What Is Sebum & Why Does It Matter? #JargonBreakdown

droplet of water

Credits: Eric Didier

If you’ve experienced acne, you’ve most probably come across the word while reading acne-related content. Although we know too much of it causes acne, what exactly is sebum?

 

WHAT ARE YOU, SEBUM?

Sebum, or “fat” in latin, is secreted via sebaceous glands which can be found virtually everywhere on our skin (even in the ear canals!). The only exceptions are our palms and soles (thankfully).

Sebum can be tricky to handle. When you have just the right amount of this filmy, sticky substance, it helps protect your skin. Too much, though? You’ll probably be combating acne.  Too little? You could end up with dry, cracked skin.

 

SAY HELLO TO YOUR “FRIENEMY”

male toy with freckles

Credits: Scott Webb

Sure, sebum can make your skin appear shinier or oilier, but it can actually be good for it! It keeps your skin healthy and prevents it from losing moisture. Working as a waterproof shield, it not only prevents moisture from going out but also prevents too much of it from getting in.

We’ve mentioned previously that achieving equilibrium is key to naturally smooth and glowing skin. When your skin is out of balance, sebaceous glands tend to overproduce sebum, which clogs up your skin pores and disrupts said flow. Dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, combined with excess sebum from beneath, meet in the pores. This results in clogging and the proliferation of P.acnes bacteria inside. As a result, acne lesions, blackheads, and whiteheads will begin to form on your skin.

 

WHAT CAUSES SEBUM OVERPRODUCTION?

You may be thinking, “I’ll simply wash off the excess oil to prevent breakouts”.

Well, don’t!

Washing your face excessively to remove sebum will only temporarily improve the appearance of the skin. This is due to the production of sebum occurring underneath the skin’s surface, and washing does little or nothing to affect the production of sebum. Even worse, it might stimulate sebum production into overdrive with every wash, as your skin thinks it’s too dry!

“So, how do I control sebum production?”

We hear ye! How much sebum your skin produces is largely dependent on your hormonal production, due to a particular hormone named dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is why people tend to have more acne problems during puberty. Also, contrary to popular belief, sebum production (or overproduction) has no direct correlation with what you eat. The fats and oils in our diet are broken down in the digestive system, and there isn’t a pathway to your skin.

All hope is not lost. In the meantime, keep your pores clean to prevent pesky acne from forming!

 

Stay True,