Basic Skin FAQs

Sebaceous Filaments Explained

How closely do you study your face in the mirror?

Even if you chucked out your magnifying mirror ages ago*, sometimes we can get distracted with and obsessive about our perceived “flaws”. You might be doing your morning routine, slapping on your moisturizer, when you spot a bunch of grey-ish/black-ish looking dots all over your T-zone. But you take care of your skin, you have finally put together a routine you are happy with, so what are these things?

Before you freak out and think your face is covered in blackheads, that might not be the case. Have you heard of sebaceous filaments?

What is a sebaceous filament?

Doctor Whiting’s definition of sebaceous filament published in the Western Journal of Medicine is that it is “a loose, porous mass of horny detritus”. We kid you not.

Translated to normal English it means sebaceous filaments are formations that are a part of the skin and direct the flow of sebum along the lining of the pore. They will feel smooth to the touch and will be more prominent if you are an oily skin type or if you have enlarged pores. It is easy to extract them and they are not a sign of an infection.

Blackheads on the other hand happen when the pore gets clogged and consists out of dead skin cells, sebum, bacteria, etc. They will be a bit more raised, have a dark head (which means that it oxidized) and have a plug like appearance when extracted.

What to do about sebaceous filaments?

Let us be clear – we would advise against picking at your skin. It can lead to infection and leave a scar. Sebaceous filaments are a natural part of the skin and even if you pick at them, your pores will fill up again. Likewise – those nose strips you can see at your local beauty store won’t help. In fact, they might cause irritation.

You can treat the offending area with a BHA. BHA is an oil-soluble acid that gently exfoliates and dissolves sebum and other gunk so your pores will look cleaner.

Jude, of 50 Shades of Snail, devised a method that combines a BHA, a clay mask and an oil cleanser and will clear your pores. Again, this is only a temporary measure as your pores will fill up again.

Sebaceous filaments are not that big of a deal. But if you are determined do something about them, you can try one of the two methods listed above.

*Good on you if you did. Those things should be banned. They are only useful for tweezing stray hairs.

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Roberta Striga

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