All skin types produce sebum. It’s your skin’s natural way of lubricating and protecting the moisture barrier. But if your skin is producing too much of it, it could be causing skin problems. In most cases, sebum production is a normal thing. So, why do your pores keep filling up with sebum?
Your skin has the ability to self-lubricate and that’s with sebum. Lower sebum production is usually associated with dry skin and more noticeable fine lines and wrinkles, making you more reliant on moisturizers. As long as you’re young your skin will keep filling up with sebum.
Understanding why your skin produces sebum can help you determine if you’re causing it or if it’s still in the normal range. In this post I’ll walk you through the best ways to control the excess sebum production of your skin, so please keep reading to find out what to do about it!
You definitely don’t want to completely strip your skin from this oily substance. Doing so would ruin it. The idea is to gain control. More on that ahead!
What is sebum and what’s producing it?
Sebum is an oily substance that’s slightly yellowish, channeled by sebaceous filaments located in the sebaceous glands, to moisturize both your skin and hair. To top it off, the oil on your skin surface isn’t just from sebum, it’s also made up of lipids from your skin cells, environmental deposits, and sweat.
Sebum is composed of free fatty acids, squalene, triglycerides, cholesterol, wax esters, and cholesterol esters.
You’ve got sebaceous glands all over your body from head to toe with the exception of the palms of your hands and the bottoms of your feet. It’s probably little surprise that you have a greater concentration of sebaceous glands on your face, but did you know you also have many of them in the middle of the back and around your genitals? Fun facts you can trot out at parties! Yay!
Anyway, most of these glands have a hair follicle but some do open up to the surface of your skin directly (like on your eyelids for example). The sebum comes out of the glands to keep skin smooth and soft, though sometimes, it goes a little overboard, which we’ll discuss below.
How is sebum produced?
Before your sebum ever arrives on the skin surface, it mixes with the dead skin cells that are falling off inside the hair follicle. Once that follicle is full, the sebum move across the surface of your skin to moisturize it and keep it healthy.
That’s how it’s supposed to work ideally. But sometimes, as mentioned, it can get a bit carried away and results in oily hair and skin. Medically, this is called seborrhea.
When you have an excess in sebum production, then those dead skin cells along with dirt, makeup, and other pollutants, get trapped inside the pores. This is why you get breakouts. Yet, if you attempt to strip your skin of all natural oils your body produces, it makes skin too dry. And dry skin can also breakout. The key to beautiful skin lies in finding balance for sebum production.
Is sebum clogging your pores?
The short answer…no! Your skin needs that sebum!
On your nose and chin, the pores found there can often be bigger and seem oilier. As you get older, these can even become enlarged. In these pores, the sebum lingers in the lining until you squeeze it out, or even use those pore strips. Definitely disgusting, but it’s a very normal process that happens to everyone.
Sebum isn’t clogging your pores. Your pores are serving their purpose. When they are clogged, they become bumpy, large, and hard if you don’t clear them out. If you have acne-prone skin, it’s no doubt frustrating to have more sebum production. You might even wonder if you need it at all, but don’t blame sebum.
Sebum is also there to keep your skin flexible and maintain the natural moisture barrier. This keeps bacterial and fungal infections from affecting you. It is what makes your skin waterproof. It prevents too much water from getting in and vice versa. Isn’t that cool?
Would squeezing your pores help you get rid of sebum?
Let’s think about this for a minute. Have you ever picked, squeezed, popped, or poked any pimples in your life? Most people have of course, and do you know what that does? It makes the zit look worse. The same effect is had when squeezing your pores.
Any dermatologist or even aesthetician will tell you to NEVER do that. Yes, it might bring you a feeling of satisfaction to squeeze out a sliver of whitish goo from your pores, but it’s a vicious cycle that you should never start, skin-picking has been recently included as a mental disorder. If you already have, stop now before you do more damage to your skin.
If you want beautiful skin, you can’t squeeze your pores. Your pores are designed by nature to fill back up with sebum. When you squeeze that sebum out, you’re causing damage to the pore. The more you do it, the more it will enlarge. When pores become enlarged they are more likely to clog up, which means more breakouts. Yuck!
Resist the urge to pick and squeeze for the sake of your skin. It won’t help you look any better. It will only make things worse, leading to inflamed skin. We’re not talking a little redness here either. We’re talking about major breakouts that will destroy your complexion. When skin is inflamed, pores become more clogged. When the pores are clogged, there are more pimples everywhere. Plus, with squeezing these things yourself at home, you stand to gain permanent scarring and even broken capillaries. It all translates to ruining your look, so hands off!
How to get rid of sebum?
If you feel like your sebum situation is out of control, you can do something about it. Dermatologists recommend exfoliation to help clear your pores as well as reduce their size. Ideally, you should go for a facial but not everyone has the time or finances for it. If you can’t afford to have it done professionally, you can still do it in your own home.
Steaming your skin first is ideal. Then follow it with a good exfoliating scrub a couple times a week. Using a cleanser that has salicylic acid is a smart move. It provides gentle exfoliation while it soothes pores with an anti-inflammatory effect. This keeps them from clogging up. Using salicylic acid at about 2% is recommended.
