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Sebaceous Filaments: Causes & Treatment

What are Sebaceous Filaments?

Underneath the surface of the skin are small glands called sebum. The function of these cells is to produce oily substance that keeps the skin moist and lubricated.

Sebaceous Filaments are small structures that promote flow of sebum into the skin surface. These filaments fill up when there is overproduction of the sebum. This causes them to enlarge to an extent that they become visible on the skin surface and look like large pores. Sebaceous Filaments commonly is misinterpreted as blackheads by many people which is a form of acne.[1,2,3]

Sebaceous Filaments: Causes & Treatment

Sebaceous Filaments themselves are not blackheads or whiteheads but they certainly can cause them. They consist of about 30 layers of cells and have a mixture of sebaceous lipid, bacteria, and corneocyte fragments. Once the sebum is released from the filament it takes about a month for it to fill up again.[1,2,3] This article talks about the various causes for Sebaceous Filaments and how to deal with it.

What Causes Sebaceous Filaments?

The natural process of the body that produces sebum often causes the sebaceous filaments to fill up and become noticeable. It is mostly seen in people with oily skin when compared to people who have a dry skin. The size of the enlarged Sebaceous Filaments is dependent on certain factors which include age of a person, genetic makeup, have thick hair follicles, or spend long periods of time outside exposed to direct sunlight. There is a misconception in many people that Sebaceous Filaments that are visible indicates that the skin is dirty but that is not the case.[3]

How Are Sebaceous Filaments Treated?

How Are Sebaceous Filaments Treated?

There are a variety of skin care products that control the amount of sebum that is produced in the body. This prevents the Sebaceous Filaments to fill up or get enlarged. This minimizes the appearance of Sebaceous Filaments. However, care should be taken to not use any products that make the skin overly dry or irritate the skin.[3]

Depending on the skin of the person, a dermatologist can suggest the best product. These products can make Sebaceous Filaments less visible but may not completely eliminate it. The primary ingredients that should be present in a product for effective treatment of enlarged pores include:[3]

Salicylic Acid: This is quite a common ingredient in various facial cleansers and creams used for treating acne. The maximum amount of salicylic acid in these products is about 2%. This acid helps in inhibiting the production of oil in the skin and decrease the size of the pores caused by the filling up of Sebaceous Filaments.[3]

Salicylic acid also has the potency to penetrate through the sebum and clear the pores. For first time users of creams or cleansers having salicylic acid it is better to start off with using it once every day and gradually increase the application. The person should stop using it if the skin gets dry or irritated.[3]

If stronger dosage is required then it should be done under the supervision of a dermatologist who can prescribe creams which have higher percentage of salicylic acid. These creams, lotions, and peels can significantly decrease the appearance of the pores. It should be noted here that anyone who is allergic to aspirin should never use salicylic acid as it is a derivative of aspirin.[3]

Benzoyl Peroxide: This is also one of the common ingredients in various acne products. It helps dry out the skin by limiting the amount of oil produced and decrease the size of the pores. However, Benzoyl Peroxide can cause excessive skin dryness and peeling especially when its concentration is high and thus people with skin irritation and dryness should use it with caution.[3]

Tea Tree Oil: This is also one of the products used to treat acne and is quite effective in decreasing the size of the pores seen with Sebaceous Filaments. Studies have shown effectiveness of tea tree oil in oily skin. However, it has a tendency to cause allergic reaction and thus a dermatologist should be consulted before use of this product. In case of an allergic reaction, it is recommended to go to the emergency room for treatment.[3]

Sun Protection: Several studies have shown that prolonged sun exposure can worsen the pores seen with Sebaceous Filaments. Therefore, a person with oily skin should avoid prolonged sun exposure or use protection to prevent Sebaceous Filaments from filling up and forming pores. This can be done by using sunscreens. It should be noted that only those sunscreens should be used that are oil free as using heavy sunscreens can make the pores more visible.[3]

In conclusion, Sebaceous Filaments are natural structures that fill up and become visible on the skin surface in the form of large pores. These pores may look unsightly. Visible Sebaceous Filaments are generally seen in people with oily skin where there is overproduction of sebum. The difference between Sebaceous Filaments and blackheads and whiteheads are that Sebaceous Filaments do not clog the skin pores.[1,2,3]

The sebum that is the oil that keeps the skin moist6 and healthy travel through hair follicles and fills up the Sebaceous Filaments. These filaments then get enlarged and become visible on the skin surface. The best way to prevent it is by controlling the production of sebum in the body and keeping the skin dry. This can be done by various creams, lotions, and even peeling.[1,2,3]

Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and tea tree oil are best for Sebaceous Filaments. However, there are certain red flags on their use. Thus it is best to consult with a dermatologist to determine the best route possible to minimize the visibility of the pores seen with Sebaceous Filaments.[1,2,3]


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 11, 2022

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