Sebum: the essential oil and grease that your body secretes and coats your skin with. It’s natural, normal, and important! So, why is it responsible for so many problems?
Below you’ll learn about the purpose of sebum, what causes the body to produce it in excess and how to help your body if it is…
All mammals have sebaceous glands in our skin. They are usually attached to our hair follicles and release a fatty substance, called sebum, into each follicle’s duct which secretes onto the surface of our skin.
Sebum helps keep our skin and scalp stay moist by preventing water evaporation and helps prevent infections from occurring.
Sebaceous glands are located all over our bodies, with the highest concentration being on our face and scalp.
Essentially, if you are producing too much sebum you will typically have oilier hair that may need washing more regularly. It can also cause greasier feeling and looking skin which can lead to acne, clogged pores, and other unwanted blemishes.
A variety of things can cause the body to make and secrete excess sebum, but the main one is usually down to your hormones. Heightened testosterone, progesterone, and phenothiazine are the typical culprits…
However, ovarian, testicular, adrenal gland and pituitary gland conditions can have an effect over sebum production too. In some studies, Parkinson’s Disease has been linked to boosting its production as well.
There are many ways to help slow down your body’s sebum production.
Face & Scalp: If you’re a person who has a menstrual cycle, hormonal contraception may be a route you’d like to consider. Birth control pills aren’t always used for contraception, you know?
Combination pills have notoriously been used to treat acne and greasy hair: this is when both progesterone and oestrogen are present in the pill, causing a more balanced hormone level, and this can encourage your body to slow down the production of sebum. This can benefit both your oily scalp and face.
Face: If you’re not up for ingesting hormones (or don’t have a menstrual cycle), but are suffering from severe acne, you can chat to your doctor about other treatments like isotretinoin. This oral medication option can reduce sebum production significantly. There are other treatment options as well that they will discuss with you.
Either way, if you have severe acne, a chat with your doctor should be top of the list as it can be so unpleasant to experience, emotionally as well as physically.
Scalp: When it comes to greasy hair, the instinct is to vigorously shampoo it, but you may be causing more oil to occur! The scalp’s sebaceous glands can be triggered to release extra sebum when they feel the hair drying out and this can cause a sebum build-up on the scalp.
However, if you over-wash, you’re at risk of stripping the hair’s natural conditioning rhythm and the oil glands end up overworking – inducing that unwanted greasy look. If you suffer from oily hair, try a dry shampoo on alternate days, washing your hair every other day where possible.
Oh, and when conditioning, make sure to avoid the roots. This is one of the most common causes of lank and limp hair. Mid-lengths and ends only please!
Also, what product are you using? You should try Cel’s Microstem Shampoo & Conditioner! It’s designed for flat hair that’s lacking volume, making it a great shampoo for oily hair. It strengthens each hair strand and encourages high cell turnover.
Face: When it comes to washing an oily face, the temptation is to use harsh soaps to dry out the skin. But be careful – this can actually have the opposite effect! Harsh, fragranced soaps and chemicals can indicate to the body to make more sebum because it’s now thinking it’s too dry! You simply need a gentle soap and lukewarm water, washed with a soft, clean washcloth to ensure low friction.
Oh, and always pat your face dry – try not to rub vigorously with a towel. Rubbing and pulling on the skin like this can stimulate the sebaceous glands into making more unwanted sebum!
Scalp: How often are you changing your pillowcase? It should be a minimum of once a week, or else you’ll have all your oil going back and forth between face and case for ages – gross!
Another great tip is to change your pillowcase material from cotton to silk. This will make it less porous. You should also sleep with the hair tied back in a loose top knot (using silk scrunchies where possible) to stop the hair coming on to your face and mixing with the oil present there.
Face & Scalp: When was the last time you checked in with your diet? Some elements of what you’re eating can induce sebum being overly produced.
For example, some people swear that the dairy food group causes their skin and hair to become more oily, and when they cut it out through the method of an elimination diet (whereby you work through food group by food group, eliminating each one for a certain period to determine if you have any sensitivity/intolerances), their sebum production reduced. Might be worth a try?
It’s possible to trick your body into producing less sebum, but for a long term solution you don’t have to think too much about, your best bet is a hormonal intervention. If greasy hair or skin is getting you down, make an appointment to chat all your options through with the doc.