuums are another popular tool used to try and unclog pores and reduce blackheads. However, skin care professionals should only use these tools because they can have a suctioning power that is far too harsh on your skin and can lead to ruptured capillaries, bruising, and even scarring. So its best advised to not try this one at home!
  • Proper skin maintenance can prevent sebaceous filaments and blackheads. Your skin is an essential part of your body, in fact it's your largest organ and it helps to protect you keep you looking and feeling your best. While it can be challenging to ensure you always look and feel great, you can take regular steps to help keep your skin healthy, hydrated, and clear of blackheads and other nasties.