Sebum: What Is It and How to Get Rid of Sebum

by | Aug 18, 2020

The official name of the oil on your face is called sebum. Because sebum is a basic product of skin, sebum is closely related to many skin problems.

Acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and some hair follicle sebaceous glands are closely related to excessive secretion of sebum, while dry skin is related to too little sebum production. Controlling sebum production can affect most skin problems.

A man is smiling, his face is full of sebum

Sebum is mainly composed of wax fat, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and squalane. There are a lot of sebaceous glands in the skin, and the sebum slowly flows out from the sebaceous glands. After flowing out of the pores, it is spread on the skin surface to form a natural protective film-sebum.

Compared with other parts of the body, the number of sebaceous glands on the face and scalp is the largest, and the amount of sebum secreted is also more, so we can always see that the face is covered with oil, but we have never seen oil on the hands.

The sebaceous glands are located in the hair follicles. The sebaceous glands secrete sebum slowly and gradually flow to the surface of the skin to form a sebum-film

The sebaceous glands are very active at birth (Such as cradle cap), and the sebaceous glands do not work during the age of 2-6 years. But after 7 years old, the sebaceous glands start to secrete oil like a volcanic eruption, so there is always endless oil on the teenager’s face.

The vigorous sebaceous glands will not be active forever. Since the age of 20, the amount of sebum secreted by the sebaceous glands will decrease by 20% to 30% every ten years. So you rarely see oil on the face of middle-aged people.

The Function of Sebum

1. Barrier effect:

Sebum covers the surface of the skin, it can effectively lock the moisture and maintain the skin’s moisture content stable, delay the dehydration caused by the evaporation of sweat at high temperature.

Solidify into a film at low temperature, keep the water-locked, and provide natural protection for the skin.

2. Moisturize the skin:

The lipid portion of the sebum film can effectively moisturize the skin, keep the skin lubricated and nourished, and make the skin flexible and shiny.

3. Anti-infection effect:

Sebum can also form a weak acid barrier on the skin surface, inhibit the growth of bacteria, and protect skin health.

Adverse Effects of Sebum

Unfortunately, if the oil secretion is too strong, the skin looks glisten and the pores will be enlarged.

Once a large number of dead cells and vigorous sebum have formed a sebum plug, it will block the flow of sebum. Sebum plug becomes blackheads when they meet oxygen, but whiteheads when they don’t.

There is a lot of inflammatory acne on the lower jaw of the face

Too much sebum also creates a good living environment for bacteria, fungi, and parasites, which can cause red and swollen acne if they multiply in large numbers. In order to save itself, the skin will send white blood cells to kill the bacteria.

A lot of pus will be generated in the place where the white blood cells fight the bacteria. If you squeeze the acnes by hand, it may cause bacteria to invade the dermis, and it is easy to form depressed scars and pigmentation.

Main Factors Affecting Sebum Production


Sebaceous glands are mainly affected by androgens. Androgens mainly come from gonads and adrenal glands. Androgen contains testosterone undecanoate, which is converted into dihydrotestosterone(DHT) with the help of 5α-reductase. DHT stimulates the sebaceous glands to secrete large amounts of sebum.

Insulin growth factor-1(IGF-1) also has a strong ability to promote sebum production. The researchers found that the higher the concentration of IGF-1 in the blood, the more sebum production.

If you consume a lot of milk and dairy products, high-sugar foods, high-GI foods will stimulate the body to produce more IGF-1, thereby promoting the secretion of oil.

Certain diseases, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, adrenal hyperplasia, or adrenal tumors, can cause excessive androgen secretion and accelerate sebum production.

It is amazing that although estrogen can inhibit androgens, it can only reduce the secretion of sebum in women and is not effective for men.

Stay up late

When staying up late, the body secretes a lot of androgens, your skin produces more oil, and the complexion becomes duller, causing more skin problems.


When the local temperature of the skin increases by 1°C, the sebum production speed also increases by 10%. The possible explanation is that when the temperature increases, the rate of sebum transport to the skin surface increases.

Therefore, the skin is oily in summer and dry in winter. Facing the computer may make the oil secretion vigorous, perhaps because the computer screen also emits higher heat.

Temperature not only affects the secretion rate of sebum but also affects the composition of sebum. When the temperature decreases, the squalane content in sebum also decreases.

Mental factors

Some people’s spirits appear tense and agitated. When stress increases, epinephrine rises, and sebum production increases.


