Those gray dots over your nose? Find out what are they and how to prevent and how to get rid of sebaceous filaments. The blackheads are always frustrating to eliminate from your skin. Some people squeeze them. Others use pore strips.
Though the methods are different, people feel the same way about them—they’re frustrated.
The hideous black growths on your nose may come out after the extraction process, but over time, they all fill up again. It feels like you’re trapped in a vicious cycle.
Most people live with the blackhead corrugations on their noses, often embarrassed at the thought of anyone looking at the side of their faces. Among these people was me, years ago.
After paying more attention to what these blackheads are, I have found out some interesting news about them. It may be either good or bad news, depending on how you perceive it.
Much research and discernment have led me to conclude that they are not blackheads at all. They are “sebaceous filaments”. These formations are natural and normal. They are even healthy because they are actually part of your body.
What do sebaceous filaments look like?
Did you see tiny gray/tan dots all over your nose? Those are sebaceous filaments that can make pores appear enlarged. They emit a long string of white or yellow gunk like tiny snakes when you squeeze them, but they are not clogged pores.
They’re actually part of our skin’s natural occurrence and though it’s possible to extract/squeeze these gunks, the effort is futile as they always come back.
How can you tell the difference between blackheads and sebaceous filaments?
How are blackheads and sebaceous filaments different from each other?
While sebaceous filaments are normal skin on the skin, blackheads or open comedones are non-inflammatory acne. They generally have more accumulated sebum and dead skin cells and tend to distend to end up swelling the pore shape.
It is the oxidized melanin and lipids cap that gives blackheads or comedones it’s the dark or black look. You, however, do not get to see sebaceous filaments with a dark cap like the ones on blackheads. They tend to blend with the skin, which is why it’s considered more of a problem.
There is another difference between the two which you will not notice with your eyes. This is that the follicles with sebaceous filaments have a granular layer that is clearly visible. This is the skin’s third layer called the stratum granulosum. However, it does not have any acanthosis, which is the thickening of skin layers.
Another team of researchers from Germany discovered that blackheads or open comedones had some acanthosis and a relatively normal stratum granulosum. They had also noticed that open comedones had comparatively smaller glands but excessive skin cells in the hair follicles than sebaceous filaments.
Another author mentions that there is something else that is different between a blackhead and sebaceous filament. According to the author, the blackhead’s skin cells tend to become sticky and eventually accumulate to form a plug.
- Sebaceous filaments are flat and come out easily if you pinch the skin.
- They help reach the oil of your skin to reach the surface, so that your skin can be moisturized naturally. They are often mistaken for blackheads because they sometimes appear grayish.
- Sebaceous filaments are often found on a tight oily areas like your nose and around it. They also appear in your chin’s crease.
- They are smooth, evenly-spaced gray or tan dots. They are found much deeper in the skin.However, they turn to blackheads overtime due to infections, hence the pores might turn black dots if they remain clogged for a prolonged period of time.
- On the other hand, blackheads are blocked pores which are especially common on the nose where we tend to be oiler. They tend to be raised, a litter bigger and needs more effort to get removed.
- They are called blackheads because when the top part of a blackhead reaches the surface of the skin, it becomes exposed to oxygen. tend to be raised, a little bigger, and their removal requires a bit more effort
- It then oxidizes and turns black. Blackheads are bumpier, larger, and darker than sebaceous filaments.
So, What's the Takeaway?
This suggests that the two should be considered to be a part of the chain and should not be divided into two different types. They are both triggered by the continual production of stem cells and sebum. It’s because of the normal accumulation in sebaceous filaments that they eventually become blackheads or open comedones.
So it doesn’t really matter if someone has sebaceous filaments on their chin or nose. They know it is something normal and is called either blackheads or sebaceous filaments.
What can be done is to try to make them less prominent. I do not mind ‘correcting’ people who say they have blackheads on the nose. It is fine so long as both sides know what they talk about.
How are Blackheads and Sebaceous Filaments similar?
Postpuberal people with large facial pores and seborrhea are prone to have sebaceous filaments in the alae nasae and centrofacial areas of their face. Microcomedones are quite common in these areas, which may eventually turn into blackheads or open comedones.
Using your fingertips to pinch the skin or using the cyanoacrylat-technique helps express the cylindrical, whitish-yellow colored sebaceous filaments found in facial parts rich in sebaceous follicles.
These cylindrical sebaceous filament tubes comprise of dead skin cells, bacteria, sebum and may even have fine hair. Similarly blackheads or open comedones comprise of dead skin cells, sebum, bacteria and may even have fine hair.
What causes sebaceous filaments?
Is it okay to remove sebaceous filaments?
The answer is no.
