What is Sebum?

Sebum is a totally natural substance produced by the body. If you notice your skin is oily, it's most likely sebum! Sebum is an oily and slightly waxy substance found on the skin. It is mostly produced on the face and scalp, but it can also occur on the rest of the skin, except on the palms or soles of the feet.

Sebum is used as a way to keep the skin moisturised and acts as a waterproofing mechanism, keeping water from leaving your body. It also helps maintain flexibility in the skin and can act as a barrier from harmful matter such as bacterial and fungal infections. Sebum production is normal and healthy, if not enough sebum is produced, skin can become dry. However, if there is an excess of sebum, you may notice the appearance of oily skin, which can get trapped in pores and lead to acne.

Find out more about what causes spots here.


Sebum is secreted from the sebaceous glands found on the surface of the skin and are usually connected to hair follicles. Sebum is usually mixed with lipids from skin cells and sweat in the hair follicle, as the follicle fills up, the sebum is pushed to the surface and is spread over the skin creating a waterproof layer.

Sebum production is controlled by hormones in the body. This means that in periods of time where hormone levels fluctuate, or when taking medications that effect hormones - sebum production can be affected. For example, progesterone (found in birth control) can increase sebum production whereas vitamin A can reduce it.

Whilst going through puberty hormone levels change and sebaceous glands become enlarged causing more sebum production. This is why teenage skin is more prone to acne.


For all of you out there with oily skin, these tips can help!


  • Considering your diet could help. For example, foods containing sulphur such as fish, vegetables, legumes, eggs and nuts can help reduce excess levels of sebum.
  • Dry hair can cause more sebum to be produced, sulphates in shampoo can dry out your hair, so look for a shampoo which is sulphate free.

Skin Care

  • Make sure to use a face cleanser such as the NIVEA Soothing Micellar Water, designed to remove dirt and sebum from the face without stripping it of too many oils, which could lead to an increase in sebum production.
  • Ensure to wash your face twice a day, once in the morning and once at night with a mild facial wash to keep it clean and remove residue from the skin.
  • If you dry your skin out too much it will produce extra sebum to compensate, so even if you have oily skin still make sure to moisturise, just be careful to use an oil-free moisturiser.
  • Using a face mask at least once a week, will deep clean your face and remove dirt from clogged pores.


Dry skin can be caused by a lack of sebum, you can help combat this by drinking more water, eating more healthy fats such as omega 3 and having not as hot showers. Try to be conscious of all the products that come into contact with your skin, everything from skincare to shampoo and clothes detergent could all be having an effect on your dry skin. Look for products directed at sensitive skin, as alcohols, acids and fragrances could all have a drying effect. And of course make sure you are using a hydrating moisturiser!