September 26th, 2018 Written by a Staff Member of Hair Loss in Women
Sebum is part of the equation to having healthy hair and a healthy scalp. It can have either a positive or negative effect on your hair and skin based on how much you have.
What is Sebum?
Sebum is a substance that you secrete through sebaceous glands that keeps the hair and skin moisturized. It’s made up of triglycerides, free fatty acids, wax esters, squalene, cholesterol esters, and cholesterol.
Where does Sebum Come From?
Sebaceous glands are responsible for the creation of sebum. You can find sebaceous glands almost anywhere within the body, but they are clustered closer together in areas where you produce the most sweat. You can guess where that might be…
The only areas where they are not found are on the palms of hands and soles of your feet. The main areas they are clustered would be our back,m genital area, face- specifically our foreheads and chin. All of these areas also have hair follicles.
How is Sebum Produced?
The sebaceous glands produce sebum under the skin, which then as it reaches the top layers it combines with cells that are about to leave through a hair follicle. When the follicle fills up, sebum then starts to spill out essentially over the surface of the skin. A little sebum spillage is okay since it does a great job of moisturizing our skin and hair. Too much causes our hair to become oily.
Our bodies do a great job of producing it, but we don’t really have a natural way of knowing we’ve created too much. When our bodies have created too much and caused the skin and hair to become oily, this condition is known as seborrhea. The reverse can happen as well. If there is not enough sebum present then the skin can get too dry.
Seborrhea is categorized simply as the production of sebum that has been combined with dead skin cells and dirt that gets trapped inside of the pores which can also lead to acne. There are many ways to treat this condition, some natural remedies, and other prescribed treatments depending on the severity. Most of the time, simply washing that area of the skin more often can help.
Why is Sebum Important?
If you have oily skin or break out often, this may be frustrating! You may think sebum is not helping you out at all. But, the truth is, we need sebum to keep our skin and hair hydrated in order to stay flexible and act as a protective barrier to bacterial and fungal infections.
What Causes Over or Under Production?
Blame your hormones for both! Testosterone specifically is responsible. Think back to the days of puberty. In health class, they warned you about having oily skin and boy were they right. How come things haven’t changed? Still your hormones…
During the puberty stages, the sebaceous glands are enlarged as hormones become more active and this causes a larger production of sebum. Hence the acne! This can still be true later on after puberty. Males naturally produce about five times more testosterone compared to females- phew! And normally sebum production starts to decrease by age 20 and continues to as we age.
Certain conditions and diseases could also be the cause for continued over of sebum. Still, the vast majority link back to your hormones. Conditions with the pituitary or adrenal glands or ovaries can all increase the production of sebum.
Medications such as oral contraceptives, antiandrogens or vitamin A can also cause a change in sebum production.
Treatment for Oily Skin- Too Much Sebum
Find you’re producing too much sebum? Thank your hormones most likely! Our skin sure does stake a beating! We put so many different types of products on our skin to remove oil sometimes on purpose and other times unintentionally. Sometimes this may cause our skin to overproduce sebum which only adds to our stress since we were trying to get rid of the extra oil, to begin with!
First, be sure to wash your face- but not with anything too harsh at first. Try mild soaps and begin to wash your face in the morning and follow that up with a good moisturizer. Make sure you’re going to bed with a clean and moisturized face as well. Yes, even oily skin needs moisturizer.
Many stylists do not suggest washing your hair on a daily basis. Just like with your face, if we are washing too often we tend to strip away too much sebum which can also have adverse effects. Try to wash your hair every other day or every three days and just be sure to really clean your scalp rather than the bottom ends of your hair.
Still not enough?
Your best option: Exfoliate. This will help take off extra dead skin cells and also do a little bit of a deeper cleaning. Yes, you can even exfoliate your scalp. We do not advise doing this at ever wash, try every few washes.
Treatment for Dry Skin- Too Little Sebum
Feel like your sebaceous glands are not producing enough? No need to worry, there are treatments to help remedy this.
Be sure to add a moisturizer to your hygiene routine. Try to use one that truly hydrates the skin. Make sure that you are using it in the morning as well as when you go to bed after washing your face.
Your scalp needs moisture too! Adding a few drops of oil to our scalp can help this, as well as make sure we use a shampoo that is not stripping our hair of oils. You can also do hot oil or deep conditioner treatments which help aid in moisturizing your scalp.
We’d love to hear your experiences and recommendations for both! Please feel free to comment below.