Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: what’s the difference?

And how do you treat them?

words by: Natasha Marsh
May 26, 2021

I had my first facial the other day. It was luxurious, calming, thrilling and fulfilling. Towards the end of my appointment, my esthetician asked me if I had any questions about my skin. My one burning question was what to do about the two dots that randomly appeared on my nose a few weeks ago. I was determined they were from too much sun exposure or possible blackheads but after careful examination, I was told they are sebaceous filaments.


What are sebaceous filaments?

First of all, sebaceous filaments are not acne or clogged pores and they are pretty common and nothing to be concerned about. Instead, they are little dots filled with keratin, debris and oil that form on the skin. They can be white, yellow, black or clear and are typically positioned on the T-zone (forehead, nose or chin) or wherever you have a hair follicle.


How are they different from blackheads?

People often mistake sebaceous filaments for blackheads because they look so similar. But blackheads are pimples of dead skin, sebum or other bacteria that appear more raised, and are black, typically on the chin, forehead and upper cheeks. And probably the main difference: blackheads block pores, sebaceous filaments do not.


How do you treat sebaceous filaments?

Now, you might be wondering how to get rid of them. Although you can’t get rid of them permanently (unless you have a dermatologist extract them), there are some great products you can use to treat them. Do not squeeze, pop or extract them at home.


Opting for a gentle exfoliator — with either benzoyl peroxide, alpha and beta-hydroxy acids, retinoids — that can kill the dead skill cells regularly, is a much better idea. For extra duty, you can also wash your face with a salicylic-acid-packed wash to help with oil buildup — keeping sebaceous filaments form coming back.


Our favorite products for treating sebaceous filaments are below.

  1. Medik8 Pore Cleanse Gel ($23)
  2. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($12.59)
  3. Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18)
  4. Dermalogica Clear Skin Wash ($39)


And in case sebaceous filaments aren’t your only skincare worries, read on to find out the one skincare ingredient you need to fight off maskne.