how to remove a sebum plug
Sebum plugs occur when an oil and dead skin cells clog skin pores. Here are 6 tips for getting rid of them without damaging your skin

Sebum plugs are a type of acne that occur when an oily substance called sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria clog skin pores and prevent sebum from reaching the surface of the skin. This can lead to whiteheads and blackheads and are commonly found on the forehead, cheeks, chin, and even neck areas. If a sebum plug gets inflamed, it can cause pimples.

6 tips for treating sebum plugs

When it comes to any kind of acne, it’s important to cleanse your face daily with products that can help prevent your skin from getting clogged by sebum.

  1. Cleanse: Use a mild cleanser twice a day, in the morning and evening. Never use bar soaps with harsh detergents as these can strip the skin of its natural oil.
  2. Exfoliate: Use chemical exfoliants, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid rather than physical exfoliants, to gently dissolve dead skin cells. This can improve skin health and elasticity and reduce sensitivity. 
  3. Apply topical creams: Apply topical treatments designed to address acne. Your dermatologist may recommend creams that have benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, or retinol. Tea tree oil application may help in a lot of cases.
  4. Try oral medications: Severe acne may require oral medications such as isotretinoin if other treatments are effective. However, isotretinoin is a powerful drug that needs to be taken under medical supervision.
  5. Buy non-comedogenic makeup: Look for non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic makeup products to prevent clogging of pores.
  6. Visit a dermatologist: Seek help from a professional expert to use an extraction device to remove the sebum plug.

Dos and don’ts for treating sebum plugs


  • Moisturize regularly
  • Use a humidifier in cold, dry weather
  • Use lukewarm water when showering and bathing
  • Reduce the number of waxing and shaving sessions
  • Avoid tight, fitting clothes


  • Pop or squeeze your skin
  • Try to remove a plug by yourself
  • Try a new unsupervised acne treatment
  • Share makeup or makeup brushes or applicators
  • Sleep in your makeup or sunscreen
  • Apply astringents that dry out the skin

What is the difference between a sebum plug and a keratin plug?

Sebum plugs and keratin plugs may appear similar at first glance, but they develop differently.

Table: Sebum plugs vs. keratin plugs
Sebum plugs Keratin plugs
Occur when sebum (oil) builds up and clogs the pores Formed when keratin (protein) builds up and clogs the pores
Caused by genetics, stress, or hormonal changes Caused by genetics, irritation, or an underlying skin condition such as eczema
Commonly found on the chin, forehead, and nose Commonly found on the upper arms and thighs, cheeks, buttocks, and other areas
Has a smooth appearance that sticks out with a noticeable head filled with debris or pus Has a scaly or rough appearance


Skin Health: 15 Tips for Clear Skin See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 9/13/2021
American Academy of Dermatology. How to Treat Different Types of Acne.

American Academy of Dermatology. 10 Skin Care Habits That Can Worsen Acne.

University of Michigan. Acne.