What Is Sebum, and How to Keep It in Check?

So, you have oily skin? Welcome to the club!

We know you looove to hate it. The greasy shine, the acne-prone tendency, and the slippery slope of self-confidence. Though the frustration comes in many words, there's only one to name the culprit - "sebum."  

With the summer closing in, the peak season of sebum horror shows starts. So now is the prime time for you to learn everything about sebum anatomy, sebum-balancing how-tos, and answers to burning questions from your fellow oily skin (you might see your secretive queries in the mix). You'll find all these skintellectual nuggets down below. 

Want to have glowy summer skin instead of a sebum spill for a change? Read on!

What Is Sebum? 

First, you need to know about sebaceous glands - the sebum factory. They are all over your body, except for the palms, the top of your foot, and soles. 

Sebum is an oily (go figures) fluid produced by the sebaceous glands. It's made of triglycerides, fatty acids, squalene, and wax esters, which come with their own pros and cons. 

PROS of Sebum:

  • Keep the skin moisturized: The oily nature of sebum creates a film that prevents water loss on the skin's surface. That's why you may see the components of sebum in moisturizers. 
  • Transport antioxidants: Sebum carries fat-soluble antioxidants inside our body, like vitamin E, to the skin's surface. 
  • Protect the skin against infections from microbiomes: Sebum p.H level of 4.5 -6.0 can prevent the invasion of some bacteria, viruses, and fungi. 

CONS of Sebum:

When there's too much sebum production,

  • Shine and slip: Folks with oily skin often struggle with unflattering facial shine, makeup breakdown, and skincare pilling. 
  • Sebaceous filaments: Remember the white, yellowish strand that you squeezed out from your nose or chin, thinking they were blackheads? In fact, they're called sebaceous filaments - a collection of excess sebum and dead skin cells. Other than the undesirable aesthetic, they're harmless. 

FYI, strawberry nose can be caused by both sebaceous filaments and blackheads. 

  • Acne: The oily, waxy sebum can make your dead skin cells too sticky to shed on their own. The accumulating dead skin debris and sebum clog the pores, causing the formation of various acne.

Funsies: To tell where you have the most sebum, observe your used hydrocolloid pimple patch (aka, acne patch). Those big ones that cover a larger area than one pimple. 

Aside from the pus, the white spots you see on the pimple patch are moisture from sebum (and sweat). Think of your pimple patch as a map showing you where to focus more on sebum control. 

Quite a nifty trick we learned from trying to figure out combo-oily skin.

How to Control Excess Sebum 

Take out your notes because these are gold!

Keep the skin hydrated: Once your skin lacks water content, it triggers more oil production. At that stage, your skin is considered dehydrated skin.

To replenish your skin from thirst, look for skincare with hydrating ingredients like Glycerin, Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid, and Sodium Hyaluronate. 

To prevent water loss, avoid cleansing your skin with hot water and harsh, drying cleansers. 

Incorporate sebum-reducing ingredients into your skincare: Green Tea, Niacinamide, and Retinol are excellent choices for reducing sebum production. On the other hand, Salicylic Acid is a wonderful assistant to help you remove oil and effectively tackle congested pores. 

But if you're pressed for time, oil-absorbing ingredients like Kaolin clay, Bentonite clay, and Silica are the go-to.

Watch out for a high-glycemic diet: A diet loaded with refined carbs and sugar can stir up hormonal reactions that produce excessive sebum. 

Though how reactive a body is to a high-glycemic diet varies among individuals, you should be more cautious of your carb and sugar intake if you have oily, acne-prone skin. 

Consider hormonal therapies: When skincare and diets reap no results for your acne-clearing battle, it's time for you to think about hormonal therapies

At your doctor's office, you'll likely be prescribed either oral contraceptives or Spironolactone, or both. 

We know, scary names as anything hormones-related is. However, these therapies are proven safe and effective methods to treat acne. By inhibiting the stimulation of androgen (a hormone) in sebaceous glands, hormonal therapies help reduce sebum production and breakouts. 


Will sebum bumps go away? Should you squeeze or scratch it out?

Clogged pores caused by excessive sebum can be stubborn without appropriate intervention. But squeezing and scratching are never it; they only cause further damage. 

But hey, guilty! We also have finicky fingers. It's times like this that a pimple patch is really handy. Though a pimple patch can't solve the problem, it protects your skin and speeds up healing. 

You may call for an esthetician to extract sebum bumps. Still, the best course of action to get rid of those annoying bumps is regular exfoliation and a sebum-regulating skincare routine. 

Is it okay to use oil-based skincare products if you have oily skin? 

In general, oily skin can well tolerate skincare that contains oils. However, if the moisturizer is mainly oil or leaning toward the facial oil department, it's best to avoid using it. 

If you're interested in an oil cleanser, be suuuper diligent in the emulsifying step. Else, the combo of residue oil and skin debris will cause breakouts. 

Does mattifying skincare increase sebum production? 

No, mattifying skincare helps reduce sebum. That said, there's an exception. 

Remember what we said about avoiding harsh cleansers? Some cleansers with a "mattifying" label can be too stripping for your skin, triggering excessive sebum production. 

EXTRA: Emergency Sebum Top Tips

Pre-game prep: Use a Kaolin clay or Bentonite clay mask the night before your special occasion. The mask will minimize your pore appearance, give you a smoother complexion, and keep your skin matte for longer.

Oily skin and makeup: Use a makeup primer and translucent power to prevent your artwork from being broken down by oiliness. Also, carry powder or blotting paper with you to soak up the excess sebum throughout the day.

Unexpected pimples: Maybe it's the peaking pus or the angry inflammation that you can't put makeup on, but you still want to camouflage it. For times like this, seek out a pimple patch. 

  • If you have a pimple with pus that has exploded or is threatening to, use a hydrocolloid pimple patch like our Original Acne Cover Patch to cover up your wound and draw out the impurities.
  • For those looking for a super-strength pimple patch to make sure the adhesive sticks all day long, despite activities or weather, definitely give Gunk Out a try.  
  • If you have an inflamed pimple that hasn't surfaced yet, Avarelle's Multi Dart is the help you need. Advanced from the traditional acne stickers, the Multi Dart patch delivers acne-fighting ingredients at a deeper, more targeted precision to help your angry bump reduce the size, the redness, and heal faster. 

Wrapping Up

So, you see. Having oily skin isn't all bad if you know how to keep the sebum in check. Regardless, we all make mistakes, and having pimples is an inevitable everyone stumbles upon. 

To best prepare yourself for the sebum-rich life, stick with our provided how-tos and always keep a pimple patch in your arsenal. For that, we've got you covered. 

Click right here to visit Avarelle's store for our pimple patch collections.

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