Young woman examines skin complexion in mirror

Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: Which Do You Actually Have?

4 Foods that Cause Hormonal Acne Reading Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments: Which Do You Actually Have? 10 minutes Next Alcohol and Acne: What Booze is Doing to Your Skin

I’ve been in the huge pore club for nearly two decades. For almost as long, I was convinced that I was plagued by tiny, tiny blackheads.

It was an endless struggle. My pores always looked massive and dirty, no matter how much I washed my face. Even if I tried to extract them, the result only lasted a few days before my giant pores were once again dominating my face.

Imagine my surprise when I finally figured out the truth:

I’d never had blackheads at all.

Yep, I’d been approaching my skincare routine in the wrong mindset, trying to treat an issue that I didn’t even have. And you may be in the same boat!

Are you dropping a mint on professional extractions, and only getting temporary, unsatisfying results? Do your so-called “blackheads” appear like tiny pinpricks that you just can’t get rid of?

We’ve wasted years, you and I. All that time spent fighting blackheads should have been spent addressing the real problem:

Sebaceous filaments.

But no more wasted time!

Now, with Averr Aglow’s help, you can literally learn from my mistakes. Figure out what’s really going on with your complexion and establish the best skincare habits to keep your pores clean, your face fresh, and your confidence at a 10!

What Are Blackheads?

So, you want to know whether those dark pores are blackheads or not. First of all, what are blackheads?

Blackheads are one of the most common acne breakouts. They appear as raised bumps in your skin, with an open black or grey center. (Hence, the name.) These bumps can vary in size and location but are most common on your face.

There’s a misconception that blackheads are a sign of dirt and poor hygiene, but this isn't the case.

What Causes Blackheads?

Blackheads are really just blocked pores. Your skin produces natural oil called sebum, which can stick together shedding skin cells. This knot of oil and skin cells then plugs up your pores.

If the clogged pore is covered by a layer of skin, it may develop into a pimple called a whitehead.

But if the clogged pore is uncovered, the sebum plug is exposed to oxygen and darkens in color. This visible black spot is a blackhead!

Note: there’s no dirt or poor hygiene to blame. That dark shadow in your pore is just an unfortunate side effect of the clog in your skin.

What Are Sebaceous Filaments?

For many people, sebaceous filaments lie mostly hidden within the skin. But for others, they may take on a brown or yellow appearance at the surface of your pores, causing them to be confused with blackheads.

But blackheads and sebaceous filaments are actually quite different. For one thing, sebaceous filaments aren’t disrupting your skin’s regular operation. They’re part of it!

Sebaceous filaments are slender, hair-like structures that form naturally in your pores.

Unlike blackheads, they aren’t an impenetrable barrier — sebaceous filaments actually help oil reach the surface of your skin. This sebum then locks in moisture and defends your complexion from harmful bacteria.

Tone down conspicuous pores

with Averr Aglow’s Luminous Complexion Toner

What Causes Sebaceous Filaments?

Everyone has sebaceous filaments in their skin, from your cute neighbor to your grandma. But some factors can make them more visible.

  • Oily skin : If you have an oily complexion, your sebaceous filaments may become swollen with excess sebum trying to crowd its way out of your pores. This wedges your pores open and makes sebaceous filaments easier to see, giving your skin an uneven appearance. Sebaceous filaments are usually most obvious in your face’s oiliest areas, such as your cheeks, nose, and forehead.
  • Large pores : You may have large pores due to genetics, age, thick hair follicles, or damage from sun exposure. And if your pores are already wide open, the sebaceous filaments inside can become visible regardless of your oil levels.

Sebaceous Filaments vs. Blackheads: How to Tell the Difference

To decide on the best skincare routine for your skin, you must first know what you’re treating. Are those dark pores due to blackheads, sebaceous filaments, or both?

(That’s right — to confuse you further, sebaceous filaments often co-occur with blackheads and whiteheads, especially in oily, acne-prone complexions.)

Blackheads and sebaceous filaments can look similar, but there are a few distinguishing characteristics that you can observe to identify the real issue.

Color :

Your dark pores may seem glaringly obvious to your critical glance, but stop to evaluate them objectively. Are they truly a deep black or gray? That’s the signature sign of blackheads. Are they a more neutral tone like brown, yellow, or off-white? You probably have enlarged sebaceous filaments.

Texture :

Run your fingertips lightly over the pores in question. Do you feel raised bumps and uneven texture, or does your skin seem to lie smooth? Blackheads will stand out from the skin, while sebaceous filaments will not.

