Sebaceous Filaments

Sadie Young
July 17, 2024
Skin Care

Okay so maybe my nerd is showing and I’m probably saying this to the wrong audience, but “sebaceous filaments” just reminds me of Salacious Crumb, the little creepy monkey looking dude that sits on Jabba’s lap in Star Wars Return of the Jedi. Did I lose you there? Sorry, back to the subjects we all care about, skincare! We’re finally going to do a deep dive into sebaceous filaments as we’ve sprinkled little bits of knowledge throughout, but haven’t given you all the sciency goodness.

What are the little devils?

We talk about sebum all the time in conjunction with skin care, but what the heck is it really?  Underneath the skin are tiny glands that produce an oil-like substance whose purpose is to lubricate the skin. This is sebum. Sebaceous filaments are tube-like structures in your pores that allow the sebum to move to the surface of the skin. These filaments can appear as if they are large pores or blackheads when the body produces too much sebum. Whether or not your sebaceous filaments are visible depends on your skin type and genetics. Those with larger pores and oil-prone skin are more likely to have visible sebaceous filaments.

Sebaceous Filaments vs Blackheads

Because they are often mistaken for blackheads, you might be inclined to try and get rid of them like you want to do with a blackhead (don’t do it with either!), but they are natural structures within your skin and need to be treated differently than blackheads (don’t try and squeeze them out!). If you try to extract the stuff out of them, you can cause damage or scarring to the skin. How do you tell the difference then between sebaceous filaments and blackheads?

What is the structure?

The very structure of blackheads and sebaceous filaments are completely different. Sebaceous filaments are the structures that allow the flow of sebum and blackheads are blockages in the pore that prevent the oil from escaping. One prevents oil production and the other encourages it.

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Sebaceous Filaments

How does it look?

Sebaceous filaments will look like a tiny dark dot on the skin and are usually yellow, gray, or even clear on closer inspection. Blackheads are a darker plug at the top of the skin because it has become oxidized with the air.

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Sebaceous Filaments

What does it look like when extracted?

Of course, we’re trying to prevent you from extracting sebaceous filaments and blackheads for that matter, but if sebaceous filaments are extracted, a white or yellow thin line of gunk will come out. When a blackhead is extracted, the black plug will come out followed by white/yellow sebum. Yeah, gross.

Blackhead Prevention

If you’re worried about the look of sebaceous filaments on your skin and worried that they could turn into blackheads, there is hope. A solid skincare regimen can help with an overproduction of sebum. Look for products specially tailored to people with oily and/or acne prone skin and they can help reduce the amount of sebum your skin is producing, resulting in clearer skin, less blackheads, and possibly less visible sebaceous filaments. Try this skincare routine if you’re at a loss for where to start:

Oil Cleanser

Keeping the skin clean and clear of dirt can help minimize the appearance of sebaceous filaments. Use an oil cleanser to really cleanse the surface of the skin of all dirt and grime from the day. Remember, oil attracts oil, and will dissolve sebum, grease, and makeup. If you’re feeling double cleanse, follow it up with a gentle cleanser to ensure you really get rid of everything.

Clarifying Mask

Don’t just reach for any old sheet mask, but search for masks with BHA’s, AHA’s, and enzymes.

Exfoliating Toner

Exfoliation is definitely key for removing dead skin cells and removing all the gunk that’s clogging our pores. Adding exfoliation (in moderation) to your skincare routine, will give the skin a refreshing restart and clean slate.


No skin care routine is complete without a moisturizer and is an important step even for those with naturally oily skin. Try a light weight gel-based moisturizer intended for those with oily skin.


Retinol can be excellent if used correctly. It isn’t the right fit for all skin types though and if you’re new to it, start with a gentle retinol (encapsulated retinol) and then work your way up to a stronger one if necessary.

Remember, as tempting as it may be to use a Biore strip to remove them, fight the urge! We will dive into why Biore strips aren’t good for you in another post:)

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