Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: What’s the Difference?

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BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Sep, 2022
Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments

Although you probably didn’t need even more pore-clogger terminology to memorize, there’s something called sebaceous filaments you should know about. Just in case.

Sebaceous filaments and blackheads are often confused for one another, as they are similar in appearance, but they are two different things. While blackheads are a type of clogged pore, sebaceous filaments are a normal part of human skin and aren’t necessarily clogged with anything.

When it comes to blackheads vs. sebaceous filaments, what exactly is the difference, and how can you tell if you have one or the other? Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Blackheads and How Do They Happen?

What Are Blackheads and How Do They Happen

Blackheads have a characteristic appearance—they appear as tiny black dots on the skin. Blackheads are actually a type of acne and are typically clogged with dead skin and your skin’s natural oil, sebum. 

Unlike pimples, blackheads aren’t painful or irritated, and they don’t always appear as a raised bump. They may look like a flat, dark spot on the skin. 

Almost everyone will have a blackhead at some point in their lifetime. And although teens are most affected, anyone at any age can have one. Blackheads are most common in your T-zone. It includes your nose, chin, and forehead, but they can develop virtually anywhere on the body.

Both blackheads and pimples are the results of a clogged hair follicle or sebaceous (oil) gland. These can happen for various reasons, from excess sebum to hormones to the overproduction of skin cells. 

However, while a pimple is a type of closed blemish, the pore remains open in blackheads. As a result, the dead skin cells in the pore react with oxygen, creating the dark appearance of blackheads. 

So What Is a Sebaceous Filament?

So What Is a Sebaceous Filament

A sebaceous filament is a natural structure within the skin that allows sebum to access the surface of your skin. Without sebaceous filaments, you would not cover your skin in its natural protective oil, and your skin barrier would be compromised (and you’d be more prone to visible signs of aging!).

Sebaceous filaments are not pores. They are a tiny structure within your pore, although they can look like enlarged pores in some people, especially those with oily skin. Excess sebum can cause sebaceous filaments to become larger and look darker. That is why people can confuse them for blackheads.

Although the difference between sebaceous filaments vs. blackheads can be unclear, there are some important distinguishing factors. For example, a blackhead is a clogged pore, but a sebaceous filament isn’t clogged.

In addition, a sebaceous filament isn’t as dark or noticeable as a blackhead, although if you squeeze a sebaceous filament, something may still come out. Still, it won’t be nearly as much as a blackhead. It typically has a collection of dead skin cells and oil in the pore. 

You can think about the differences like this—a blackhead is a type of acne and can be extracted, while a sebaceous filament is a natural part of your skin and does not need to be squeezed. 

Treatment for Blackheads

Treatment for Blackheads

There is a treatment for both blackheads and sebaceous filaments that have become enlarged and may appear as blackheads. 

However, when it comes to sebaceous filaments vs. blackheads, remember that while you can typically get rid of blackheads, you can’t get rid of sebaceous filaments. You may be able to reduce their appearance, but they will always remain on your skin.

You can extract or squeeze blackheads to remove dead skin and excess oil and get rid of that unsightly dark bump, although some professionals don’t recommend this. If you want to try a gentler way to get rid of blackheads, you can try a chemical or physical exfoliant to help unclog the pore and remove the excess oil and skin cells.

Look for products that have salicylic acid, a type of beta hydroxy acid (BHA), for your chemical exfoliant or mask when treating blackheads and pimples. Keeping up with exfoliating your skin every week can also help keep pores clear. It can also reduce blackheads from forming in the first place.

Can You Minimize the Appearance of Sebaceous Filaments?

Can You Minimize the Appearance of Sebaceous Filaments

For sebaceous filaments, the best way the minimize their appearance is by taking care of your skin. The better you care for your skin and support your skin barrier, the less likely it is that your skin will produce excess oil. That can cause more visible sebaceous filaments.

So how can you do this?

While you’ll need to create your own skincare routine based on your specific skin type and what products work well for you, this is a basic step-by-step routine you can use to try and minimize the appearance of sebaceous filaments, keep blackheads away and maintain healthy-looking skin:

1.Cleanse skin at least once a day with a mild cleanser.

2. Exfoliate the skin twice weekly (more or less, depending on your exfoliant and your skin type) with a chemical or physical exfoliant.

3. Try a toner or serum to hydrate and balance skin.

4. Always use a moisturizer for your skin type to keep skin moisturized and prevent the overproduction of oil.

5. Use sunscreen, as sun damage exacerbates enlarged pores. Always thoroughly remove sunscreen with an oil-based cleanser to prevent clogged pores.

If you have oily or combination skin, you may be more likely to have blackheads or noticeable sebaceous filaments. Some of the best products for oily and combination skin include non-comedogenic (a fancy word for “doesn’t clog pores”) ingredients. They are salicylic acid, and cleansers that contain a gentle exfoliant.

However, remember that all skin types and people of any age can develop blackheads or visible sebaceous filaments. Hence, it’s essential to care for your skin whether or not you’re more at risk of experiencing either of these.

Take Our Free Skin Type Quiz

Knowing the difference between blackheads vs. sebaceous filaments is essential. It is vital to use the right products to help control oil and support your skin’s natural barrier. Do you know what YOUR skin type is? Find out now by taking our free quiz to ensure you use the best products to keep your skin healthy and reduce blemishes and enlarged pores!

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