What is Sebum Production and How to Control It?

“Sebum” is a word thrown around in discussions about oily skin, acne, and hair health. The first thing that probably comes to your mind when you think about it is “how to get rid of sebum”. However, there are many benefits of sebum that will help you understand how to take care of your skin better. 

What is Sebum?

Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands found in the skin. These glands are most abundant on the face and scalp but are also present throughout the body. Sebum is essential for maintaining skin and hair health, as it plays a crucial role in protecting and moisturising them.

How is Sebum Produced?

Sebum production begins when sebaceous glands secrete sebum into hair follicles. From there, it travels up the hair shaft and onto the skin’s surface through pores. The production of sebum is influenced by various factors, including genetics, hormones, diet, and skincare habits.

Sebum Composition

Sebum is composed of various lipids, including triglycerides, fatty acids, wax esters, and squalene. These components work together to form a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, preventing moisture loss and protecting against environmental aggressors.

Function and Benefits of Sebum in Skin and Hair

The primary function of sebum is to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair. Additionally, sebum possesses antimicrobial properties, which help protect the skin against harmful bacteria and fungi.

1) Lubrication and Moisturisation

One of the primary functions of sebum is to lubricate and moisturise the skin and hair. Sebum forms a thin, protective layer on the skin’s surface, which helps to lock in moisture and prevent dehydration. This lubrication not only keeps the skin supple and soft but also prevents friction between skin surfaces, reducing the likelihood of irritation and chafing.

2) Protection Against Environmental Aggressors

Sebum acts as a natural barrier, shielding the skin and hair from external aggressors such as pollutants, UV radiation, and harsh weather conditions. The oily film created by sebum helps to repel water, preventing excessive moisture loss from the skin. Additionally, sebum contains antioxidant properties that can neutralise free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress and damage to the skin cells.

3) Antimicrobial Defense

Another crucial function of sebum is its role in maintaining the skin’s microbiome and defending against harmful microorganisms. Sebum contains fatty acids with antimicrobial properties, which help to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens on the skin’s surface. By keeping these microorganisms in check, sebum helps to prevent infections, acne breakouts, and other skin disorders.

4) Regulation of Temperature

Sebum plays a role in regulating body temperature by forming a protective barrier that helps to retain heat and moisture. In cold weather, sebum helps to insulate the skin, preventing excessive heat loss and maintaining thermal equilibrium. Conversely, in hot and humid conditions, sebum production may increase to help cool the skin by facilitating evaporation of sweat.

5) Support for Hair Health

In addition to the benefits of sebum for the skin, sebum also contributes to the health and vitality of the hair. Sebum coats the hair shaft, providing lubrication and protection against damage from friction, styling, and environmental stressors. It helps to keep the hair strands flexible and resilient, reducing the risk of hair breakage and split ends. Sebum also helps to distribute natural oils along the length of the hair, ensuring that it remains adequately moisturised and nourished.

Sebum Underproduction

Insufficient sebum production can lead to dry skin and hair, making them more prone to damage and irritation. In severe cases, it can result in conditions such as eczema and dandruff. Treatments for lack of sebum production may include using moisturisers and hydrating products, as well as incorporating essential fatty acids into the diet.

    • Use moisturisers containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin to replenish moisture in the skin.

    • Incorporate essential fatty acids into your diet by consuming foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and seeds.

    • Avoid harsh skincare products that strip the skin of its natural oils, opting for gentle cleansers instead.

Sebum Overproduction

Excessive sebum production can lead to oily skin and hair, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. It can also contribute to conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and scalp acne. If you’re wondering how to reduce sebum production, there are a few treatment recommendations for excess sebum production that may involve using oil-controlling skincare products and adopting a proper skincare routine.

    • Incorporate exfoliating products containing BHAs and AHAs into your skincare routine to unclog pores and reduce oiliness.

    • Practice regular scalp hygiene to prevent the buildup of excess oil and dead skin cells, which can lead to scalp acne and dandruff.

    • Opt for a Hydra-Medi facial at Bodycraft Clinic that helps regulate sebum production and exfoliates clogged pores.


Now that you know what is sebum and what are the benefits of it, you will be able to care for your skin and hair better care. Whether dealing with underproduction or overproduction of sebum, adopting a proper skincare and hair care routine can help maintain balance and promote overall health and well-being.

FAQs around Sebum Production

What increases sebum production?

Several factors can contribute to an increase in sebum production, including hormonal changes, genetics, stress, diet, and skincare habits. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy, can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. Certain genetic predispositions may also play a role in determining an individual’s sebum production levels. Additionally, stress and poor dietary choices, such as consuming high-glycemic foods or dairy products, can influence sebum production. Using harsh skincare products or overwashing the skin can also trigger an overproduction of sebum as the skin tries to compensate for moisture loss.

Is sebum production good or bad?

Sebum production itself is not inherently good or bad; rather, it is essential for maintaining healthy skin and hair. Sebum serves several important functions, including lubricating and moisturising the skin, protecting against environmental damage, and defending against microbial pathogens. However, an imbalance in sebum production—either too much or too little—can lead to various skin and hair issues, such as acne, dryness, and irritation. Therefore, the key lies in maintaining a proper balance of sebum production through appropriate skincare practices and lifestyle choices.

Does sebum vary with age?

Yes, sebum production can vary with age due to hormonal changes and shifts in skin physiology. During puberty, hormonal fluctuations often lead to an increase in sebum production, resulting in oily skin and acne breakouts. As individuals age, sebum production tends to decrease, leading to drier skin. However, hormonal changes associated with menopause can sometimes cause a resurgence in sebum production in women. Overall, understanding how sebum production changes with age can help tailor skincare routines to meet the specific needs of different age groups.

What happens if you have too much sebum?

Excessive sebum production can lead to oily skin, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. When the pores become clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria, it can result in the formation of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Moreover, the buildup of sebum and impurities on the skin’s surface can contribute to inflammation and irritation, exacerbating existing skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. In severe cases, excess sebum production may lead to conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or scalp acne. Managing sebum production through proper skincare, diet, and lifestyle habits can help prevent these issues and maintain healthy, balanced skin.