It turns out, your blackheads might not be blackheads at all. According to the skincare pros, those pores that resemble tiny dark spots could be sebaceous filaments.
Sebaceous filaments are naturally-occurring and part of the pore structure. According to board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D, “They line the inside of the pores and assist in the flow of sebum along the lining into the skin to help moisturize it.”
To shrink those suckers once and for all, add Truly’s Brand-New Pore Shrinking Kit to your basket. Featuring a toning solution, scrub, serum, oil, and acne patches, this pore-minimizing combo will remove dead skin cells and break up debris for a clarified complexion.
Dr. Brendan Camp, a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in Manhattan, describes sebaceous filaments as “a normal skin finding; they feel smooth, do not block pores, and everyone has them.”
He explains further, “Your skin produces oil (also known as sebum) in order to protect and moisturize itself. Sebaceous filaments help guide that oil from your sebaceous glands, where the oil is produced, to the surface of your skin where the oil can get to work fighting environmental aggressors and dehydration.”
Some people are more prone to clogged filaments than others. Everything from family history to smoking to hormonal fluctuations can be to blame.
Blackheads and sebaceous filaments are almost identical in appearance. It isn’t until you look closely that you will see sebaceous glands have a yellow, greyish tint. Blackheads, on the other hand, are completely black. Hence, their name.
Dr. Dennis Gross clarifies, “Blackheads are a form of acne – they form when sebum, dead skin cells clog the pore and it oxidises, creating a black bump. Blackheads will appear as raised, black bumps while enlarged sebaceous filaments appear like flat, grey-ish blackheads. At times, sebaceous filaments can be a pre-cursor to black heads.”
Below we’ve created a list of safe and easy ways to reduce the appearance of sebaceous filaments.
Start with an Oil Cleanser
An oil cleanser can really dig up all the dirt and oil from your skin. While you can’t actually get rid of sebaceous filaments, you can lessen their appearance on the skin’s surface. The best way to do this is by keeping the skin clean. Aim to cleanse your skin twice a day to remove any surface buildup like dirt, pollution, makeup, and dead skin cells. If you’ve got sensitive skin, cleansing with oil is your go-to. It’s calming, soothing, and cleansing without being aggravating to your skin. Plus, it really is as effective at breaking up dirt as the experts say it is.
Use Salicylic Acid
This beta-hydroxy acid penetrates deep into the pore to remove oil and unclog grime. You can use this acid in a cleanser, serum, or mask – either way, it will clean out your pores and minimize their appearance. However, don’t rule other acids – like AHAs, for instance.
“Alpha-hydroxy acids, such as glycolic and lactic acid, exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells,” explains dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp. “Beta-hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, are lipophilic, allowing them to mingle with oil deep within the pore and break up oil plugs.”
Exfoliation is key to ridding your skin of dead skin cells and grime. It’s essential for clearing out the pores. And as you know, when your pores are clear, your pores are smaller (invisible, almost!).
On the other hand, you don’t want to go OTT with exfoliation. Here’s why.
“There are two reasons you don’t want to over-exfoliate,” says Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York. “You don’t want to irritate the skin, and you don’t want to potentially trick the skin into believing that it’s dry, which can cause an overcompensation of oil production.”
Aim to exfoliate your skin no more than twice a week using a gentle exfoliator to keep your complexion clear and clarified.
“Retinol and Retinoids can also be really effective against sebaceous filaments,” explains celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau. What aren’t they good for!? Although Rouleau does advise people to use retinol with care and not go overboard with this ingredient.
“If your skin is sensitive or you haven’t used retinol before, I suggest starting with an over the counter retinol,” she advises. “If you have oilier skin or have used retinol before, you can try a retinoid such as Differin, which is still available over the counter.”
Alternatively, harness the powers of retinol from the products in Truly’s Pore-Minimizing Bundle mentioned above!
Visit a Professional for Sebaceous Filament Extraction
We know you’re probably dying to see the end of those sebaceous filaments, but avoid going down the at-home extraction path. People do it, of course. But it’s risky, and there’s a high chance you could end up worsening the issue.
“I advise against trying to extract them yourself at home,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson M.D. of Modern Dermatology in Connecticut. “Doing so can cause inflammation and even infection, which will lead to a bigger, more cystic zit.” Nobody wants that!
Plus, extracting sebaceous filaments is only a temporary fix – expect to see them return within a day or two.
Not only that, these at-home extraction tools can be really harsh on the skin and cause irritation. In some cases, they can even cause broken capillaries and scarring.
If you’re set on getting an extraction, book in with a professional.
So you see, sebaceous filaments aren’t a huge deal. Everybody has them. Sure, they may be annoying, but they can actually be good for the skin. To minimize their appearance, all you need are the right skincare products, like that in Truly’s Pore-Shrinking Set.
This potent blend of glycolic and salicylic acid applied daily to the skin will have your sebaceous filaments shunned in no time!