Sunday, 25 May 2014

Skincare Series: Sebaceous filaments

Skincare series:

A Field Guide to Sebaceous Filaments.

One of the most common complaints I see covered on skincare commercials are blackheads, usually accompanied by overacting from the latest flavour of the week 'teen idol'. Whilst blackheads are a legitimate condition, if you're looking at your nose, cursing those teensy little black spots, chances are that these aren't blackheads, but sebaceous filaments.

You know the oily sensation you feel on your face? That's sebum! It's a natural, waxy substance our skin produces to help protect our skin and keep bacteria from feasting on our faces. However, the glands in our skin will often get blocked, these frequently lead to whiteheads (closed comedones) where the clog is under the skin and blackheads (open comedones) where the clog has broken through the surface of the skin and has begun to oxidise. Neither of these however seem to be as common as sebaceous filaments and should not be confused for one another. Sebaceous filaments are tiny dots usually found on the nose, upper cheeks and chin that, when squeezed, produce little wiggly worms that are creamy-yellowish in colour. It's a bad idea to squeeze them but, i'm sure everyone has occasionally so you know what you're looking for.

Sebaceous filament, In its natural habitat.


Sebaceous filaments are indentations in the skin that contain cells that have been shed from the hair follicle, sebum and bacteria. Sounds gross but I assure you it's a natural part of your skin and nothing to be too concerned about. But, i guess you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't want some kind of help with them!

The bad news is that sebaceous filaments will refill themselves over a period of a month or so, you are never going to be permanently rid of them. The good news is that there are some ways you can try and help with their appearance.

1. Pore strips.
If you don't know what a pore strip is by now, then I can only assume you've been hiding under a rock since the late 90's. But, in case you have, pore strips are fabric strips with adhesive on one side that you stick to wet skin on your nose and that grab all those little filaments when they dry. When you remove the strip, the filament plugs are literally ripped from your skin along with other skin cells you probably wanted to keep on your face. In case you hadn't noticed, I don't believe this is an ideal practice. Pore strips have been rough on my skin and although there's no way I can prove it, I believe they may have been a contributing factor to the spider veins on my nose. Also, overdoing of pore strips can lead to irritation of the skin so if you decide they're the best bet for you, only use them as often as the manufacturer recommends.

2. Salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) commonly used in skincare products. There is reported evidence of salicylic acid assisting with the appearance of sebaceous filaments. Salicylic acid, like all BHA's allow the cells of the outer skin to shed rapidly, remove buildup from pores and neutralise bacteria within the pores slowing the growth of the filaments. It's certainly an effective exfoliant and I can testify that it does indeed help with the appearance of sebaceous filaments. I've been using salicylic acid as part of my daily skincare routine for months now and my sebaceuos filaments have been quite nicely reduced. Now, it does sound expensive, and certainly can be, but I don't have the money for expensive BHA products. Fortunately, Boots produce their Skin Clear Deep Cleansing Lotion that's under £3 and often on half price. It's one of my holy grail products and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't have sensitive skin. Simply splash a little on a cotton pad, wipe over your face and you're done!

3 Oil Cleansing.
Now, this is probably going to sound crazy but slathering your face with oil is a very effective way to cleanse your face. Oil cleansing in practice is a wonderfully gentle way to help remove clogged pores such as sebacueous filaments and a method I would recommend to anyone with sensitive or dry skin. Oil cleansing works on the scientific principle that oil dissolves oil, the oil you're rubbing into your face is effectively dissolving all of the oils backed up in your pores. The most important thing that needs to be considered when oil cleansing is how comedogenic the oil is, or basically how likely it is to clog your pores up again. A lot of people swear by their own blends of expensive oils but I find that good old fashioned baby oil is just perfect. It's just scented mineral oil which has a very low comedogenic rating and is insanely cheap, you can often find Johnson's baby oil in your local pound shop and a bottle will last you for months! I sometimes add a couple of drops of essential oils (like lavender) when I feel like being fancy. Oil cleansing in itself is really simple, take a tablespoon of oil, warm it in your hands and massage into your face and neck in small circular motions. You'll often feel sandy 'grits' as you massage which are clogs coming out of your pores. After you've massaged, a lot of people just wipe the oil away with a clean washcloth and leave it at that, however I prefer to use a gentle foaming cleanser to remove the oil and moisturise as normal. This step isn't neccessary but it is a personal preference!

So there you have it! Hopefully this guide to things that live in your face has been helpful, I'll be continuing the skincare series over the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for more!