Skin concerns of all kinds should always be brought up to your dermatologist or your skincare aesthetician. There are many ways to safely and effectively control your skin without causing damage. You may even find that prescription retinoids (according to research retinoids can reduce sebum production), in-office peels, or microdermabrasion might ease your skincare woes. It’s best to seek a professional to examine your skin and determine the best plan of action for you.
Trying to prevent skin problems before they start or effectively treating them is the best way to keep skin looking clear, smooth, and fabulous. Having the right skincare regimen can help in a big way too.
If you have oily skin, using creamy products won’t help one bit. You must find the right products for your specific skin type. What your best friend uses might not be best for your skin if yours is oily and hers is dry. She might very well benefit from creamy skincare products, but for oily skin, that will only make your problems worse.
Instead, opt for antioxidants. While they’re great for destroying free radicals on all skin types, a lightweight formula infused with plenty of them will keep your pores from growing larger. Serums and lightweight gels will be a better choice for you. If you’re looking for a serum, then you can either get the vitamin C serum by Amara Organics which is awesome or the slightly pricier serum by TruSkin, on the other hand, if you want a lightweight gel then you should get philosophy purity made simple moisturizer.
Another must-have in your skincare arsenal: facial masks. I’ve tried a lot of brands but Superfood marine clay mask took the crown, it draws out excess oil and embedded dirt from deep within your pores. The mask you choose shouldn’t leave skin feeling tight and dried out afterward. Instead, your skin will be refreshed, soothed, and properly hydrated while feeling impeccably clean. Aim to do a facial mask at least once a week.
Things you can do to reduce sebum production beside skin care
Certain lifestyle factors play a role in your skin’s condition and could lead to skin and hair becoming oilier. Here are some tips to help you keep control over your sebum production and keep it properly regulated for your best skin health.
– Hands off!
Touching your face with your hands often can add more oils to your skin. And if your hands aren’t clean, you’re adding more dirt into your pores which exacerbates your oily skin problems.
– Exercise with a clean slate
Exercise is great for your body, but if you wear makeup while you engage in sports or while doing your workout, it causes skin to be oilier. Try EltaMd tinted facial sunscreen instead to get coverage without clogging things up.
– Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake
No one is saying you have to kick your morning coffee habit or relinquish those wine-downs with your friends on the weekends. But you should watch your consumption of both alcohol and caffeine as these can cause your skin to dry out and create an increase in sebum.
– Keep cool
According to a 2017 study, hot and humid climates can cause oilier skin and hair. Don’t forget to always wear sunscreen when exposed to the sun, which is daily! Make sure you’re using a lightweight, non-greasy formula to help protect your skin and keep it from overproducing that precious sebum. La Roche-Posay Anthelios is a great option for oily skin!
– Always wash your face before bed
Some nights, you just want to fall into bed and pull the covers over your head. Believe it or not, it’s a terrible thing to do, research suggests that cleansing your face won’t damage your skin barrier or lead to an excessive sebum production, on the contrary, it will help cleanse your pores. Always remove all of it and don’t leave a trace behind. I always use Bioderma Sebium Foaming Gel Facial Cleanser and it removes every last bit of makeup, even stubborn waterproof formulas, I also noticed it reduced blackheads and minimized the size of my pore. Don’t forget to use a proper nighttime hydrating formula for oily skin so you wake up with a fresh and lovely face; after cleansing my face, I usually go for BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz Retinol Cream Moisturizer (Amazon link).
– Change your birth control pills
For those of you on the bill, the additional hormones might be the cause of your excess oil on your skin. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options for lower-dosage birth control pills. It could be the big difference you need!
– Detoxify on the regular
After hitting the gym, try out the steam room and sauna. This helps open up your pores and cleanse excess oil from your skin. If your gym doesn’t have one, you can use boiling water in a pot. Hover over it carefully while draping a towel around you to trap the steam. Keeping up with this habit weekly can make a beautiful difference in the way your skin looks.
– Keep your hair out of your face
When you have long hair, allowing it to get in your face will create an oilier situation. Your hair has natural oils in it to keep it soft and shiny. Constantly putting it in your face can increase oil production.
– Eat smart
Your skin rewards you for healthy choices on your plate, it’s even indicated polyphenols, found in plant food base which contain antioxidant molecules can inhibit excessive sebum production. If you’re eating an abundance of greasy foods, you’re only causing more oil production for your skin. Choose more fresh produce and watch out for greasy, fatty foods that do nothing for your skin or your waistline.
You want your skin to produce sebum to keep it healthy, but sometimes it can produce too much of it. During normal conditions, sebum is beneficial to beautiful skin. If you find it’s out of control and your skin is too oily, changing your skincare routine can help you stake a claim on smooth, clear, and beautiful skin. Using the right products makes all the difference.
Living your best lifestyle also helps though too. It’s important to eat right and stay hydrated to regulate your body’s systems. It’s equally as important though to avoid doing counterproductive behaviors like sleeping with makeup on or touching your face often that will add more oil to the skin.
Once you get your oily skin under control, you’ll find that sebum really isn’t the bad guy after all!