Sebaceous Filaments Explained: Spoiler Alert They Are Not Blackheads

Sebaceous Filaments What Are They

Your skin is made up of many layers and structures. Each part has its role to play in keeping your skin healthy and functioning. Blackheads and acne happen when the pores of your skin get clogged up with sebum and dead skin cells and infected with P. Acnes (an acne-causing bacteria).

If sebaceous filaments are not blackheads or acne then what are they?

What are Sebaceous Filaments?

Sebaceous filaments are tiny channels (a pore) that carry sebum to the surface of your skin. They are vital because sebum keeps your skins natural barrier healthy, and moisturized. Filaments occur when these channels fill up with sebum and skin cells.

They are commonly found on oily parts of the face like the T zones and around your nose. They are more noticeable when the sebaceous gland becomes overactive and begins to fill up the pore to quickly.

What Do Sebaceous Filaments look like?

You can’t normally see sebaceous filaments but when your sebum glands start overproducing sebum it can build up and harden until it eventually stretches out the pore and becomes visible.

It’s very common to confuse sebaceous filaments also known as sebum plugs with blackheads, they can look similar but are very different. Blackheads are a type of acne while sebaceous filaments a normal part of your skin.

When working normally and not full they are barely noticeable and cause no problems. When overactive they can fill up to the surface of your skin and a tiny sandy, yellow or light greyish head can form. Although they may look like blackheads, they do not have any of the same characteristics as blackheads.

Sebaceous filaments Vs Blackheads

Sebaceous filaments, like blackheads, are more noticeable in the oily areas of your face. So you will typically see them clustered around your nose, chin and T zone.

They differ from blackheads because they are not acne. They are a pore that is filled to the top with a waxy oily substance that is made from sebum and dead skin cells. The plug at the surface of your skin may be light grey or yellow in colour. They feel smooth to the touch and are not painful.

What are Blackheads?

Blackheads, on the other hand, are a clogged pore comprised of sebum and dead skin cells just like a sebaceous filament but they also contain P Acnes an acne-causing bacteria that triggers inflammation and pus to form inside the pore.

If the infected pore is exposed to air it becomes oxidised and turns black. This is a blackhead. If the pore is not exposed to air then it forms a whitehead also known as a pimple.

Blackheads and whiteheads fall under the medical term comedones AKA acne. If they have blackheads they are open comedones and if they have whiteheads they are closed comedones. Despite the colour of your acne, they are best treated by a dermatologist if you’re concerned.

Can I Squeeze or Pop Sebaceous Filaments?

That is a hard no. We get it though, it’s so satisfying squeezing all that gunk out. But please don’t, you shouldn’t squeeze or pop acne, pimples or sebaceous filaments. You risk infection, making your pores permanently larger and causing scarring which is much harder to treat and get rid of than acne.

From a skin health point of view, sebaceous filaments are completely harmless and will not damage your skin.

What Causes Sebaceous Filaments?

Sebaceous filaments are a filled-in pore, just like acne. They occur naturally, and there is no way to remove or alter them safely. Oily and acne-prone skin tends to make the filaments more obvious. Also if you genetically have enlarged pores then sebaceous filaments may be more obvious than on dry on combination skin.

Do Sebaceous Filaments Go Away on Their Own?

Your skin goes through phases and changes so like acne sebaceous filaments can go away or become less visible with time and patience. But if you are reading this article its safe to assume that you’re looking for a way to make them less noticeable.

They are a part of your skin, and attempting to remove them by scrubbing, waxing, or harsh exfoliation can have a very adverse reaction It may lead to infection, irritation, dryness, flaking, peeling and scarring.

If you do have visible sebaceous filaments there are things you can do that will help the appearance of large pores and as a bonus, this will also help with clearing up excess sebum, blackheads and acne.

Can You Use Pore Strips For Sebaceous Filaments and Blackheads?

Just like popping or squeezing this is not recommended by dermatologists as an effective way of treating clogged pores.

While it is statisfying to see the sebum plugs sitting on the pore strip, sebaceous filaments will reoccur within 28 – 30 days when the oil gland keeps over producing sebum.

Removing blackheads with this method is also not recommended as it can remove the heads to harshly and cause trauma to the delicate skin resulting in scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

How You Can Improve the Appearance Of Sebaceous Filaments.

There is good news. When you treat blackheads with a good skincare routine you will be treating sebaceous filaments at the same time. So really pay attention to your skincare routine and if its a bit all over the place now is the time to get things in order and be consistent.

Skincare Routine For Minimising Sebaceous Filaments.

Adding exfoliation into your skincare routine can dramatically improve the appearance of your skin.

Physical exfoliators like gentle scrubs, pads or brushes can manually remove dead skin cells and excess sebum.

Chemical exfoliators like salicylic acid a BHA and glycolic acid AHA can help break down the glue that holds the dead skin cells together. If you need help understanding the difference and what is best for you check out this article:

Chemical vs Physical Exfoliation Guide

Benzoyl Peroxide containing skincare products can help with excess sebum in the pores and on the skin’s surface. Be careful with these products though because they can be over-drying and cause your skin to make more oil in order to compensate.


A good oil-based cleanser is also helpful in removing debris from clogged pores. You want to get your skin clean without drying it out as this will trigger oil glands to produce more sebum to compensate for the oil you are stripping off.

Double cleansing is highly recommended. If your not sure what double cleansing is or how to do it properly check out this article:

How To Double Cleanse

Our Recommendation for oil cleanser is the:

DHC DEEP CLEANSING OIL

We love a lot of cult classic products here at skinkins. They become cult products for a reason, DHC deep cleansing oil has earned its cult status by being amazing for all skin types. Formulated with olive oil it glides on and melts into your skin where it dislodges makeup sunscreen and even waterproof mascara.

It is also the perfect oil for doing facial massage as it reduces the friction between your fingers and your skin, so your not dragging your skin.

DHC Oil cleanser

Consider swapping out your sheet mask for a clay mask

We know that sheet masks are fantastic for boosting glow, hydration and moisture. When it comes to sebaceous filaments and pore-clearing you might want to consider a clay mask.

We Love Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask

This is a smooth clay mask that contains white willow bark is also known as salicylic acid, and fruit enzymes – alpha hydroxy acids. This mask loosens the debris from your pores and lifts it away. the blue tansy oil calms the skin to stop redness and irritation. Only use this mask for 15 minutes 2 – 3 times a week and follow with hydrating moisturizing products that contain hyaluronic acid.

Add-In Retinol

Retinol can be a complete game-changer for sebaceous filaments, blackheads and acne. If your not using retinol already then you might want to consider adding it into your skincare routine.

Start off with a low strength gentle retinol especially if you haven’t used retinol before or have sensitive skin.

The Ordianry do a great range of retinol products. If you want to learn more about The Ordianry Retinols then check out this article:

The Ordinary Retinols

If none of these is helping with the appearance of sebaceous filaments, blackheads or acne then you should see your dermatologist.

Never push your skin to far to fast and don’t squeeze it.