Totally Normal Features of the Skin: Sebaceous Filaments

Hi everyone and happy Wednesday!

When you hang out in skincare communities as much as I do, you eventually see lots of questions about totally normal skin features, such as the one I want to talk about today: sebaceous filaments. Or as you may know of them: the blackheads on your nose.

Sebaceous filaments are a totally normal part of the skin and are created when oil forms around a vellus hair follicle. On some people, these filaments can appear larger, while on others they may be smaller. My skin is pretty dry, for example, and I have smaller pores overall. Here’s my nose, up close and personal:

Morning Session-071.jpg
No one is ever this close to your nose.


These openings never quite go away, though they can appear smaller or lighter. Here is another, more pronounced example:

Nose Blackheads

They extract like a long piece of silly string (this was the least disgusting analogy I could come up with — sorry, friends), unlike blackheads which are more of a hard plug. Even after being squeezed, sebaceous filaments will fill back up within a couple of days. They are most common around the nose, chin, and forehead, or the places where we are oiliest. For some people, they may look black or grey, which is due to the sebum in the skin oxidizing with the air around us all of the time. Lastly, they most resemble fairly uniform craters in the skin, as opposed to blackheads, which can be of varying sizes.

An example of blackheads in the nose:


Despite it being a totally normal feature, many people are uncomfortable with their sebaceous filaments and will do anything to reduce their appearance. Here’s some guidelines to do just that:

  • Try a BHA. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid is my weapon of choice, as it is oil-soluble and can break down sebum sitting inside of our pores, effectively “cleaning them out.” Adjust this as needed — some people need AHAs instead of BHAs, and some people can tolerate much higher percentages of AHA on areas like their nose than the rest of the skin. It is okay to apply products to only one area of your skin. I do this all of the time with my actives, since my rosacea makes my skin a lot more sensitive in some places as opposed to others.
  • Ditch the pore strips. Not only are they fighting an unwinnable battle, the tugging and pulling can be really rough on the small vascular system of the skin. Broken capillaries on the nose are very common and require laser treatments to fix.
  • For a quick fix, try a clay mask. If you have an event coming up, try a mild clay mask to soak up some of the sebum on your skin. Depending on the strength of the mask (Aztec Indian Clay Mask is very, very strong and can actually be a bit uncomfortable to wear), do this up to a night before so your nose isn’t red before the big event.
  • Gently massage your oiliest areas a little longer with cleanser at night. I always spend a couple extra seconds gently working cleanser into my oily areas, like my nose, chin, and forehead.
  • Relax. No one is looking at your nose when they talk to you, nor are they as close to your skin as you’re probably getting when you’re staring at yourself in front of a mirror. If you’re feeling worried, stand back 3 – 6 feet from a mirror. This is how close most people will be to you.



  1. Sebaceous filaments

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Game developer by day. Real-life gremlin. Amateur photographer. Mental health advocate. Skincare lover and science devotee. In 2011, I began a journey into skincare that became a life-long passion. I've written numerous articles on on skincare and helped hundreds of people as they begin their own journey into a better understanding of their skin. I am an advocate for science-based skincare, and want to help others achieve their goals of better skin.

5 thoughts on “Totally Normal Features of the Skin: Sebaceous Filaments

  1. Can I be lazy and just ask you rather than researching myself? What is the difference between AHA and BHA and how do I know which to use?



  2. I would love to see a post on pores. Normal sized pores whether they be ‘normally’ large or ‘normally’ small both of which are probably due to genetics, no? I think the perception of pore size is super skewed due to the fact that pores are always airbrushed away in photos and even close ups

    1. I’ve been trying to train myself to see the poreless airbrush look as unnatural and it’s SO HARD. When did I get used to it?

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