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Expert Advice on How To Get Rid of Sebaceous Filaments
Essential Takeaways

Sebaceous filaments are often confused with blackheads--but the two are very different. One main difference is that sebaceous filaments aren't problems to be removed.

Expert Advice on How To Get Rid of Sebaceous Filaments

Those small, blackish-gray dots that fill your pores and never seem to go away for good can have you scrambling for concealer. 

The good news is, they probably aren’t all blackheads. Most of them are likely sebaceous filaments. The slightly not-so-wonderful news is that they can be extremely difficult to get rid of because they’re a naturally occurring element on your skin. 

We’ll give you all the information you need about sebaceous filaments, how they happen, and what you can do to deal with them. 

What is a sebaceous filament?

Sebaceous filaments, unlike blackheads, aren’t clogged pores, but they do form when your pores contain dead skin cells and sebum (your skin’s natural oil). These small, hairlike structures help get sebum onto the surface of your skin to keep it hydrated. 

Unfortunately, they’re visible, but unlike blackheads, they’re usually much smaller. They’re probably only visible to you if you’re really close to the bathroom mirror, but we understand they can be frustrating and virtually impossible to leave alone. 

Sebaceous filaments don’t happen in every pore, but they can happen in the pores of oilier areas, like near your nose, forehead, or chin. 

Why did I get a sebaceous filament? 

Everyone gets sebaceous filaments, but whether or not you notice them depends on the size of your pores and the amount of attention you give your skin. 

Pore size is largely dependent on your genetics. If your parents have larger, visible pores, you will likely have visible pores also. You’ll be able to see sebaceous filaments more easily if you have larger pores, which can be annoying, but remember—these structures are supposed to be there. 

You don’t get sebaceous filaments because of bad skincare practices or because you are prone to blemishes. You get them because they help your skin function properly… they’re really not all bad.

How can I tell the difference between a sebaceous filament and a blackhead?

It can feel impossible to distinguish between a blackhead and a sebaceous filament, but it is possible with a little know-how. Whether it’s a blackhead or a sebaceous filament, you should never pick them or try to pop them, or you could damage your skin and leave a scar. 

The appearance of sebaceous filaments

Most of the time, sebaceous filaments appear white, grey, or light brown in color. Sometimes, they can even be skin-colored, making them virtually impossible to spot with the naked eye (so stop looking). Sebaceous filaments are also flat on the skin’s surface or slightly depressed, making it look like they are sitting slightly below the surface of your skin. 

Blackheads, on the other hand, are dark brown or black and even develop a slightly greenish tint. They will almost always be surrounded by a fair amount of swelling or redness, which helps differentiate them from sebaceous filaments. 


When you squeeze a blackhead, the plug of dead skin cells, sebum, and puss will come out as a yellowish color, followed by a little blood. The dark top of the blackhead is typically visible once it has been removed. 

A sebaceous filament that is extracted appears white, yellowish, or even clear. It is usually extremely thin and may be hard to remove from your skin without accidentally smearing it because it is so small and fragile. 

How can I get rid of a sebaceous filament?

First of all, keep in mind that you don’t need to get rid of sebaceous filaments. If you’d like to remove them periodically, you can, and doing so may keep your skin clearer and help you focus less on your pores.

Try an oil cleanse

Oil cleansing helps break down existing oil in your skin. It works based on the property that like dissolves like. It’s an innovative way to help remove excess oil without drying your skin and causing it to produce (even more) oil. 

To oil cleanse your skin, you’ll simply use an oil to cleanse, prior to your favorite cleanser. You can oil cleanse without a secondary cleanser or follow up with a mild cleanser of your choice. 

Here are our favorite oils for oil cleansing the skin: 

  • Olive + M Purify +Rejuvenate Cleansing Oil. This blend of oils is excellent at deep-diving into pores to dig out dirt and oil that could be causing breakouts. Gentle on even the most sensitive skin types, we love that there are four different types of oils blended into this luxurious oil to keep it backed with skin-benefiting nutrients. 
  • The Dirty Lamb Apricot Cleansing Oil. Specifically designed to target excess sebum hiding out in your skin’s pores, this apricot oil-based cleanser keeps your pores squeaky clean. It will also help your skin feel incredibly smooth thanks to the inclusion of rice bran oil, a secret ingredient used by Eastern cultures for centuries. 

Use clarifying products

Clarifying products are designed to help keep your pores clean, but they can also result in dryness. 

To avoid using products that can dehydrate your skin, look for ingredients like lavender, pycnogenol, and tea tree oil. These ingredients help keep your skin clear and clarified without stripping essential moisture from your skin. 

Try an OTC retinol

Vitamin A, or retinol, is a topical cream that can help accelerate the skin cycle. By using a topical retinol cream, you can encourage cell turnover to help keep your pores clear. 

Vitamin A will naturally exfoliate your skin, keeping your skin looking healthier and reducing the number of dead skin cells that hang out on the surface and clog your pores. 

Exfoliate with toner

A toner that contains plant-based fruit acids can help exfoliate your skin and remove dead skin cells, much like an over-the-counter retinol cream can. The benefit of using a toner is that you’ll be swabbing it on your skin with a cotton ball, which can help ensure the dead skin is thoroughly removed from your skin.

Look for toners with plant-based glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Because these acids are really good at what they do, you’ll want to start by using these toners once every other day to make sure your skin can tolerate them. If so, you can increase to daily use, which should help keep your pores clear and help you notice sebaceous filaments less.

Give yourself a facial

Sure, you can see an aesthetician and get a facial, but you can also get an amazing facial at home with a few easy-to-use products and a little ingenuity. 

There are numerous vegan, cruelty-free facial products that can help you deep clean your pores and get out dirt and oil that might be below the surface. 

Do I need to go to a dermatologist?

Probably not. Although a dermatologist or aesthetician can do extractions on your skin safely and without risking injury to your skin or leaving scars, they will likely tell you that sebaceous filaments will naturally come back within a few days of extraction. 

If you simply must have them removed, a dermatologist or aesthetician is a good place to start. They can help assess your skin and offer recommendations for extraction. 

One note of caution: You should never extract your own sebaceous filaments. You could scar your skin, cause sores, and cause a serious amount of swelling that takes a long time to heal. 

Take that, sebaceous filaments!

Your sebaceous filaments may drive you crazy, but we promise that everyone has them, and they are completely normal. Even if you try many methods to remove them, you may still have them appear from time to time. 

Your best strategy is to take excellent care of your skin and keep your pores clean and clear. This will make sebaceous filaments less noticeable, which will probably keep you out of the mirror and help ease your obsession with them. 

The Kinder Beauty Blog is the ideal place to look for information about skincare, makeup, and beauty and wellness products. We only feature products that are vegan and cruelty-free, so you know that the products you read about are safe for animals, your skin, and the environment. 

Haven’t signed up for The Kinder Beauty Box yet? Go for it. It’s the best way to get the vegan, cruelty-free products you need to know about into your cosmetics bag. 

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Sebaceous filaments | PUBMED 

Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties | NCBI 

Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments | NCBI 

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