If you look closely enough, you’ll probably see lots of little dark specks on the surface of your skin. But wait – hold off on the blackhead scrub for a second! These small spots may look similar to blackheads, but they could be something altogether different: sebaceous filaments.
Today, we’re taking on one of skincare’s most infamous cases of mistaken identity and bringing you the answers you need to solve it. So, when is a blackhead really a blackhead? What is a sebaceous filament? And are they the same? Let us explain.
What is a sebaceous filament?
Okay, they may sound a little suspicious, but these tube-like structures are an innocent, naturally-occurring, and important part of your skin’s composition. Found lining the inside of your pores, they work as a pathway for sebum, helping to transport it from your sebaceous glands to the surface of your skin. The result? Skin that’s hydrated, soft and moisturised.
Mind-bogglingly, your face can have up to 900 sebaceous glands per square centimetre of skin (Healthline, 2018). Sebaceous filaments will be highly concentrated around areas with the most glands, which tend to be the oiliest areas of your complexion, like your T-zone.
In general, sebaceous filaments like to stay out of the limelight, getting on with their work without demanding praise or attention. We like to think of them as the unsung heroes of our skincare squad. However, they may become more visible in oily areas where they’re housing more sebum. Similarly, if you have enlarged pores, your sebaceous filaments might be easier to see.
What is a blackhead?
Ah blackheads, our old friends. When excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria combine, they create plugs called comedones that block the opening of our pores. When skin covers these comedones, whiteheads appear. However, if the comedo remains ‘open’ and is oxidised by the air, they become darker in colour and the blackheads that we know (but don’t always love) emerge.
How can I tell the difference between a sebaceous filament and a blackhead?
Sebaceous filaments and blackheads may look alike, but they have some key differences:
- A sebaceous filament is a thin, hair-like structure that lines the pore, where a blackhead is the plug that sits over the pore entrance.
- Sebaceous filaments are usually a sandy, almost grey colour, whereas blackheads are, well, black.
- Sebaceous filaments are typically smaller than blackheads.
- When squeezed, sebaceous filaments release a white/yellow substance, whereas blackheads release the dark plug.
Can I get rid of sebaceous filaments?
To squeeze or not to squeeze? That is the question. Luckily, there’s a simple answer: don’t give in to temptation. Sebaceous filaments are natural and healthy additions to your complexion, so don’t fight them! Picking, scratching and squeezing could damage your skin, stretch the pore and cause permanent scarring, so it’s best to leave them well alone. Plus, you’ll spread blemish-causing bacteria around your face and increase your risk of a breakout – it’s a lose-lose situation.
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you to stop squeezing, any sebaceous filaments you do extract will refill with sebum soon after anyway. So, save your time and invest those precious minutes in another part of your skincare routine.
Although you can’t remove sebaceous filaments, you can reduce their appearance. The backbone of any skincare regime, cleansing every morning and night helps to keep your pores clear and decongested. Specially designed for those with an oily complexion and visible pores (hello, sebaceous filaments), Clear Slate Deep Cleansing Powder will leave you looking and feeling pore-perfect.
While encapsulated plant enzymes break down sebum, oil and dead skin cells, volcanic ash and bamboo charcoal team up to remove any grease left behind. With a dash of refreshing, antibacterial peppermint oil thrown in for good measure, your complexion will look smoother and more refined in no time.
Can I get rid of blackheads?
Resisting the urge to remove blackheads takes some serious willpower, but trust us, your skin will thank you in the long run. Squeezing can push bacteria deeper into the skin, causing further breakouts and potential scarring, while pore strips and peel-off masks often just remove sebaceous filaments and cause trauma to the skin.
The best way to prevent and remove blockages is to maintain a healthy skin routine. After cleansing your skin, treat it to a splash of Pure Lagoon Blemish Prevention Serum. Bursting with rebalancing prebiotics, microbial-fighting bioflavonoids and anti-inflammatory vitamins, this little blue bottle protects against acne-aggravating bacteria while nourishing your skin’s microbiome.
To supercharge your routine, try adding our Clear Skin Blemish Fighting Mask. Packed with salicylic acid (the number-one blemish-fighting BHA), this green machine dives deep into your pores to suck out any impurities and reduce inflammation. Whether you use it as a quick face mask or an overnight spot treatment, your skin will feel balanced and refreshed.
Embrace your pores!
In a world of beauty filters and photo editing, it’s easy to feel like pores should be invisible – but this isn’t realistic. Pores perform such a vital role in keeping our skin healthy that treating them with care (and resisting the squeeze) is essential. Visible pores are normal, and everybody has them, so wear yours with pride!