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Sebum: What It Is, The place It Comes From, and Why It is Vital

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What’s oily, a bit waxy, and secreted out of your pores and skin head-to-toe? Although it is probably not probably the most pleasant-sounding skin-care time period, sebum is a vital element of the pores and skin barrier — and when it is thrown off steadiness (which may occur for quite a few causes), quite a lot of points can happen. What’s extra, although the phrases sebum and oil are typically used interchangeably in reference to pores and skin, they don’t seem to be one and the identical.

“When individuals refer to grease on the pores and skin, sebum is usually considered one element of it,” explains Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist in New York Metropolis. “However [oil] additionally usually consists of sweat and different environmental buildup that may happen on the pores and skin.”

So then what precisely is sebum and the place does it come from? To search out out extra, together with why sebum is so essential to total skin-barrier well being, we spoke to a slew of dermatologists. Think about this sebum 101: Right here is every thing you could know.

What Is Sebum?

To get technical, sebum is “a fancy combination of fatty acids, sugars, waxes, and different pure chemical substances that type a protecting barrier towards water evaporation,” explains Karen Hammerman, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Backyard Metropolis, New York. To get much more technical, the composition of sebum is made up of “triglycerides, wax esters, squalene and free fatty acids, which collectively assist to maintain the pores and skin moisturized,” Garshick explains.


So once more, “what we name ‘oil’ on our pores and skin is made up of extra than simply sebum,” Hammerman says. “It additionally incorporates a combination of sweat, lifeless pores and skin cells, and tiny particles of no matter else is within the mud floating round you.”

In sum: Sebum and oil will not be one and the identical. Reasonably, sebum is simply one of many many elements of oil.

The place Does Sebum Come From?

Sebum is produced by the sebaceous glands, which naturally cowl our our bodies from tip to toe. There are two sorts of sebaceous glands: These which can be linked to a hair follicle, and people that aren’t.

“Sebaceous follicles are mostly discovered on the face, behind the ears, and on the higher parts of the chest and again,” explains Ramin Fathi, a board-certified dermatologist in Phoenix, Arizona. On the face itself, you may discover the very best focus of sebaceous glands across the T-zone, which is why this space is usually extra susceptible to creating pimples.

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