Sebum: What is it?


The inside of our skin is lined with glands called Sebaceous glands. These are exocrine glands which means that they secrete substances into the body targeting specific tissues by means of ducts, whereas endocrine glands secrete substances directly into the blood by no means of ducts. (1)

These glands secrete a substance called Sebum which an oily, waxy fluid. These sebaceous glands are found concentrated mostly in the epithelial areas on the face and scalp. Thus the oily substance that is sebum is found on the surface or our face and scalp. Sebum, however, is not a bad thing for our skin, in fact, it helps to keep our skin moisturized. It provides nourishment hydration to your skin and hair and plays a vital role in its care.

However, an abundance of Sebum is not something that can be good for your skin. When you have an excess of sebum it could combine with dead skin cells, and dirt to clog up your pores. This can thus lead to Acne, whiteheads, blackheads, and other skin issues. When there is excess sebum on your scalp dandruff is one of the common issues we see.

The dry and dead skin cells on your scalp can combine with sebum to become flakes causing dandruff, this can further lead to forms of hair loss, such as hair fall, and hair thinning.(2)

Although these may seem to be problems that arise from sebum itself, you need to understand that your skin and hair needs sebum for its nourishment. Sebum is crucial for the growth and nature of your skin and hair. The problem arises when there are other things that come in the way, such as dead skin cell, dirt, or an imbalance in hormone levels.

The only time when sebum can cause issue is when there is an overproduction of it by your skin. This happens particularly when you have a hormonal imbalance. Hormones such as androgens control the production of sebum in your skin. Thus most of the time when we see an excess production of sebum is during adolescence when your hormones are all over the place. (3)

You don’t have to get rid of sebum at all, all you have to do is find the right balance in this case. As we saw that hormonal imbalance is one case, there are other times as well when there can be an excess amount of sebum secretion. This can depend on the weather as well. Sometimes a humid weather might add onto the oil on your skin, whereas a dry weather could also trigger an excess production of oil on your skin.

Something over scrubbing or washing your skin can also make it dry, this could also cause excess production of sebum, which in turn will become one of the reasons for Acne or any other skin issues that you might see.

A few things that you can do to create a balance are, wash your face not more than twice a day. Wash your hair regularly, but then again don’t over do it. Make sure you use the right products for your face, if you have oily skin stay away from comedogenic products, and lastly eat right, food rich in oil can cause a sebum imbalance.

What is sebum on the face?

Sebum is an oily, waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands, it helps in keeping your skin moisturized. Although an excess of sebum on your face could, in turn, clog your pores and give you acne, whiteheads or blackheads.

What causes Sebum?

Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands under your skin. An excess of sebum is usually caused only when there is a hormonal imbalance or due to the weather conditions.

Does Sebum cause Acne?

An excess production of sebum can cause acne when it clogs up your pores with dirt, and dead skin cells.

Does Sebum cause hair loss?

No, sebum itself cannot directly cause hair loss, however, if it clogs up your hair follicles, leads to dandruff as I mentioned above, it could cause hair loss.

What is a Sebum serum and how does it help?

Sebum serum is a substance that contains glycolic acid, and that helps in pigmentation and oil control on your skin.

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Picture of Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.