What Are Sebaceous Filaments? How To Get Rid Of Them?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Have you noticed dark spots on your face, especially around the nose and cheeks? They are not exactly blackheads, and no matter how much you squeeze them, they always come back? Well, that is because they may not be blackheads after all.

These dark spots are a naturally occurring feature of your skin called sebaceous filaments. While everybody has them, some have more noticeable sebaceous filaments on their face compared to others.

Learn everything you need to know about sebaceous filaments and how you can control them in this article. Keep reading!

What Are Sebaceous Filaments?

Sebaceous filaments are structures present naturally in your skin. They are a tube-like material lining the walls of your pores (1). The nose and cheeks are common areas on your skin where you may notice sebaceous filaments.

The pores on your skin produce an oily substance called sebum to moisturize the skin and protect it against environmental elements. The oil fills the pores to become sebaceous filaments. The purpose of these filaments is to guide the oil to the surface of the skin, where it can protect and nourish your skin.

Sebaceous filaments are typically invisible. But when the sebum production increases, oil starts to build up within the pores and eventually hardens. It can stretch your pore and spill out of your skin. Only then will you be able to see those small greyish-yellow dots along your skin.

Learn what causes the skin formations in the next section.

What Are The Causes Of Sebaceous Filaments?

When your skin produces excess sebum, it can make the sebaceous filaments more visible. People with oily skin or larger pores are more likely to have visible sebaceous filaments on the skin, unlike those with smaller pores or dry skin.

Certain factors that may influence the type of your skin and how visible these sebaceous filaments include:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Exposure to the sun and other pollutants
  • The thickness of hair follicles

While sebaceous filaments look a lot like blackheads, they are not the same. Check out their differences in the next section.

Sebaceous Filaments Vs. Blackheads

We know oily skin, large pores, and excess sebum production makes your sebaceous filaments more visible. That is why most people confuse them with blackheads.

One of the differentiating factors between sebaceous filaments and blackheads is their color. While the filaments have a grey or yellow color, blackheads are obviously black.

Blackheads are a result of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria accumulating in the pores and clogging them. This causes a bumpy appearance on your skin called a comedone. When it remains exposed to the air for some time, it turns black.

Sebaceous filaments, on the other hand, are simply the oil lining the pores. You can develop blackheads through sebaceous filaments.

Note: be it a blackhead or a sebaceous filament, never tease or squeeze it.

Now that you know the difference between these two skin formations, let’s find out how to treat sebaceous filaments.

How Do You Treat Sebaceous Filaments?

1. Leave Them Alone

Sebaceous filaments are natural. The pores keep lining up with them, and any attempt at removal is a losing battle. Squeezing these filaments can instead harm your skin. You will put yourself at risk of scarring and skin infections by picking or squeezing your skin. Therefore, it is best to leave them alone.

2. Minimize Their Appearance

Rather than squeezing the sebaceous filaments, you can control the oiliness of your skin. Regular cleansing and exfoliating can control the amount of oil secretion and keep your pores clear and healthy. While skin care products will not completely eliminate the visible filaments, you can help minimize their appearance.

You can opt for gentle products that prevent dehydration and irritation. When choosing skin care products, always ensure they suit your skin type.

Skin care ingredients that fight acne may help you minimize the appearance of sebaceous filaments:

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is an essential ingredient in many facial cleansers and acne creams. A concentration of 0.5-2% salicylic acid reduces the amount of oil on your skin and minimizes the size of sebaceous filaments on your face. According to skin experts, peels with salicylic acid are more effective as they have a higher concentration than over-the-counter products (2).

Caution: Salicylic acid is a product of aspirin. If you are allergic to aspirin, there is a high chance you are allergic to salicylic acid as well. Always do a patch test before using any product with salicylic acid.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. It can clear your pores and prevent blackheads (3). It may also help reduce the appearance of sebaceous filaments. While salicylic acid can increase the dryness of your skin, glycolic acid retains its moisture.

Caution: Glycolic acid can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, leading to swelling and itching. It is also known to increase the sensitivity of your skin to sunlight. Always apply sunscreen after using any skin care product with glycolic acid.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is another common ingredient in acne products. It limits the oil secretion of your skin and may reduce the size of pores (4).

Caution: At higher concentrations, benzoyl peroxide can dry out your skin, causing it to peel. Either opt for products with lower concentrations or avoid using benzoyl peroxide altogether if you experience skin peeling and dryness.

Tea Tree Oil

Several skin care experts vouch for the anti-acne effects of tea tree oil. It can also assist in oil control (5). Thus, it may help in reducing sebaceous filaments.

Caution: Some people experience trouble with skin irritation and allergic reactions after using tea tree oil. If you plan to use tea tree oil as part of your skin care regimen, remember to dilute it down to 5% strength.

Face Masks

Many face masks and sheet masks help deep cleanse your facial skin. These masks contain activated charcoal or clay that draw out any impurities from the skin that could be clogging the pores – bacteria, dead skin cells, oil, or dirt.

Caution: Although these masks are generally safe to use, if they are left in for too long on the skin, they can irritate your skin and cause redness and itchiness.

3. Sun Protection

Prolonged sun exposure may expand your pores. Large pores can lead to visible sebaceous filaments. Regular use of sunscreen can reduce the harmful effects of the sun and retain your skin health.

Keep your skin type in mind when choosing a sunscreen. If your skin is oily or prone to breakouts, choose a non-comedogenic and oil-free sunscreen. To prevent sun exposure, you can also cover your face with a hat and wear full-sleeved clothes.

Maintaining a healthy skin care routine can help prevent your pores from clogging. Find out all about the right regimen to keep these filaments at bay in the next section.

How To Prevent Sebaceous Filaments

Here are some ways through which you can prevent visible sebaceous filaments on your skin:

  • Wash and moisturize your face twice a day with a mild cleanser.
  • Exfoliate your skin once a week.
  • Use a face mask at least once a week.
  • Maintain a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • If your skin is prone to breakouts, consult a dermatologist regularly to ensure you are using the right products for your skin.

Next, let’s see if you can develop any unwanted side effects or complications from these filaments.

Complications Of Sebaceous Filaments

Sebaceous filaments rarely lead to any complications.

However, some people may develop sebaceous gland carcinoma anywhere on their body. The tumors look like yellow lumps that are firm to touch. They typically occur in older people and can be present on the face, neck, eyelids, and trunk. These lumps need surgery to be removed (6).

When Should You See A Doctor For Sebaceous Filaments?

Are you following a proper skin care routine with all the right products but still facing trouble with sebaceous filaments on your nose and other parts of your face?

If so, it would be wise to consult a dermatologist. They can prescribe you more effective treatments to help with oil control and reduce the visibility of your sebaceous filaments.

The Bottom Line

Sebaceous filaments may look like blackheads, but they are very different. They are a part of your skin’s natural moisturizing process and should be left alone.

If they become too visible, you can get rid of these filaments by adopting healthy skin care habits such as cleansing and moisturizing regularly. If they persist, you can consult a dermatologist to find out which products you can use for your specific skin type.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Sebaceous filaments
  2. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review
  3. Glycolic acid peel therapy – a current review
  4. Benzoyl Peroxide
  5. Efficacy and safety of tea tree oil as a topical antimicrobial agent
  6. Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma

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