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Blackhead or Sebaceous Filament? | How to Manage Pore Health

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Blackhead or Sebaceous Filament?

Are you guilty of inspecting your face so closely that you creepily fog up the mirror because you are too close? Or even worse do you do this in front of a magnifying mirror?

From this close method of inspection, most of us will notice our pores filled with either blackheads or whiteheads…..or sebaceous filament. Yes, some of those “blackheads” you may have been squeezing out or removing using a peel off mask, may not all be blackheads and may be what is called: sebaceous filament.

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What is Sebaceous Filament? 

Sebaceous filament is a natural substance consisting of sebum (wax esters, squalene and triglycerides) that support the sebaceous glands to naturally moisturise the skin. They are most visible in areas with a high amount of sebaceous glands such as the nose, and are more visible on individuals with enlarged pores. They are a natural part of our pore structure, and removing them will only result in them soon returning, so unfortunately for those (including myself!) with genetically enlarged pores there isn’t much point stressing over them.

Sebaceous filament usually has a lighter brownish or even grey tone to them compared to black heads and when you squeeze them they will generally have less stringy gunk compared to a black head. Also blackheads will tend to have a very slightly raised bump to them, whereas sebaceous filament is usually smooth to touch.

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So What Are Blackheads Then?

Blackheads are created from a combination of excess sebum (which can be due to numerous factors including hormone excess, immune function, nutrition etc.) dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria.

A blackhead is considered to be an open comedone, in which its black appearance is said to be due to the pigment melanin reacting with oxygen, or some say that it is the oils and bacteria oxidising. Either way the black appearance is due to oxidation. An example of oxidation is when you peel the the skin off a carrot, it will gradually blacken due to exposure to oxygen.

When a comedone (blackhead or whitehead) becomes inflamed or infected with problematic bacteria, acne can result.

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Managing Pore Health

A healthy approach (mentally and physically) is to just manage the health of your pores, and take the focus off scrutinizing your skin in the name of vanity. As with everything, whether it be skin colour, hair colour, body shape, or skin appearance. We are who we are, therefore focusing on being the best version of yourself is a healthier approach than allowing ourselves to be compared to others, particularly when it comes to airbrushed or edited pictures on social media.

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Tactics To Support Good Pore Health

~ Support healthy sebum production by looking at your diet and lifestyle and assess whether other factors such as if your hormonal or immune system could be at play.

~ Remove dead skin cells by exfoliating once per week.

~ Support a healthy skin barrier, avoid over using products such as foaming cleansers or alcohol based wipes that can disrupt your skin pH barrier / acid mantle (for more on this topic you can check out our previous blog posts here)

~ Use natural astringents such as splashing your face with cold water or a natural alcohol free toner or face mist. I like to keep my Balancing Face Mist in the fridge so when I spritz my face I am getting the pH benefits as well as an extra astringing benefit from the cold.

~ Clay masks. I personally prefer a clay mask to the peel-off types as I feel the peel-off ones leave my skin feeling sensitive and irritated. Clay masks give you more control and are less disruptive to your skin barrier, and you don’t need to let them dry completely to get the benefits.

~ Topical antioxidants may help reduce the oxidation process. These can include items that are rich in vitamins A,C, E and carotenoids which may be found in many fruit extracts (cantaloupe, cucumber etc), numerous plant and seed oils and of course seaweed!

~ Our final tip is….step away from the mirror. No, further than that.

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Natasha X

(Naturopath & Skincare Geek)

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