keratin plug Vs sebum plug

Skin Plugs, Are They Matter of Concerns? Tips to Get Rid of It

If you have some clogged pores on your face, you may suspect them as blackheads. But it could be a symptom of a keratin or sebum plug. Yes, you heard it right. There are different types of skin plugs. Blackheads, keratin plugs, and sebum plugs are just a few of them. Even though all these come under a category called skin plug, all these are different from each other. Feeling curious? Keep reading to discover the facts of Keratin plug vs sebum plug: its differences, causes, prevention, and cure.

What Is a Keratin Plug?


Keratin plugs are those white, pink, or skin-colored bumps that appear on the skin. They are formed when the tiny pores in your skin called hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells and a protein called keratin. Keratin is a protein that is developed naturally by your body for the growth of hair and nails.

It can appear on any part of your body but it is prominently seen on underarms, thighs, and buttocks. Even though it looks like pimples, they are not. It doesn’t require treatment to remove it. Because it goes on its own. But if you are not comfortable with it, don’t try to remove it on your own. Instead, it is always better to consult a dermatologist.

What Is a Sebum Plug?

Before learning about sebum plugs, it is important to know about sebum. The sebaceous glands, present in the middle layer of the skin near hair follicles produce sebum. It is an oily and waxy substance. It helps in providing lubrication to the skin which prevents friction and makes it impermeable to entering moisture through the skin. Its increase or decrease can cause several disadvantages. A decrease in sebum production can leave your skin dry. But an increase in it can make it more oily and can even result in acne.

Excess sebum production makes skin oily and pores become more common. These pores get clogged with dead cells yet form sebum plugs. It captures bacteria in it and causes inflammation. It ruptures with sebum, bacteria, and dead cells to nearby tissues and causes acne lesions. They are mostly seen on the nose, chin, and forehead.

Causes of Keratin Plug

Healthcare professionals aren’t still able to figure out the causes of the keratin plug. But they also state that it can be caused due to irritation that is caused by friction or dry skin. It is also said that it may be inherited.

Causes of Sebum Plug

There are various causes for sebum plugs. They are mainly 

  1. Hormonal imbalances
  2. Excessively oily skin
  3. Increased androgen levels.

Symptoms of Keratin Plug

The major symptoms of keratin plugs are:

  1. Formation of small bumps on the skin, especially in the areas like butts, underarms, thighs, and cheeks.
  2. They are formed in clusters.
  3. They often appear rough.
  4. Due to their raised appearance, they are called chicken skin or strawberry skin.
  5. They are often found in pink, white, or skin color.

Symptoms of Sebum Plug

The symptoms of sebum plugs are:

  1. Formation of grain-like texture on skin.
  2. Seems to be black in color but a closer look at it will reveal it to be either clear or yellowish hue.
  3. Appears majorly on the forehead, chin, and nose.
  4. When they are squeezed out of the pore, it appears to be like filament.

Treatment for Keratin Plug

Keratin plugs do not require any treatment because it is not harmful or problematic. But people often remove it for aesthetic reasons. But do not try to squeeze, pull it out, scratch, or pop the plugs. It is better to consult a dermatologist and talk about these removal methods:

  1. Exfoliation: 

Keratin plugs can be removed by exfoliating your skin. It helps to remove dead cells from clogged pores and keratin. You can use gentle acids such as peels and acids that contain Lactic, salicylic, or glycolic acid. Over-the-counter options iIf keratin bumps don’t respond to gentle exfoliation, your dermatologist may recommend stronger prescription creams to help dissolve the underlying plugs.

  1. Lifestyle changes:

While it may be sometimes difficult to remove it completely, you can prevent others from occurring by:

  • moisturizing your skin regularly.
  • avoiding tight clothing.
  • using a humidifier in cold, dry weather.
  • limiting bathing time.
  • using lukewarm water while taking showers.
  • reducing hair removal sessions, such as shaving and waxing, as these can irritate hair follicles over time.

3. Microderm abrasion or laser therapy treatments:

Keratin plugs can be treated at home to some extent. But it takes time. If you’re considering a fast removal or cure, it’s best to consult a dermatologist.In more severe cases of keratin plugs, your dermatologist may recommend microdermabrasion or laser therapy treatments. Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic treatment where the top layer of skin is removed by a skin specialist with a hand held device. These are only recommended when exfoliation, creams, and other remedies fails.Your dermatologist can also help you determine that your bumps are indeed due to keratosis pilaris. It is also called chicken skin. With all the possible causes of clogged pores, it can be helpful to get professional opinion before proceeding with treatment.