Some bacteria can promote sebum production, such as Propionibacterium acnes and Malassezia can promote sebum gland cells to secrete sebum

How To Get Rid of Sebum?

Six ways to reduce sebum secretion

Remove excess sebum

Using cleansing products to wash away too much oil can significantly improve the skin’s shiny appearance. It is recommended to use a mild amino acid facial cleanser.

After using the adsorption product to absorb oil, the skin can achieve a matte effect. Such as absorbent paper, loose powder. This method does not reduce the secretion of sebum, but it can improve the shiny appearance of the skin.

Under normal circumstances, the sebaceous glands will slowly secrete sebum, and the excess sebum only needs to be washed off with cleansing products. Recommend the use of low-stimulation amino acid facial cleanser, try to use the soap-based facial cleanser as little as possible

After removing excess oil, you can use some skin care products (Starch, silicon powder, nylon powder, etc.) in the form of flakes, granules, and porous materials. These porous materials can absorb oil and keep the face a refreshing matte effect. Absorbent paper can also reduce oil on the face.

Unclog pores

Removal of sebum clogged in the pores, reducing the accumulation of sebum in the hair follicles, allowing the sebum to flow smoothly to the skin surface and spread out, can reduce the oily skin around the opening of the hair follicles.

Alpha hydroxy acid: Alpha hydroxy acid can peel off dead cells covering the skin surface so that the pores are not covered.

Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid can penetrate deep inside the pores, dissolve the oil in the hair follicles so that the pores are not blocked.

Alpha hydroxy acid and salicylic acid can also reduce sebum production by affecting sebaceous gland cells that are undergoing differentiation.

However, please do not use acid products for unhealthy skin with excessive inflammation on the face and fragile skin barrier.

Suppresses excessive sebum production

The following ingredients can reduce sebum production:

Retinol and its derivatives:

Including retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinene, etc. They can be converted into retinoic acid in the skin. Retinoic acid can affect the sebaceous gland cells to reduce the secretion of sebum.

Soybean isoflavone:

Plant-like estrogen with multiple functions such as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidation. Can also be anti-androgenic, thereby inhibiting the secretion of sebum.


The main ingredient is tea polyphenols, which can inhibit 5α-reductase and reduce sebum production

Vitamin C:

It can reduce sebum production, also has whitening and anti-aging functions


It can suppress sebum production, and can also strengthen the skin barrier and whiten functions.

Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Pyridoxine HCI:

Both can inhibit sebum production.


Common ones include zinc sulfate and zinc gluconate, which not only have the anti-inflammatory function but also inhibit the secretion of sebum by inhibiting 5α-reductase.

Inhibit microorganisms

If the dermatologist detects excessive Malassezia, under the guidance of the doctor, use skin care products or medicines containing zinc pyrithione, selenium disulfide, sulfur, and other ingredients, especially those with seborrheic dermatitis.

Or use some antibacterial skin care products, such as tea tree essential oil, rosemary oil, patchouli essential oil, sandalwood essential oil, lavender essential oil, cinnamon essential oil, lemongrass essential oil and skin care products containing Coptis, Phellodendron, Scutellaria, and other ingredients.

Special note: essential oils need to be diluted to a suitable concentration (Approximately 5%-10%). It is recommended to use jojoba oil to dilute essential oils because jojoba oil is more suitable for oily skin.

Some people with too many bacteria on their skin not only have problems with excessive oil production, but also inflammation, papules, pustules, and other problems. This problem needs to be treated under the guidance of a doctor.

Skin cooling

Turn on the air conditioner.

Put a water-filled sponge in front of the computer to keep the environment moist.

Cold face with a cold towel.

Use a beauty instrument with a cooling function to massage the face.

Diet regulation

Eat fewer sweets and avoid milk and dairy products (Except yogurt).

Eat more vegetables, soy, and other foods, for example, you can drink soy milk.

Eat more foods containing vitamin B, vitamin B, carotene, such as whole grains, carrots, broccoli, etc.

Oral collagen can also reduce sebum production and increase skin moisture.


Sebum is not only an indispensable moisturizing substance for the skin, but may also cause a variety of problems, including acne, whiteheads, blackheads, etc. Controlling the secretion of sebum is one of the foundations to solve the above problems.

Excessive sebum production is related to hormones. Microbes, high-sugar diets, and elevated temperatures can all promote sebum production.

Oil control needs to be carried out from the removal of oil, suppression of sebum production, inhibition of microorganisms, and dietary regulation.