Blackheads and sebaceous filaments what’s the difference?

Blackheads and sebaceous filaments what’s the difference?

Jan 11, 2023Zaryab Fayyaz

People often confuse sebaceous filaments and blackheads with one another as they look similar in appearance but both are different things.

At this point you might be thinking what exactly is the difference, and how can you tell if you have one or the other? Here’s what you need to know.

What are blackheads?

Blackheads appear as tiny black dots on the skin and are a type of acne and clog your skin’s natural oil and sebum. Unlike pimples, blackheads are not as painful or irritated as they don’t appear as a raised bump. They look like a flat, dark spot on the skin.

Almost everyone will have blackheads at some point in their lifetime, especially teenagers. They mostly appear in the T-zone area. It includes the nose, chin, and forehead, but they can also develop anywhere on the body.

Blackheads and pimples are results of clogged hair follicles or sebaceous (oil) glands. These can happen for various reasons like excess sebum to hormones to the overproduction of skin cells.

What is a sebaceous filament?


Sebaceous filaments are naturally occurring, tube-like structures that form when oil is produced around the hair follicle. They are a normal part of the skin’s moisturising process and help to move oil to the skin’s surface. Unlike blackheads, sebaceous filaments help to moisturise the skin rather than clog it.

For many people, sebaceous filaments will never become super noticeable, these filaments only become visible when the lining of your pore fills up with sebum. But for others with oily skin or enlarged pores, sebaceous filaments can be more visible like blackheads, but more of a light grey or tan, rather than black. Some people have quite a thick waxy sebum, which makes them appear like blackheads but not the same as blackheads. It typically has a collection of dead skin cells and oil in the pore.

 Difference between blackheads and sebaceous filaments?


Sebaceous filament

Blackheads are a type of acne and are typically clogged with dead skin and skin’s natural oil, sebum that has oxidised.

Sebaceous filaments are completely healthy and are a natural part of the skin.

They are small black dots in appearance.

They are pale, sandy and grey small spots.


They mostly occur in t-zone areas.

Sebaceous filaments mostly occur in isolated areas such as the nose and chin.

They are darker in colour.

They are lighter in colour.

If a blackhead is removed, it likely will not reappear again.

Sebaceous filament is a normal part of skin and that can reappear in about 30 days.

Blackheads are normally larger in size.

Sebaceous filaments are smaller in size.

They are raised bumps.

They are flat dots.

Squeezing blackheads is very harmful.

Squeezing sebaceous filaments is harmful.

 How to treat sebaceous filaments?

Some of the treatments to minimise the appearance of sebaceous filaments include salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, and sun protection. In addition, the excess sebum production that leads to sebaceous filaments can be prevented before it occurs by consistently cleansing your face, avoiding harshly scrubbing any affected areas, using oil-free and alcohol-free skincare products, moisturising daily, and choosing gentler skincare products.

How to treat blackheads?

You can get rid of blackheads by using a variety of over-the-counter products. Blackhead solutions typically contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and resorcinol; ingredients that work to kill bacteria, remove excess oil, and help the skin to shed dead skin cells. Antioxidants like vitamin C will prevent blackheads by reducing sebum oxidation which causes the dark colour of a blackhead. AHA & BHA will help to clear any congestion that lies within the pores and dissolve sebum and dead skin. But before using these skincare products learn first which ingredients are safe to use together.


We’ve all been there: in full magnifying mirror mode, examining every single pore, bump and spot on our face to find out whether it is blackhead or sebaceous filament.  

Above, we share the differences between sebaceous filaments vs. blackheads, what causes each, and the best treatments.

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