If you’ve been on Instagram, any of the social medias, or talked with your friends, you’ve probably seen products focusing on the black dots around the nose. Around 2021 (the pandemic years have been a fuzzy time so I might be wrong), a lot of people started posting about nose acne. I’ve mentioned them a few times as well.
Nose acne is also known as a sebaceous filament. The hallmark of a blackhead is the comedo. Comedones (plural form of comedo) are hair follicles or pore that is clogged will with oil, dead skin (keratin), and/or bacteria and become exposed to the air forming an oxidized black top. It’s how we get the term blackhead. Scientists get too creative when naming things.
Nose acne is a sebaceous filament that has excess oil and may have become clogged. Sounds a touch like a blackhead doesn’t it. Don’t worry it’s super confusing to me as well because it sounds exactly like a blackhead.
What is a sebaceous filament?
A sebaceous filament is a very fine hair-like structure whose entire purpose is to transport oil from the bottom of the pore to the top of the pore and hydrate the skin. That’s all it’s really meant to do. Where we run into problems is when too much oil is produced and it becomes clogged. Then we get the black nose dots that are super annoying.
Are sebaceous filaments acne?
Strictly speaking no. A clogged sebaceous filament is not a blackhead. Typically, we don’t see sebaceous filaments until there’s an issue. In this picture the left shows sebaceous filaments (skinologist) and the right shows blackheads (Women’s Health Magazine). I cannot show a picture of my nose because it’s literally just blackheads right now. I don’t wash my face for a weekend and my nose decided it was done looking good.
But they are both formed from excess sebum and have a black appearance which can make it super confusing. Making it even more confusing, you may have a blackhead immediately next to a sebaceous filament. I know I do.
For the purposes of the general public, I’d say they’re roughly the same. Neither are desired, both are the result of excess sebum and a clogged pore, and both are going to be treated the same way.
Treatment of Sebaceous Filaments
This is super duper easy. They really aren’t hard to treat once it’s clear what you’re fighting. Personally, I’ve found my nose area far easier to treat than anything else on my face.
- Salicylic acid containing facial soap. Get in a good rub (not scrub) over the face. Let the bubbles do the work. A cleansing brush like a Clarisonic brush (RIP clarisonic) comes in handy. That little bit of exfoliation to open the top of the pore helps the SA get into the pore and clean it out. SA is oil soluble and can get into the oil filled pore easier than water based cleansers.
- Salicylic acid containing clay mask. Use the mask on the nose and the crease on the side of the nose. Clay helps pull up the oils and the SA in the mask is yet another clean out for the pore.
- Retinol Treatment at night. Retinol should be part of your nighttime routine unless you’re pregnant. If pregnant, talk to you gynecologic doctor. I quit using retinol while I was pregnant and breastfeeding. I just didn’t feel like taking the risk. If you need more information click here: Retinol for Beginners or How to Successfully Start Using Retinol. If you are pregnant or looking to become pregnant, check out my Pregnancy Skincare routine for products that can be safely used during pregnancy.
- Salicylic acid booster or SA containing serum during the day in the nose area. SA needs time to get worked into the pore and help clean the pore out which is why serums/boosters that sit there all day are perfect. Problem is that I have yet to find any reliable resource that tells me exactly how long that is. 10 mins? 2 hours for maximum benefit? Not too sure. For more on salicylic acid check out How BHA helps your skin.
- Proper exfoliation once a week. Using AHA like lactic acid can help keep that pore open so it doesn’t clog and allows your BHA (salicylic acid) to get into and clean the pore more easily.
This is how I’ve treated my ‘nose acne’ with success. For me it took about 2 weeks to see a significant difference. My pores got smaller, those black spots had largely gone away until this week due to stress and just not taking care of my face like I normally do. My major conferences are over for the year! Now we can get back on the routine.
Sebaceous filaments are a natural part of your skin and will return; however we can keep the black dots away using salicylic acid and retinol products.
If you read all of this give it a like and let me know what products you’ve used to help with your acne. I want to hear from you.