Have you ever asked yourself, “What is sebum?” If so, you’re not the first person to become curious and you are in the right place! Let me start by saying sebum is something that you don’t want to have an overabundance of. It tends to be yellowish in color and is an oily substance. This oily substance comes from the sebaceous glands. It is one of the main things that keep your skin and hair properly moisturized. Now you can probably understand why an overabundance is not something you want to strive for.
What Is Sebum And Everything You Need To Know
As for the makeup of sebum is a rather complex mixture and there is no exact science to it. It basically consists of a combination of fat aka lipids. Things like free fatty acids, cholesterol, wax esters, cholesterol esters, glycerides, and squalene. Do me a favor and run your finger across the top of your skin. Do you feel that oily texture on the surface? Part of that is sebum, while other parts are other skin cells, sweat, and any other matter that clings on to the surface of your skin.
How Is It Produced
Sebum is produced by the sebaceous glands. Not sure what sebaceous glands are? They are glands that exist all over your body. Well, almost everywhere except on your hands and feet. What I mean by that is, sebaceous glands do not exist within the soles of your feet nor the palms of your hands. The majority of the glands that exist within our body can be found in the middle and upper back area as well as the forehead and chin. This may start to make sense given that the areas mentioned seem to be common areas where people tend to have acne breakouts. I should also mention that there is typically a greater number of sebaceous glands in the genital area as well.
Sebaceous glands are commonly associated with hair follicles. In fact, they typically attach to the follicle. Some of these glands do pop up freely and unattached to a hair follicle but it’s an exception to the rule. When that does occur, it most commonly occurs in the eyelid region and eye foreskin area.
Here’s the typical sebum life cycle or production process so to speak. Before sebum ever reaches that surface of your skin, it attaches to a hair follicle. The hair follicle then fills up with sebum and the sebum then distributes itself across the surface of the skin. When this happens in a proper manner, the hair and skin become well moisturized and all is well. When things go wrong throughout the process, the skin becomes oily as well as the hair.
What Is Sebum Build Up
Another unwanted result of the process explained above is that excess sebum, dirt, gunk, and dead skin cells become trapped in pores and follicles. As a result, acne begins to form on the skin. Although not as common, there can be a lack of sebum being produced and as a result, your skin can become extremely irritated and dry. Some people are not too fond of sebum and they want to rid their bodies of it. What they don’t realize is that sebum is not the enemy here. It’s your friend and can help you achieve perfectly balanced skin. It’s natural and if you can get this under control then you will be far better off than most people.
Why You Need It
There are a few main reasons why you need sebum and why you cannot completely rid your body of this. For starters, if you want healthy skin and hair that’s not too oily or dried out then you need sebum. It’s the lifeblood of perfectly moisturized skin and hair.
Another reason why sebum rocks is that it help keep your skin flexible and able to adapt to many different environmental conditions. This is important if you live in a location where the climate changes a lot. Sebum is also important because it helps your skin retain water. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to retain water because you don’t want to look bloated! You’re overthinking, it’s not going to make you look bloated. If anything it helps keep your skin hydrated and wrinkle-free.
Sebum also does a good job at protecting your skin from becoming infected. It can protect your skin from various fungal infections and bacterial infections. Trust me, any type of infection on the skin (whether bacterial or fungal) are no fun to have to deal with. Some can be very difficult to get rid of. The fact that sebum works hard to protect your skin and body from infections is great.
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What most don’t realize is that sebum production can be controlled. In fact, the production is controlled by hormonal production. Androgens control the production. As hormone levels increase so does the size of our sebaceous glands. Both the hormones and glands become more active in harmony and as a result, more sebum is produced. This happens a lot during the puberty stage and it’s one of the reasons that people tend to have more acne problems as an adolescent. By the time you reach the legal drinking age, your sebum production levels typically begin to decrease.
If you have a disease or take certain medication, that too can have a direct impact on your hormones then they can also impact sebum production.
Fixing Sebum Production
If you have an overabundance of sebum that you are producing or if you’re not producing enough, then perhaps it would be a good idea to look into taking medication to fix things. There are certain medications that you can be prescribed by your doctor to help either reduce or increase sebum production.
For example, in the event that you do not produce enough sebum, your doctor may prescribe testosterone or progesterones to you. If you produce too much sebum, you may be prescribed antiandrogens which will help testosterone levels as well as sebum production.
Get Professional Help
If you are still asking yourself, “What is sebum?” then you need to seek more professional help. What most people don’t realize is that this is something that can really be difficult to get under control. In the event that you feel as though you should seek an educated opinion then I encourage you to visit your doctor. Any dermatologist or primary care physician will be able to fully evaluate your situation. They will run tests and recommend a course of action based on your specific condition and individual needs.