Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: What’s the Difference?

Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: What’s the Difference?

Published by Jil Goorman on Jun 7th 2024

As you look into a magnified mirror, you see tiny specks of textured skin that you desperately want to pop. However, you can’t discern if they are actually blemishes or not. Plus, some of them are a dark color while others have a paler hue. Read on to learn the differences between blackheads and sebaceous filaments as well as how to treat them.


Blackheads, often referred to as open comedones, occur when hair follicles are clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Unlike whiteheads, blackheads have an opening on the skin's surface. The trapped material undergoes oxidation and gives blackheads their characteristic dark color.

Typically, blackheads will appear in areas with more oil glands, such as the nose, chin, and forehead. They have a slightly raised texture, making the skin feel rough in the affected areas.

Sebaceous Filaments

Sebaceous glands are small oil-producing glands that deposit an oily substance called sebum, which helps lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair. Sebaceous filaments often form in areas with high density of sebaceous glands, such as the nose, chin, and forehead.

Sebaceous filaments are bacteria-free spots that resemble blackheads. They contain oil and keratin and may protrude on the skin due to dilated pores or excessive sebum production.

Sebaceous filaments usually appear as tiny white or yellow dots on the skin's surface. Unlike blackheads, they are not raised and tend to have a smooth or slightly rough texture. Their appearance can become more pronounced when the pores are enlarged.

Removing and Preventing Blackheads and Sebaceous Filaments

Although there are differences between blackheads and sebaceous filaments, the treatment options for each are similar. Forcefully removing them can cause scarring, changes to skin texture, or push bacteria further into the skin. Instead, implement a thorough skincare routine with active acne-fighting ingredients.

Use a Cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is known for its potent exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces oil production, breaks down keratin plugs, and thoroughly cleanses the pores. By incorporating a cleanser for acne-prone skin that includes benzoyl peroxide, you can treat the visibility of sebaceous filaments and underlying causes of blackheads.

Exfoliate Using a Salicylic Acid Toner

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that dissolves debris and sebum. It powerfully exfoliates to remove dead skin cells and prevent future blockages that cause blackheads.

For sebaceous filaments, salicylic acid helps regulate the skin’s natural oil production and prevents the over-accumulation of sebum. This toner will reduce their appearance for the soft texture you desire.

Follow Up With a Hydrating Serum and Moisturizer

Hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin. After cleansing and exfoliating, use hydrating serums and moisturizers to restore the skin's natural barrier.

Hydrating serums provide deep moisture to uphold the skin’s elasticity. Moisturizers form a protective layer that locks in moisture. Completing your skin routine with these hydrating products ensures supple and resilient skin.

By understanding the difference between blackheads and sebaceous filaments, you can tailor your skincare routine to address your specific concerns. With a gentle cleansing and exfoliating regimen, you can achieve a smoother, clearer complexion that you'll love.