Sebum is a natural oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin.
It is a complex mixture of fatty acids, waxes, sugars, and other natural chemicals. Sebum is essential for skin health.
So, what is sebum actually made up of?
The predominant proportion of sebum is reported to be 57.5% triglycerides and fatty acids, 26% wax esters and 12% squalene. The least abundant lipid in sebum is cholesterol, which accounts for 4.5% of total lipids.
What is the purpose of sebum?
Sebum plays a key role in the skin’s defence mechanism. It reduces the risk of penetration of external elements and helps to retain moisture in the skin.
Overproduction of Sebum
An overproduction of sebum can cause excessively oily skin and hair and can unfortunately contribute to the formation of acne.
Breakouts can be caused by the overproduction of sebum and a build up of dead skin cells, which clog the pores. Both factors create an environment for acne bacteria to thrive, which can then trigger inflammation.
Sebum production is generally highest during teenage years and then tends to decline with age. It is affected by hormones, which explains why teenagers, who are at the height of hormone changes, are more acne-prone.
How to help reduce sebum production for oily skin
If your skin is oily and you are prone to breakouts, there are a few factors to consider that may help in order to reduce sebum production.
- Reduce dairy intake - Milk increases the level of IGF-1 (a hormone similar to insulin). This increase is proven to increase sebum production.
Consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including:
- Spinach and kale
- Include turmeric in your diet - Turmeric's major ingredient, curcumin, is said to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant which helps soothe skin. expand
Exfoliating removes dead skin cells, dirt, sebum, and debris on the surface of the skin. Salicylic acid is especially helpful for oily skin types because it can easily cut through all the pore-clogging oil and dead skin.
3. Tea Tree Essential Oil
The antiseptic properties of tea tree oil may contribute to its ability to combat oily skin. A 2016 study found that participants who used a sunscreen containing tea tree oil for 30 days showed improvements in oiliness.
How to use: Mix a few drops of tea tree oil into your toner or moisturiser and massage into your skin.
Underproduction of Sebum
An underproduction of sebum can also become a problem. When the sebaceous glands produce too little sebum, the skin can become dry, dull and flaky.
The side effects of overly dry skin and hair can be just as tedious as the oiliness caused by overproduction.
How to help increase sebum production for dry skin
- Increase carbohydrate intake - Yes, thats right, don't run away from the carbs! The best carbohydrates to eat are whole-grain and unprocessed foods such as brown rice, brown pasta and pulses. more detail as to why this helps
- Vitamin A - Vitamin A is an antioxidant. Antioxidants prevent oxidative damage to the cells by helping to remove free radicals. You can find Vitamin A in foods such as:
- Orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes
- Green leafy vegetables
- Drink water - A review of six studies concluded that increasing fluid intake enhanced the hydration of the outer layer of the skin while reducing skin dryness and roughness.
2. Gentle Products
Avoid skincare products that contain fragrances, acids, alcohol and harsh chemicals as these can further dry out your skin.
Moisturising can really help lock in the moisture in your skin, but also repair your skin’s natural barrier (stratum corneum).