Structure :

You can also compare the structure of the gunk in your pores, though this requires extraction, which we don’t necessarily recommend. Still, if you are determined to do it, here’s the difference: when extracted, blackheads will appear as solid, congealed plugs. Sebaceous filaments are more likely to release a loose string of white or yellow paste.


How to Clear Up Blackheads

If it turns out that you do have blackheads, after all, then it’s time to size up your skincare routine and figure out how to unclog those pores.

  • Make sure your cleansing is on point. If you have skin that likes to clog, it’s extra important that you thoroughly cleanse. Aim to do it twice a day, in the morning and at night. (And don’t forget to remove any makeup before bed. Sleeping in makeup is a one-way ticket to breakouts!)
  • Moisturize to balance oil production. This may seem backward at first glance, but moisturizing is actually key to reducing excess sebum. If your skin is properly hydrated, then your oil-producing sebaceous glands will adjust accordingly. And the less oil your skin is putting out, the less pore-blocking sebum plugs you’ll have! Our Flawless Nourishment Cream is an ideal choice to rebalance your oily skin. It incorporates nutrients from pumpkin seed and camellia to pave the way for a natural, dewy complexion.


  • Exfoliate weekly. Another way to prevent clogging is to address your abundance of dead skin cells. Acne-prone complexions tend to create and shed skin cells faster, and it’s easy for all these extra cells to get bogged down in your pores. Exfoliation clears away dead cells before they become a problem. Our Illuminating Essence Exfoliating Mask uses volcanic ash and silica to buff away impurities without tearing up your skin. Then it deposits nutrients to build a smoother, healthier glow.
  • Don’t worry about anti-inflammatories. A lot of acne-fighting products use anti-inflammatory ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. Apart from benzoyl peroxide being very abrasive and irritating, it isn’t that useful against blackheads, which aren’t inflammatory blemishes.
  • Choose non-comedogenic products. If clogged pores are your concern, choose products that won’t contribute to the problem. Avoid anything with heavy, occlusive oils or harsh, skin-stripping chemicals. We recommend checking the ingredients list yourself — the label “non-comedogenic” may not be a guarantee.
Averr Aglow infographic venn diagram - Tips for Treating Blackheads and Sebaceous Filaments


How to Get Rid of Sebaceous Filaments: 

You can’t really get rid of sebaceous filaments, and you shouldn’t, anyway! Remember, they’re a natural and useful part of your skin.

But if you're longing for a more even complexion, there are some ways to lessen the appearance of your sebaceous filaments.

5 Treatment Tips to Reduce Sebaceous Filaments

1. Use an oil-based cleanser. The #1 cause of visible sebaceous filaments is oily skin, so it may sound crazy to use an oil cleanser. However, oil cleansers are actually perfect for the job! Choosing the right oil can help dissolve the oil lingering in your pores and even help prevent acne. (Bonus!) Our top recommendation is a cleanser with jojoba oil, which mimics your natural sebum to hydrate and balance your skin. Our Radiant Cleansing Nectar includes jojoba oil to penetrate deep and cleanse pores for a natural finish.

2Follow with a toner. It’s all there in the name! Toners improve skin tone by reducing fine lines, brightening dark spots, and even minimizing pores. If large pores contribute to the visibility of your sebaceous filaments, you’ll definitely want this in your routine. Our Luminous Complexion Toner even fights blemishes with the rich healing properties of comfrey and Kakadu plum!

Averr Aglow Radiant Cleansing Nectar and Luminous Complexion Toner


3. Exfoliate to clear out your pores. Much like you’d exfoliate away dead skin cells to prevent blackheads, exfoliation can help minimize your sebaceous filaments. It keeps pores clear and oil levels moderate, so your sebaceous filaments don’t get overloaded and swollen with sebum. Little filaments are invisible filaments!

4. But don’t squeeze or extract your pores. Pinching excess oil out of your sebaceous filaments is an exercise in futility. Besides causing scarring and inflammation, squeezing can damage your pores and leave them gaping more widely than when you started. In any case, extracting is only a temporary solution. Sebaceous filaments refill with oil within 30 days (or less, if your face is oily). You’ll be left in an endless, damaging cycle trying to extract the thousands of pores across your face.

5Finish with a clay mask. Clay masks are perfect for detoxifying and degreasing the depths of your skin. Aim especially for those oily areas where your sebaceous filaments are most apparent, such as your cheeks and nose. Don’t have time to do a mask every day? Actually, you do! Our Clear Skin Elixir is specially formulated to be worn overnight as you sleep. This allows nutrients to sink fully into your complexion while French pink clay draws out any impurities.

End result: flawless. xx

Averr Aglow Clear Skin Elixir Overnight Mask

Top Products