How to Get Rid of Sebaceous Filaments Safely

Have you ever seen specks on your nose, lower lip area, or forehead that appear yellowish-white and come out as tiny tubes of sebum when pressed? Those are sebaceous filaments. Easily available over-the-counter products can help you minimize their appearance. Read the article on how you can treat them at home or professionally to get smoother and softer skin.

What are sebaceous filaments?

Sebaceous filaments are skin conditions characterized by small, yellowish-white, pin-like structures distributed in highly sebaceous facial areas. The condition is caused by the accumulation of oil and dead cells that feel harder to touch. Sebaceous filaments are surrounded by hair follicles and result in visible excretions.

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Sebum (oil) production is a healthy process that helps with skin protection and hydration, and the appearance of sebaceous filaments is considered normal and nothing to worry about. Treatment of sebaceous filaments typically focuses on minimizing oil gland size, reducing oil production and accumulation, and improving skin texture.

Causes of sebaceous filaments

The formation of sebaceous filaments is usually caused by excess sebum production and accumulation, combined with dead cornified keratinocytes (hair cells) near the pores of a hair follicle. Sebum is a collection of wax esters, cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, squalene, and diglycerides and is regulated by hormones. Therefore, hormones play an essential role in the production of sebaceous filaments.

How to get rid of sebaceous filaments

Since sebaceous filaments are a natural part of a sebaceous gland, they cannot be completely removed from the skin. However, proper sebum management and dead cell removal can help minimize the dotted appearance.

How to get rid of sebaceous filaments

Regularly cleansing the skin

Poor skincare is a major contributor to sebaceous filaments. Consistently cleansing your face gently with a pH-balanced facial cleanser is one of the easiest and most effective steps you can take. Additionally, using micellar water or an oil-based cleanser before cleansing can significantly enhance the results by removing impurities more effectively.

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Exfoliating the skin

As sebaceous filaments are formed by the accumulation of dead and cornified keratinocytes (hair cells), exfoliating the affected area can effectively help get rid of them. However, it's advisable to use a mild exfoliator to prevent irritation or damage to the skin, which could otherwise lead to bacterial infusion or scarring.

Using BHA products

Salicylic acid or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) can help unclog the pores by dissolving the accumulated sebum. Many skincare products, such as creams, cleansers, and toners, that carry BHA are easily available on the market. However, since BHA is an acid, it may cause mild skin irritation and increase sensitivity to the sun.

To reduce these effects, one can start with the lowest concentration and gradually increase it if needed. Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ is a must if BHA is part of your skincare routine.

Using a clay mask

Clay masks can be another option for minimizing sebaceous filaments, as they can absorb oil and dirt from the skin and make it oil-free. It is advisable to apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer after a clay mask to hydrate the skin completely.

Take note, however, that clay masks might not be a suitable option for people with dry skin as they could further worsen their condition.

Using retinoids

Retinoids are proven to reduce sebum production and sebaceous gland size by inhibiting their activity. Retinoids are also known for increasing cell turnover due to which new skin cells take the place of dead skin cells early. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are available in various forms, such as retinol, retinal, adapalene, and isotretinoin.

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Topical or oral retinoids, including isotretinoin, are prescribed to improve the appearance of sebaceous filaments in individuals with severe acne. However, isotretinoin should not be taken without a prescription and must not be consumed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Non-comedogenic moisturizers

Moisturizing your skin should be an important step in your daily skincare routine. If you do not hydrate your skin properly, your sebaceous glands will start producing more oil to compensate. One should always apply a non-comedogenic/non-pore-clogging or oil-free moisturizer after washing their face.

In fact, all skincare products, sunscreen, serums, and makeup products should ideally contain non-pore-clogging ingredients. However, the label 'non-comedogenic' does not guarantee that the product will be 100% effective for your skin. Therefore, it's important to keep track of the products you use.

Using pore strips

Pore strips containing purifying and cleansing agents such as charcoal or salicylic acid are easily available in the market. They come in different shapes designed for the most commonly affected facial areas, like the nose, chin, and forehead.

Pore strips are applied on a moist area after gentle exfoliation for at least 10–15 minutes, which hardens the strip and extracts the spikes of sebum in the pores. Although this is not a permanent solution, it could provide a smooth appearance soon after use.

Pore strips should not be used regularly as they could irritate the skin and strip off essential oils.

Professional treatment for sebaceous filaments

If at-home treatments don't work, you can consider more professional tools. Dermatologist-recommended treatments can provide long-lasting relief from the appearance of sebaceous filaments. Some of these may include:

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  • Laser treatment. Laser treatments and light therapies can be used to minimize the size of sebaceous glands hence reducing oil production. These treatments are performed by dermatologists to minimize the effects of sebaceous filaments, whiteheads, and acne. The impact of laser treatments varies from person to person; its results will not last long and may be visible only after a few weeks post-treatment.
  • Chemical peels. Mild treatments such as glycolic acid peel can be used to address the effect of sebaceous filaments. Glycolic acid is the smallest molecule type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA); other molecules belonging to this class are lactic acid, mandelic acid, and citric acid. Due to glycolic acid's smallest molecule size, it can penetrate the deep skin layers. It breaks the bond between skin epidermis layers and increases the cell turnover cycle. It's crucial to consult a dermatologist before applying chemical peels.

Sebaceous filaments vs. blackheads: what’s the difference?

Major differences between blackheads and sebaceous filaments are as follows:

Sebaceous filamentsBlackheads
Formed due to the accumulation of oil and dead cells and looks whitish/yellowFormed due to the accumulation of sebum and dead cells which come in contact with oxygen and turn dark in color
Not a type of acneA type of acne
Oil travels freely on the skin from sebaceous filamentsA plug of sebum forms on the skin's surface

A proper skincare routine is a must for clear and healthy-looking skin. Sebaceous filaments are a natural part of healthy skin and do not cause any harm. These yellowish/whiteish spicules can be minimized by using multiple approaches such as gentle cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing. In more severe cases, a dermatologist's intervention may be necessary. Share some of your daily skincare tips that help you keep your skin smoother and shinier.

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