Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sebaceous Filaments versus Blackheads...Mystery solved

I always feel like my nose looks...dirty, like it is covered in a million tiny blackheads.

I've read books and journals
I've scrubbed
I've peeled
I've pore-stripped
I've extracted
I've laser-ed
I've babied by skin
I've attacked my skin

Nothing has worked.

I thought it was just my lot in life.  Until I read a post on (link pasted below), talking about how people tend to confuse sebaceous filaments for blackheads.  As I read the post, I realized that I had mis-diagnosed myself for years, like so many others.  It was like walking out of a fog for me and, for the first time, I realized that I can put down the creams, potions, lotions, the chisel and blowtorch and just accept that what I have is normal skin, but not airbrush perfect skin.

I have pasted an except below, along with the link.  After the post, you will also find links to other articles if you are like me and you like further reading.  For those of you out there who, like me, have spent years fighting a battle you were never going to win, I hope that this information helps.

I would like to take a moment to briefly reflect on all of the products that I have used to hopefully save you some time, money and skin damage.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
1.  The most evil on my list is pore strips.  Dont deliver and damage my skin.  May cause telengectasia (aka dilated/broken capillaries around the nose that never go away).

2. Blackhead Extractor.  Perfect for blackheads, useless for sebaceous filaments, which come right back.  Easy to damage your skin when overzealous.  Be gentle.  Buy a good magnifying mirror.

3. Salicylic Acid.  Here's a winner!  No, it does not make the sebaceous filaments go away, but it has a very calming effect on my skin that is noticeable. I use a fantastic product by Neutrogena called Oil Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment 2oz.  I got it on Amazon after vetting it on  Goes on super light.  Probably the best feeling product I use.  Weekly I use a 20% salicylic peel (stings a bit).  My skin tone is even and lovely the next morning, so I guess my skin just loves this stuff.  Not many derms recommend doing at home peels, but they can go fly a kite as far as I'm concerned.  In my opinion (consult your doctor and make-up your own mind), they are using the same product and charging me an arm and a leg for it.

4. The scrubs.  I dont use scrubs.  Almost all are too harsh for skin.  What they do, on a microscopic level, is tear the skin.  Is that what you want?  The skin swells and begins to repair itself, causing a temporary glow which is just your body fixing the damage you did.  Approach manual/physical exfoliation with caution.  Generally, AHA or BHA are preferable for exfoliation of the skin.  But hey, sometimes we cannot resist and when I just need to scrub, I turn to my microderm crystals...but only once a month or so when I'm in a mood!

5.  The laser.  IPL (and perhaps an inexperienced practitioner) did nothing for me and I will never go back.  I believe that nine times out of ten, there are better ways.


"l most every day I get clients at my acne clinic that think they have blackheads on their nose. I know that what they see in their nose looks just like blackheads, but it is not. Those are what are called sebaceous filaments. They are basically the oil glands on your nose and in the chin area just below the lower lip. They are meant to be there and will never go away. Even if extracted, it still looks the same and it fills right back up again a week later.

Once in a while, someone actually will have blackheads in their nose...Those definitely need to be extracted.

So, my rule of thumb is, if all the so-called blackheads in your nose are all the same size, then they are not blackheads. If, however, you have a blackhead that is bigger than the rest of the other blackheads in the nose, then it really is a blackhead and not just another sebaceous filament.

My clients tend to have a very disappointing reaction to my assessment of their blackheads on their nose. They, most often, desperately want them to go away. I reassure them that everybody, even people who have never had acne, have them. Everyone but the most oil-dry of skin does have them. When you are standing a couple of feet away from someone, which is the normal space between people, you cant even see the pores on the nose. We are all so used to looking at air-brushed pictures of models in fashion magazines that have absolutely perfect skin with no pores showing at all. Unfortunately, this sets up an expectation and fantasy that our skin should look just like this. Sorry it's just not real and I tell my clients that they are just going to have to accept their nose the way it is."


"How Are Sebaceous Filaments Different from Blackheads?
The same process that creates sebaceous filaments also causes blackheads. However, there's a major difference in degree. Sebaceous filaments occur in number and have a uniform appearance; blackheads erupt in isolation. Sebaceous filaments are tiny and look like pinpricks while blackheads look more like the aftereffects of a thumbtack or nail. Blackheads are darker than sebaceous filaments which typically appear only a few shades darker than surrounding skin.
Sebaceous filaments aren't a product of troubled skin, but of the natural process of sebum production. If you have "blackheads" on or near your nose but have otherwise clear skin, you're probably confusing a normal occurrence with a problematic condition."




  1. I have sf too... :( How can i make it less noticeable? I have fair skin and my sf are black in color. :'(


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