Do You Actually Have Blackheads? Dealing With Sebaceous Filaments

If you have little black dots on your cheeks or nose, you may be addicted to exfoliaters, extractors, and pore strips. At first glance, you may assume your pores are full of blackheads—or clogged pores where the oils have turned dark due to oxidation. However, what you may be seeing could actually be sebaceous filaments.

What's the difference?

Like blackheads, these filaments can give pores a darker appearance. These filaments are also deposits of sebum, but they aren't raised off the skin like blackheads. And while blackheads clog pores, filaments are actually naturally occurring components of your skin designed to bring oils to the surface. If you do end up squeezing them, they will usually have a yellowish or whitish color that is lighter than a blackhead.

Should they be removed?

While blackheads should be removed, filaments should be left alone. Since these filaments are a natural part of your skin, you should leave them be so they can continue to push oils to the surface. Squeezing these filaments could actually cause your pores to become enlarged or clog them even more! 

What if you don't like how they look?

Even though they are a natural part of your skin, it's understandable that you'd want to be rid of them since they look like blackheads. Thankfully there are cosmetic dermatology options. A procedure you may want to consider is microneedling therapy, or collagen induction therapy (CIT). CIT can be performed in office and is minimally invasive.

During this procedure, your dermatologist will use a tool that injects extremely fine needles into the skin. These tiny holes will encourage the skin to "roll over" as new elastin and collagen surfaces to heal the microscopic wounds. CIT is a great option because it can reduce your pore size and thus the appearance of filaments. And since pores do naturally get larger as you age, this can be a great treatment if you've become self-conscious about your skin's appearance. And if you aren't keen on expensive laser treatments, this can also be a more affordable option.

Talk with a dermatologist, like Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Specialists of Moreno Valley, beforehand to see if you actually need this treatment. If you actually have more blackheads showing than filaments, you may be able to save money and use a gel that uses beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Salicylic acid is a very common BHA, so all you may need is an over-counter drugstore option that your dermatologist recommends for your skin type.