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Those Black Dots On Your Nose? They’re Probably Not Blackheads

The pores of a woman's nose, seen through a magnifying glass.
Alona Siniehina/Shutterstock

If you’ve tried all kinds of tips and tricks to get rid of those little black spots on your nose with no luck, you’re not alone—it’s a common frustration among skincare devotees. And the reason behind this nuisance might surprise you.

Chances are you’ve convinced yourself you’ve been doomed with stubborn blackheads that won’t go away. Well, the good news is that they’re not blackheads—they’re sebaceous filaments. However, the unpleasant news is that they’re permanent. But fear not! There are a few things you can do to minimize their appearance, and we’re here to tell you all about them.

What Are Sebaceous Filaments?

You might not be a fan of the peach fuzz on your face, but it’s there for a reason.

Every hair on your body emerges from a hair follicle, which contains the root of the hair strand and an oil-producing sebaceous gland. The purpose of that oil (or sebum) is to moisturize the skin and maintain its elasticity.

Sebaceous filaments are the conduit of sebum flow. They line the inside of your pores and help guide the oil from the glands to the skin’s surface, which is where it comes to serve its crucial function.

Under normal circumstances, your pores look dark-pink to light-brown in color, with the ones on your nose generally more noticeable than others. But when you have excessive sebum production in the skin, oil can build up inside the pores, causing them to expand and become visible to the naked eye. At that point, they usually develop a head that’s dark-yellow to greyish in color.

After noticing them, most people treat them like blackheads and get frustrated when they see no long-term results.

How Do Sebaceous Filaments Differ from Blackheads?

There’s a very simple difference between the two: Sebaceous filaments are normal structures within the skin, while blackheads are a form of acne.

What does that difference look like? Under normal conditions, the sebum flows up the sebaceous filament to the surface of the skin. When extracted they have a hair-like structure coated in a waxy substance (the sebum). That slight coloration is a combination of the natural color of the sebum and, sometimes, a slight bit of oxidation of the sebum as it approaches the surface of the skin.

If the pore should become obstructed, however, the process of the sebum moving up to the surface is interrupted and the same bit of sebum is exposed to the air for longer. Eventually, it darkens to the familiar color of a blackhead proper. If the blackhead isn’t extracted (either physically or using a cleanser that breaks down the obstruction), then sebum will continue the back up behind the blackhead. In extreme cases, this can lead to a large blackhead in a highly dilated pore know as a “pore of winer.”

Tips on How to Minimize the Appearance of Sebaceous Filaments on Your Nose

A tri-fold collage of three product shots of Cerave's Resurfacing Retinol Serum, Paula's Choice's 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant, and Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Water Gel

Sebaceous filaments are normal, so accepting them as they come can give you peace of mind in the long run.

Although very tempting, you should avoid squeezing them as it could cause the skin around them to break and become exposed to bacteria, ultimately causing an infection. And if you’re thinking of using nose strips, you should know that they can only provide a temporary fix.

If you want to keep the sebaceous filaments healthy but almost unnoticeable, your treatment target should go past surface level. Here are a few ways to go about it.

Use Chemical Exfoliants Regularly

The best way to fight clogged pores is by using chemical exfoliants. If you’re unfamiliar with them, here’s a quick guide to all the exfoliating acids you need to know about. Salicylic acid is one you shouldn’t go without. The chemical is lipophilic, which means it interacts with sebum deep into the pores and, unlike a facial scrub, can clear them up from within.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting Exoliant

It clears your skin from the inside out, minimizes your pores, and gives you a healthy glow.

Give Retinoids a Try

While they can be intimidating at first, they can quickly become your go-to skincare product once you get accustomed to them and start to see the effects. Retinoids can help treat all types of breakouts by accelerating the turnover of dead skin cells inside the pores, essentially exfoliating the skin.

If you’re new to them, you can either turn to a professional for help or start with a low-strength formula that won’t shock your dermis. It’s also worth keeping in mind that retinoids increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so don’t forget to use sunscreen before leaving the house.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

If you acne-prone skin and enlarged pores, this might just be your salvation.

Opt For Oil-free Skincare Products

Oil plus oil equals clogged pores. If you have naturally oily skin, it’s best to avoid oil-based and non-comedogenic skincare products to prevent them from overloading your pores and causing them to get clogged. This goes for all kinds of products, including make-up and sunscreen.

Maybelline Fit Me Matte Foundation

It's oil-free, inexpensive, and it comes in a wide variety of shades.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

The sun is not the only thing that can cause dry skin. A harsh, cold environment can do that just as well. Because dry skin can lead the sebaceous glands to work overtime to keep the skin hydrated and protected, you can easily get around it by always using moisturizer. Not only will it keep your sebum levels balanced, but it will also help maintain that youthful glow we all adore.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel

This water gel absorbs quickly and hydrates your skin like no other

Always Use Sunscreen

It’s no secret that long-term sun exposure can cause skin damage. The heat, coupled with UV light, causes your skin to dry, triggering the excessive production of oil and causing your pores to become enlarged. Sunscreen can provide a protective barrier for your skin and minimize the appearance of your pores.

EltaMD Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen

This noncomedogenic formula will calm and protect your skin from sun damage.

Yes, they can be a bit of a nuisance, but sebaceous filaments are doing their best to help out. They protect your skin keep it healthy and elastic. However, using the right products can make them look less noticeable while still doing their job. Try any of the tips above and watch your skin rejoice!

Carla Cometto Carla Cometto
Carla has been writing professionally for five years and blogging for many more. She's worked as a journalist, photographer, and translator. She's also an avid traveler who hopes to inspire a sense of curiosity and adventure in others through her writing. Read Full Bio »
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