The skin produces sebum, which can be oily and contains an oil-like substance. Excessive production of sebum causes acne on the skin, but it also moisturizes and protects your skin. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by the body's sebaceous glands. It coats, moisturizes and protects your skin. It is also the main component of what we think of as the body's natural oil.

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  1. What is Sebum Made From
  2. Where Are the Sebaceous Glands Located
  3. What is the Purpose of Sebum
  4. Relationship Between Sebum and Hormones
  5. Relationship Between Sebum and Age
  6. What Else Affects Sebum Production
  7. How to Balance Sebum Production
  8. How to Increase Sebum Production
  9. Summary

What is sebum actually made of? “ An article from Harvard Medical School explains, “Sebum is a complex mixture of fatty acids, sugars, waxes, and other natural chemicals that forms a protective barrier against the evaporation of water from the skin and retains moisture in the skin. " Sebum contains triglycerides and fatty acids (57%), wax esters (26%), squalene (12%), and cholesterol (4.5%).

If your skin is too oily, your body is producing excess amounts of a mixture of lipids that make up sebum. Sebum is also a mixture of small particles of oil, sweat, dead skin cells, and other things that are floating around in the dust around you.

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Sebaceous glands are found in most parts of the body. The quantity of these glands is highest in the face and scalp. Specifically there may be up to 900 sebaceous glands per square centimeter of facial skin. There are usually fewer glands on the calves and other smooth surfaces and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet are the only areas of skin that have no glands. Each gland secretes sebum.


Sebum production is a complex process that scientists do not fully understand. Researchers say that its primary function is to maintain moisture in the skin and hair. Some scientists speculate that sebum also has antimicrobial or antioxidant properties. It may also help in producing pheromones.

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Androgen hormones help regulate sebum production. Very active androgens, such as testosterone, are produced by the adrenal glands and the ovaries or testes.

The more active the androgens are, the more sebum the body can produce. Although progesterone is a female-specific sex hormone that is not an androgen, it also impacts sebum production.

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It may be surprising to learn that we start using our sebaceous glands even before we are born. While in the womb, sebaceous glands produce vernix caseosa. This white, paste-like coating keeps the skin protected and moisturized until birth, and after birth the same sebaceous glands begin producing sebum.

For the first three to six months, the glands produce as much sebum as an adult and then sebum production slows down until puberty is reached and once puberty is reached, sebum production increases by 500 percent. Men produce more sebum than women. As a result, men's skin often appears oilier. Adult men produce slightly more sebum than adult women, but everyone's sebum production decreases with age. Which often results in dry, cracked skin.

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Certain medications, underlying conditions, and other external factors can also make the sebaceous glands more or less active. Hormonal medications increase sebum production. Parkinson's disease is also linked to increased sebum production. In many cases, pituitary, adrenal, ovarian, and testicular conditions can also cause increased or decreased sebum production.

Some birth control pills, antiandrogens, and isotretinoin commonly reduce sebum production. Starvation and chronic malnutrition also reduce sebum production.

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Usually we all use creams, soaps and other topical substances to control the symptoms associated with sebum. Some research suggests that our diet may also affect the amount of sebum produced in the body. Eating oily and spicy food leads to excessive production of sebum. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe hormonal medication or supplements to help balance sebum production from within. A combination of estrogen and progestin may help reduce sebum production.

Doctors may also prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne caused by sebum. This oral medication can reduce sebum production by up to 90 percent.


If your hair or skin is dry, then pay attention to your shampoo, cleanser, makeup, laundry detergent because this may be the biggest reason for dryness on your skin. Alcohol, acids, and fragrances are all common ingredients that cause irritation. Spending time in extremely hot water strips your hair and skin of oil.

To increase production, drink more water and eat more healthy fats like Omega 3. If the lack of sebum is related to hormonal imbalance, talk to a doctor.


Sebum is an essential component of healthy skin. It moisturizes and protects almost your entire body surface. But it's possible to have too much or too little of a good thing. Everyone's body is different, so there is no exact amount. If you're struggling with flaky skin, oily patches, or severe acne, talk to a doctor or healthcare provider.

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