The truth about reappearing blackheads

Those small black dots on your nose might not be acne after all.

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Curology Team
Dec 23, 2020 · 3 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

If you’ve been looking at your skin up-close, you might have noticed tiny black, gray, or tan specks in your pores. You might assume these dots are blackheads, but that may or may not be the case. And, while your first thought might be to extract them, safe blackhead removal at home usually requires a more nuanced approach than simply stripping your pores.

Is it a blackhead, or is it a sebaceous filament?

Blackheads are open comedones, i.e., small clogged pores. When the contents of blackheads (sebum/oil and dead skin cells) are exposed to the air, the melanin (pigment) in skin cells reacts with oxygen and turns black (hence the name blackheads!). By comparison, whiteheads are covered by a thin layer of skin, so the contents don’t get oxidized.

Sebaceous filaments are not “clogged pores.” Sebaceous filaments naturally line the inside of pores. They are actually normal parts of every person’s skin! In most people, sebaceous filaments aren’t really noticeable. If you have extra oily skin, though, you’re more likely to see them.

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Treating blackheads

Pore strips, vacuums, and tweezer-like tools might sound appealing, but they’re not right for everybody! At best, these methods work temporarily — they don’t actually treat the cause of the blackheads, let alone permanently remove them. Reach for ingredients like salicylic acid, azelaic acid, and tretinoin instead.

Products we like

  1. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid

  2. Stridex — Daily Care Acne Pads

  3. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension

Treating sebaceous filaments

If they’re not bothering you, there’s no need to treat sebaceous filaments. And even if you do, they often come right back! That said, the same ingredients used to treat blackheads may also improve the appearance of sebaceous filaments. In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, you can also try an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) like glycolic acid.

Products we like

  1. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

  2. Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic

  3. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

When in doubt, custom skincare is what it’s all about

If over-the-counter products aren’t cutting it, then it might be time to see a dermatology provider. Thankfully, getting medical-grade skincare has never been more accessible or affordable than with Curology. Just answer a few questions and snap a few selfies — you’ll be matched with one of our in-house medical providers. They’ll prescribe you a custom cream with a mix of up to 3 active ingredients for your unique skin concerns (blackheads included).

You can try Curology for free (just pay $4.95 + tax to cover shipping/handling on your first box). Need a complete routine? You can add any of our dermatologist-designed products at no extra cost. After that, you can edit your box to meet your ever-changing skin’s needs, so why not? Let us take the guesswork out of it and help you achieve the skin of your dreams.

P.S.

We did our research so you don’t have to.

  1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Acne: An Overview. Informed Health. (2019, September 26).

  2. G. Plewig & H. H. Wolff. Follikel-filamente. Archives of Dermatological Research. (1976, n.d.).

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