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Sebum: Definition, Causes, and Remedies

close up of a nose showing sebum and pores

Understanding your body’s natural processes can go a long way toward helping you take the best care of your skin possible. Most people probably haven’t heard of sebum, but it’s essential to your skin’s health.

Here at Soteri Skin, we want to help you better understand the processes your body goes through to keep your skin healthy. We want to help you keep your skin healthy and happy so that you can live your best life!

We'll explain in detail what sebum is, how it's produced, and how you can manage it better. You'll be an expert on the topic after reading our detailed guide! Let's dive right in.

Related: The Science Behind pH Balanced Products

Defining Sebum

Sebum is a waxy and oily substance that coats, moisturizes, and protects your skin. This substance is made up of a complex mixture of fatty acids, waxes, sugars, and other natural chemicals. 

Sebum is essential to keeping your skin healthy. It prevents your skin from drying out and flaking or cracking. Of course, it’s not the only source of moisture on your skin. Oil on the skin is usually made up of a mixture of sebum, sweat, dead skin cells, dust, and whatever else is floating around in the air.

People with dry skin may not produce enough sebum, and those with oily skin may make too much. We'll explore how you can regulate sebum production later in this guide. 

Production & Purpose

Your sebaceous glands handle the production of sebum. These glands are located throughout your body, except for the palms and soles of your hands and feet. 

Every area of your body, minus your hands and feet, has sebaceous glands that secrete sebum. Your face and scalp have far more sebaceous glands than any other area of your body, and your face could have as many as 900 glands per square centimeter of skin. 

The purpose of sebum is to protect your skin. This oily, waxy substance protects your skin by locking in moisture. Sebum helps prevent your skin from drying out and flaking or cracking. 

 

Woman smiling

 

The Balancing Act

There are a lot of factors that can increase or decrease how much sebum your sebaceous glands produce. Certain medications can increase sebum production, especially hormonal medications such as testosterone, progesterone, and phenothiazine.

There’s also been research showing that Parkinson’s Disease increases your production of sebum, though it's unclear why exactly this happens. It's also been shown that certain conditions, such as testicular, ovarian, adrenal, and pituitary conditions, can cause an increase or decrease in sebum production. 

Other types of medication, such as birth control, can decrease your sebum production. Other factors that can cause a drop in sebum production include long-term malnutrition, certain conditions like those mentioned above, and various medications.

Is your sebum production out of balance? Soteri Skin's BALANCING ACT corrects skin surface pH, which can help regulate your skin's moisture and sebum levels. BALANCING ACT is also light and is non-occluding so this is great for those with an oily skin type. 

Preventing & Banishing Breakouts

If your sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, you're likely to experience more breakouts than someone who produces an average amount. However, this doesn't mean that you're sentenced to a life of struggling with acne!

There are tons of ways you can prevent and eliminate breakouts. The first step is to determine the cause of the breakout. Is it just a reaction to excessive oil on your face, or could it be a reaction to a product you used or something else in your environment?

Once you know the reason for the breakouts, you'll have an easier time preventing and banishing them! Finding a good face cleanser is the best way to avoid breakouts for people with oily skin. You should clean your face well every night, but don't use facial cleanser more than twice a day, or you risk stripping your skin of too much oil and ending up with the opposite problem!

Another way to prevent and banish breakouts is to invest in a high-quality moisturizer, which can help you regulate oil production. You'll want to ensure the cream you choose is free of parabens, phosphates, and other irritants. 

Along with that, you can try to manage your sebum production. This could include switching medications if you’re taking a medication that can increase sebum production, changing your diet, or altering your environment. 

People with oily skin who frequently experience breakouts will usually see massive improvements just by making a few simple lifestyle changes. Cutting out alcohol, cleansing your face regularly, and using products containing green tea can all help manage your sebum production.

 

Woman smiling on an orange background

 


Related: Soteri Skin- Our Story

Hormones & Age

Hormones and age play an enormous role in how much sebum your body produces. We’ve already discussed how certain medications containing hormones can increase or decrease your sebum production, but there’s more to it than that. 

Research shows that your androgens (sex hormones) play a significant role in regulating your sebum production. More research needs to be done to understand how this works exactly, but it's clear that hormonal imbalances can cause a spike or drop in sebum production. 

The production of sebum is also affected by your age. We begin producing sebum when we’re born. In the womb, your sebaceous glands produce vernix caseosa, which is a white and pasty coating that moisturizes and protects your skin until you’re born.

In the first 3-6 months of a person’s life, their sebaceous glands produce as much sebum as an adult. However, sebum production then slows down and doesn’t spike again until puberty.

Sebum production can increase as much as 500% once you hit puberty. This will slow once you leave adolescence behind and continues to slow throughout your life. Most men produce more sebum than women, which is why they tend to be more prone to severe acne and other issues. 

Are you looking for science-backed products that will help improve the health of your skin? Check out Soteri Skin to see our pH-balancing products!

Maintain a Healthy Balance

Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by your sebaceous glands. It's a necessary substance that helps to coat, moisturize, and protect your skin. Too little or too much sebum can be problematic and result in unpleasant skin issues such as acne, eczema, or flaking skin. Learning about sebum and how to regulate its production will help you keep your skin healthier and happier!

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