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Clogged Pores – The difference between blackheads and skin filaments.

Got clogged pores? Everyone does. But what the heck are they? Are they blackheads or sebaceous filaments? Well, they are two different things, often mistaken for one another. Let’s start with blackheads…

Blackheads:

These are, basically, congested pores/skin that are clogged with sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. They often appear black in color because of oxidation (from being exposed to oxygen). Now, a white head is the same as a blackhead, only there is evidence of bacteria included in the mix. But that is a different story.
On certain areas of the face there are other black colored pores often mistaken for blackheads, but they are actually sebaceous filaments.


Sebaceous Filaments:
All over the skin, there are tiny vellus hairs, sometimes called peach fuzz. Every pore or hair follicle contains a hair, a sweat gland, and a sebaceous gland (oil gland). The oil produced from this gland is often referred to as sebum and it is how your skin gets its hydration. Sebaceous filaments keep oil flowing so your skin maintains it’s natural moisture.
Are ya with me so far? OK!  So now we understand the difference the basics of a blackhead and a sebaceous filament. Let’s get into details :
Sebaceous filaments are made up of triglycerides, wax, esters, and squalene that live within the pore. Their basic function is to move sebum into the skin to help moisturize it naturally. This is why I hate adding extra oil to the skin. It is UNNECESSARY! When skin functions properly, you won’t need extra oils on the surface.

Remember, sebaceous filaments are neither pimples nor blackheads, yet. They don’t need to be extracted, unless there is an over-production of oil (sebum). For those with oily skin, these can pose as a problem. The over-production of oil can cause enlarged pores which clog the skin. The excess oil builds up along with dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria – YIKES. These innocent skin filaments have now turned into blackheads and everything is out of whack.
Why do I seem to have more clogged pores or skin filaments on my t-zone, especially on the nose?It is totally common to have more sebaceous filaments on nose, forehead and chin areas. Regular extractions, done by a professional, around these areas help keep oil production under control, but they won’t solve the problem if the cell is clogged. Remember, don’t squeeze these sebaceous filaments or blackheads on your own. Doing so can exacerbate the problem and can spread bacteria, which leads to irritation and scarring. Leave these extractions for me! Though they will continue to fill up every month, for as long as you live, your skin will now function properly with natural oil flow. Let’s focus on how can we stay on top of these skin filaments, keep your pores clean, and keep oil production flowing, not clogging.

Here are some tips for treating:
Here is how you treat sebaceous filaments and blackheads on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. If you want to have clear pores and prevent future congestion BE CONSISTENT.

First, you must exfoliate my friend! Using cleansers with active ingredients, like glycolic, lactic and/or salicylic acid are a great way to dissolve oil. I love using salicylic acid because it works by breaking down the natural sebum that fills up your pores, which will become sebaceous filaments, if you don’t stay on top of exfoliation.  You can also use manual exfoliation, like a Clarisonic, or mechanical scrubs that have beads designed to slough-off dead skin cells. Both options can be coupled with added active ingredients.

Another great tip is weekly masking. You can choose from clay, enzyme, or detox masks (i.e. activated charcoal) or even a weekly at-home-peel. I love Jan Marini’s Multi-Acid Peel Pads. They are pre-soaked at-home-peel pads, that combine 4 powerful acids: Glycolic, Lactic, Mandelic and Salicylic Acid. They immediately resurface the skin for smoother, more refined texture, reduced appearance of pores, fine lines, and wrinkles. Win! Win! Win!!

When you exfoliate, on a regular basis, you are giving those pesky dead skin cells a chance to turn-over which, in turn, reduces the amount of build-up on the skin. Your skin then stays clear and free of debris!


Cheers to glowing skin,

Shari