Blackheads or Sebaceous Filaments – What’s the Difference?

We’ve all been there, standing in front of a mirror torturing our skin by desperately trying to squeeze out anything that resembles a blackhead. But the offending little spots we’re attacking may in fact be sebaceous filaments, not blackheads! Find out what these little guys are, and how to deal with them!

We know that picking at our skin is a really bad idea, but at times it just can’t be helped. Those blackheads need to go! However, if you feel the need to pick at your skin, you may want to know that those little grey dots you’re seeing may not actually be blackheads but sebaceous filaments, which are a normal part of your skin’s functioning.

So, what is the difference?
Blackheads are a form of acne, made up of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria that collect in the hair follicles, creating a “plug” that blocks the sebum from reaching the skin. When the “plug” is exposed to air it oxidizes and turns grey or black, hence the name!

Sebaceous filaments are also made up of sebum and skin cells, but are usually a light white or grey colour, not black. They don’t block the pore like a blackhead, but instead distribute oils to the surface of the skin, helping your skin stay soft and moisturised. Unlike blackheads, when you remove them, they will always come back, because they are supposed to be there!

Nonetheless, whether we have blackheads or sebaceous filaments, we don’t want them sticking out of our pores! But squeezing them, however satisfying it may be, can result in enlarged pores and scarring. So, what can we do to reduce their appearance?

Clean out the gunk!
Introduce a pre-cleanse before our regular routine. A pre-cleanse involves using an oil-based cleanser to get rid of oil-based impurities and excess sebum and blackheads, before using our regular cleanser. This is a thorough cleansing method that make our skin look sumptuously smooth and clean.

Let an acid work its magic!
Exfoliants like salicylic acid help to gently exfoliate the skin. Salicylic acid actually goes into the pores to dissolve the gunk and the bindings between dead skin cells which speeds up the skin renewal process and tightens the pores, making them appear smaller.

Peel away!
A gentle peel-off mask helps to unclog pores and remove any impurities or excess oil that may be hanging out in your pores, meaning you won’t have anything sticking out of your pores after this!

Words by: Photographs by: Robert Berggren