Treatment for Sebum Plug

As it mentioned, the presence of sebum plugs is nothing to be worried about. It doesn’t require removal. But it requires prevention. Some treatment methods to prevent further spreading of sebum plugs are:

1. Skin exfoliation:

The ideal treatment for sebum plugs are the use of medicinal topicals. Regular exfoliation is the best way to treat sebum plugs and keep them from popping up. Since oils cause the sebum plugs, it is best to use beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). BHA exfoliants work on the upper layer of skin lifting the dead skin cells away from the layer of radiant skin hidden underneath. They are oil soluble and easily penetrate the pore and break the blockages that cause the bumps. BHAs are particularly suitable for people with normal to oily skin, congested or enlarged pores, acne-prone skin, and signs of skin ageing.BHAs are useful even if you suffer from flesh-coloured bumps known as milia.

2. Oral medication:

In case of severe acne, one can rely on oral medication like isotretinoin. This reduces the size of sebaceous pores thus reducing sebum production. Even Though it is useful for sebum plug it can be harmful for pregnant women because of its powerful medication. The other side- effect is depression. So, it should be consumed under the strict monitoring of the doctor.

3. Lifestyle changes:

  • Always consult a doctor to treat your acne.
  • Moisturize your skin regularly.
  • Exfoliate your skin.
  • Approach skilled professionals to extract sebum plugs.

4. Removing with tweezers:

Sebum plugs can be pulled out using tweezers that are used to unclog the pores. But after unclogging the pores, it remains open and more vulnerable to infections. It is better to do this with the help of an experienced professional.

Keratin Plug vs Sebum Plugs

keratin and sebum plugs
Colored skin acne anatomy composition with types of acne pimples before and after vector illustration
Formed as a result of clogging hair follicles with dead cells and protein called keratin.Formed when the excess sebum production results in the formation of pores which get clogged with dead cells to form sebum plug or sebaceous filaments.
Caused mainly due to genetics and friction.Caused due to hormonal conditions,elevated androgen levels and excessive oily skin.
Found on butts, underarm and thighs.Commonly found on the forehead, chin, and nose.
Rough appearance results in chicken or strawberry skin.Smooth appearance with noticeable head with pus.

Final Word

Neither the sebum plug nor the keratin plug are actually aspects that are to be worried about. These can actually co-exist in your body without causing any damage. But if it is concerning you because of several aesthetic reasons, there are various methods for its treatment and removal. It is always better to consult a professional than taking up your own treatments. So, hope this blog has been helpful for you.

Read More:

Do You Know What Blemishes Are and, How to Know Their Significance by Colour?
All About Dark Neck: Its Causes and How Can You Prevent It Effectively?
Wheatish Skin Complexion: How to Take Care of Your Skin and the Colours That Matches Your Skin
Do You Know Why Sun Tan Occurs and How You Can Prevent It Effectively?
10 Best Ways to Remove Blemishes Naturally


1. How to prevent Keratin plugs?

  1. Keratin plugs cannot be prevented, but they can be controlled by keeping skin dry before getting worse. Especially during cold atmospheres like winters and under AC.

2. Is the sebum plug and keratin plug the same thing?

  1. No, even though they both result in the clogging of pores they are different in their composition and nature. While a sebum plug is formed due to the clogging of dead cells with pores caused due to excess sebum, a keratin plug is formed by clogging of pores with dead cells and keratin.

3. What does the sebum plug look- like?

  1. Sebum plugs appear as tiny bumps that seem black but are actually clear or yellowish.

4. What does the keratin plug look like?

  1. Keratin plug seems to have small bumps which are white, pink or skin color which often appear in butts, thighs, or underarms.

5. Should I squeeze sebum plugs?

  1.  No, you should never do it. It is not very easy to follow it because our fingers will be tempted to do it. It is not recommended to squeeze the sebum plugs out of the pores especially using your fingers, because it will cause injury to the skin, resulting in scarring.  It can be pulled out using specialized curved tweezers to unclog the pores. But after unclogging the pores, it remains open and more vulnerable to infections. It is better to do this with the help of an experienced professional.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *