This Is Why Your Nose Is So Congested With Sebum, According to Dermatologists

Put down the nose strips and read this instead.

Welcome to The Spot, a monthly column tackling acne and our relationships to it. Here, we ask women how they deal with blemishes at home—and consult with skincare experts to find out what really works.

We can all agree that breakouts are no fun to deal with, and it seems like we always have blemishes on our nose. When that part of the face gets oily and congested, you have to be strategic about treating it. As much as we may want to pick at our faces, the skin in that area can be very sensitive, and any extraction mistakes could lead to permanent scarring and broken capillaries. So how do you treat nose acne?

First, let’s start by explaining why our nose is a prime spot for oil buildup. The nose has structures called sebaceous glands that produce sebum. Doris Day, M.D., dermatologist and co-host of the skincare podcast The Gist, explains that these glands can become overactive and fill up in what looks like blackheads and breakouts. However, she explains that although they look like blackheads, they’re actually sebaceous filaments.

Sebaceous filaments line our pores to control sebum production, and when the oil gland fills up, it can look like a blackhead. Dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., explains that the nose is one of the highest-density areas of the face for oil glands—hence why there appears to be so many nose breakouts.

Both dermatologists agree that the best way to keep the nose clear is through exfoliation. Dr. Day says looking for products with salicylic acid, like Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant, can help with oil control and buildup in pores. She also recommends topical retinoids, like Differin Gel, and sunscreen to prevent acne and protect skin from irritation.

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Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

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Dr. Nazarian says that “tried-and-true” acne-fighting ingredients like adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid won’t fail you. “Topical ingredients can decrease sebum production, encourage regulation of the skin cells to minimize clogged pores, and decrease bacteria,” she explains. “These are all effective methods to prevent acne in the long term.”

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Differin Adapalene Gel

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It can be super tempting (and weirdly satisfying) to take matters into your own hands and squeeze the sebum and sebaceous filaments out, but Dr. Nazarian strongly advises against doing your own extractions. “If gentle pressure doesn’t immediately encourage the [breakouts] to slide out, it’s best to immediately stop,” she says. Instead of squeezing them, Dr. Day recommends gently steaming the skin to help detoxify it without having to apply pressure.

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Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer

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Remember, treating nose acne takes time. Your best bet is to develop a consistent skincare routine and to be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

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