Experts discourage anyone to take them out by any means. It is more difficult to take sebaceous filaments out. Just like when you get your blackheads removed, having sebaceous filaments taken out usually leads to scarring and irritation. This may even lead to the eruption of a spot if ever your weak pore becomes infected.
Are sebaceous filaments normal?
Now that you know the difference between blackheads and sebaceous filaments, please do your best to resist popping them or excavating them in any way. The brighter side of the situation is that you don’t need to use pore strips or have them removed during a facial treatment anymore.
While it’s true that you are stuck with sebaceous filaments, you shouldn’t feel bad at all. They don’t alter your appearance in a bad way and, everyone has them. People don’t even notice others having sebaceous filaments. So, you don’t need to worry anymore.
Embrace your sebaceous filaments. They help your skin look youthful and supple. Think of sebaceous filaments as efficient helpers in maintaining your healthy skin.
How to best reduce blackheads or sebaceous filaments?
How do you get rid of sebaceous filaments naturally?
It is a fact that sebaceous filaments and blackheads tend to change after a fixed time. according to the team of German researchers, sebaceous filaments reform after 30 days, anecdotal evidence proves that it may happen earlier in some people.
Blackheads will only change if whatever obstruction it has in it is removed. And if it does reform, it is usually smaller than the previous size. Consistently removing waste from the pore’s upper region helps make both blackheads and sebaceous filaments less prominent.
This is easily done manually through gentle exfoliation or chemical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation uses glycolic or salicylic acids or retinoids. Some dermatologists I had spoken to recommend using tazarotene because they say it’s the most effective.
The constant production of skin cells and sebum means that it is important that consistency is maintained if you want to reduce its appearance. The most important thing to do to achieve this is to first find something you can safely and frequently use to reduce the appearance without worrying about any irritation.
While a concentrated acid may minimize or eliminate blackheads, you will not be able to use the acid till they return. Based on my personal experience, some surfactants work more effectively than others.
From my experience, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate and decyl glucoside give the best results. They effectively help remove skin lipids and do not irritate the skin as much as sodium lauryl sulfate.
The next best thing to do is to make sebaceous filaments less obvious. This is not achieved by using pore strips but they can be softened, dissolved and lifted up and out of the oil gland ducts with proper cleansing and care.
Instead, here are some skin care practices you can start:
- A moisturizing balancing cream helps regulate the pH of the skin to prevent the oil glands from producing too much sebum.
- Light scrubbing of the skin removes dead skin cells. Doing this weekly unclogs the pores, minimizing the dark appearance of the sebaceous filaments.
Grab 1 tsp of baking soda and add some warm water to make a paste. Apply the mixture on the affected area and rub it very gently using circular motion. Then, let it sit for about 1 or 2 minutes and rinse off with warm water.
What about pore vacuums, nose strips or peel masks?
These are devices that help remove blackheads and sebaceous filaments. They work by sticking onto the topmost skin layer and are then pulled out. There is a worry that its regular use may lead to the formation of bigger pores and skin problems like visible veins.
There however is no proof of this actually happening. It is in fact factors like age, sex, excessive exposure to UV rays, sebum output levels that determine one’s pore size. There is an additional determining factor in women, which is their menstrual cycle.
Just because there is no proof, does not mean that this is not possible. It may be that no research was conducted on the topic. Or perhaps some studies were conducted, but the researchers did not publish anything because they did not get any results.
The number of strippings helps measure the functioning of the skin barrier. This measure helped show that there are drastic effects on the skin after about twenty to thirty tape stripping sessions. This means that it is relatively safe to use a nose strip or peeling mask without worrying about suffering from any problems.
If you are comfortable and happy with using nose strips or peel masks, then it is basically better to use them only on a weekly basis. You, in fact, should use it next only if and when your skin is in the best condition for it.
In Other Words
In other words, it is not recommended to use them if your skin has recently been exposed to an Exfoliant or retinoid. It is also not feasible to use a pore strip or peel mask just after vigorously scrubbing a mask to reduce sebaceous filaments or blackheads.
While pore vacuums have recently grown in popularity, despite its name, they do not work by vacuuming up blackheads or sebaceous filaments. They work by subjecting the skin to some negative pressure.
It is this suction pressure, and the pressure of sliding the vacuum at the sides, that lead to the device compressing the pore and expressing the content. You could say that the action is similar to your manually pinching the skin with your fingers to express the content.
If you are still skeptical about using pore vacuums to remove blackheads, then it is better if you take a look at this YouTube video. This is a video of how water reacts in a vacuum chamber.
You can clearly see here that the vacuum does not suck the water when turned on.
All this proves that impactions, follicular filaments, microcomedones, blackheads, follicular casts, sebaceous filaments, and anything else you refer to them by, are all your skin’s natural features.
This means that if you want to, you can use the same treatment options to reduce their appearance.