When you pull the skin on your chin taught, do you see a cluster of tiny white dots on your lower lip? What about in the folds of your nose? Do you have small greyish dots on your nose that seem impossible to get rid of? If you answered yes to any of these, you might have sebaceous filiments! Don't freak out - they are totally normal and almost everyone has them. They can often be mistaken for blackheads (especially on the nose), but shouldn't necessarily be treated the same way. Keep reading to learn how to get rid of them and what makes them different from blackheads...
WHAT ARE SEBACEOUS FILIMENTS?
Sebaceous Filiments are naturally occurring, tube-like structures that line the walls of your pores. Their purpose is to direct oil flow. Your skin produces oil (also known as sebum) in order to protect and keep itself moisturised. Sebaceous Filiments help to guide that oil from the sebaceous glands (where the oil is produced), the the surface of your skin where the oil can get to work fighting environmental aggressors and dehydration.
For the most part, sebaceous filiments aren't really visible to the naked eye, but when you have an overproduction of sebum in your skin, the il can build up and start to harden until it eventually stretches the pore and starts to 'spill out' and this is when it becomes visible.
WHERE DO YOU GET THEM AND WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
Since sebaceous filiments are associated with oil production, they show up in areas where we naturally produce a lot of oil such as your T-Zone. Specifically on or around the nose, chin and lower lip. They also tend to form in the creases and folds of our skin since oil accumulates here.
Sebaceous filiments vary in colour. They can be grey, yellowish, or white. When on the nose they -
are usually light or dark grey, which is why they are often confused with blackheads. But when they're found around the edges of the nose (especially in the folds where your nose meets your cheeks) or on the chin, they're more likely to be white or yellowish. Sebaceous Filiments are names for their shape and come out looking just like that - a filiment. If you squeeze them (which you shouldn't), they come out as a thin tube or strand.
SEBACEOUS FILIMENTS VS BLACKHEADS
So, what exactly is the difference between blackheads and sebaceous filiments? The most obvious differences are colour and size. Sebaceous filiments tend to be lighter in colour and blackheads are - yep, you guessed it - black! This is a result of sebum and dead skin cells being exposed to air and oxidising. Blackheads are typically bigger too.
Another important distinction is that, unlike blackheads, sebaceous filiments are not technically comedones (clogged pores). Comedones are the precursors to acne breakouts, whereas sebaceous filiments don't really turn into pimples unless you mess with them. This is because they don't fully block pores the way comedones do; instead the buildup coats the walls of your pores leaving the centre more or less open. That said, if you have acne-prone skin, you're more prone to sebaceous filiments because you produce a lot of oil. Also, even though sebaceous filiments don't turn into acne, they can turn into blackheads if enough oil gets built up inside the pore. To make matters even more confusing, a person can actually have both sebaceous filiments and blackheads at the same time!
HOW TO GET RID OF SEBACEOUS FILIMENTS ON THE NOSE AND CHIN.
Before I address how to get rid of sebaceous filiments, let me just say that having them is completely normal! Since they're part of the natural structure if our skin, almost everyone has them to an extent. Thanks to Photoshop and filters we might not think that's the case, but trust me, it is!
Before we get started, its important to know that even if you squeeze or extract sebaceous filiments, they will fill up again within 30 days. There really is no way to permanently get rid of them but there are ways that you can minimise the appearance of them and prevent further formation.
So, without further ado, here are some of the best ingredients and skincare products to use for minimising SF's.
Salicylic Acid (BHA)
For your at-home routine, focus on salicylic acid. Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), which means its able to cut through oil and get deep into the pores. This will allow it to start breaking down and unclog your pores, which will in turn minimise the appearance of sebaceous filiments. Look for a BHA leave-on product like PAULA'S CHOICE Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant This product is the perfect option for those with sensitive skin too due to its skin soothing oat extract which not only helps with the pores, it also helps to keep the skin hydrated.
Retinol and Retinoids
Retinol and retinoids can be really effective against sebaceous filiments. They increase cell turnover which helps keep dead skin cells from getting stuck in your pores - this in turn, helps regulate oil flow and prevents sebum from building up and hardening. If your skin is sensitive or you haven't used retinol before, i suggest using a low strength product to begin with and start on what i call - the retinol ladder - which basically means, use once every 4-5 days for the first 2 weeks, then as your skin builds tolerance, every other night, then only once you are used to it you can move to once per night. As and when you can then start moving up the strengths. When it comes to Retinols there really is only one brand that is the market leader - Medik8. A great product to start with would be the Medik8 Crystal Retinol 3 - this can be purchased in clinic!
Finally be sure to keep your skin hydrated and moisturised using an oil-free moisturiser such as Origins GinZing™ Oil-Free Energy Boosting Gel Moisturizer. While using Salicylic Acid and Retinols to help clear the pores, they can also dry the skin out. If Sebaceous Filiments are a concern then dry skin is the last thing you want as dry, dead skin traps oil underneath, which could mean even more excess oil building up inside your pores. Not to mention this will also make SF's and pores seem eve more visible. This is why i would avoid clay masks for Sebaceous Filiments. The results are usually temporary and can quickly dehydrate your skin. Its also really important to use the right moisturiser for your skin type as using too heavy a cream runs the risk of clogged pores.
SHOULD I TRY TO EXTRACT MY SEBACEOUS FILIMENTS?
As tempting as it may be, its really best if you can avoid trying to extract them. As i mentioned before, you can never truly get rid of them this way. So while you may get some instant gratification, it wont d you any favours in the long run. Not only this, but you risk pushing oil and bacteria from your fingers deep into the pore which could turn into an infection and lead to a full break-out. Squeezing at the skin too much can also lead to scarring and bruising. If you really want your sebaceous filiments extracted, then i would suggest coming into my clinic or if you are not near me, then a fully qualified facialist, experienced in these types of extractions. I would suggest starting with a BHA Peel to dissolve dead skin cells and build up which will make extractions easier. I would then manually extract them and follow with the Hydraderm Facial. As mentioned before, they will fill up again in 30 days time so monthly maintenance is suggested.
Leah Uka is an International Facialist & Skincare Expert, with her work taking her across the globe to places including The Bahamas, Monaco & NYC. Since the beginning Leah has been focused on one thing; Skincare. Her passion for offering unique and tailor-made facials that give filler like results without the needle and downtime has made her one of the most sought out facialists in the industry today. Leah's results-driven treatments and her signature Hollywood Sculpt Facial ™ takes her internationally and are a favourite among celebrities, socialites, business professionals and women who simply want the best for their skin.