Is greasy hair giving you bad hair days? You might be facing a condition of overactive sebaceous glands.
While sebum moisturizes your hair, keeping it soft and silky, excess amounts of it can give you an oily scalp. Too much sebum in your scalp can also lead to conditions like dandruff or scalp acne, that may eventually lead to hair loss. Fortunately, Ayurveda cites the use of powerful herbs that can reduce excess sebum production while enhancing the condition of your scalp and hair.
Read on for a detailed understanding of how sebaceous glands on your scalp work and natural remedies to reduce excess sebum in your hair.
What Is Sebum?
Sebum is your body’s natural moisturizer that nourishes your skin and hair. The sebaceous glands in the dermal layer of your skin secrete sebum, which is an oily substance made of a complex combination of lipids.
To be more precise, sebum is composed of glycerides, wax esters, squalene, free fatty acids, cholesterol esters and cholesterol.
What Are Sebaceous Glands?
Sebaceous glands  are exocrine glands which follow a holocrine mode of secretion (the complete cells ruptures to release sebum). These oil-secreting, berry-shaped glands are present everywhere on your skin with a higher concentration on your scalp and face. Sebaceous glands can either surround a hair follicle or exist separately. The only places that lack these glands are your palms and soles.
What Are The 5 Main Functions Of Sebaceous Glands?
1. Producing Sebum
The primary function of sebaceous glands is to secrete sebum, an oily substance that holds multiple benefits for your skin and hair. From lubrication to protection, sebum ensures that your skin and hair stay healthy. However, over-secretion or blockage of sebum in your pores, may lead to various skin conditions such as acne.
As per new medical research, sebaceous glands form a part of the skin’s immune system. By releasing antimicrobial peptides, sebaceous glands help protect the skin from various pathogenic attacks. In addition to AMPs, sebum, secreted by sebaceous glands, also contains free fatty acids that have antimicrobial properties and can prevent bacterial skin infections.
3. Supplying Vitamin E
Vitamin E, the wondrous antioxidant that protects your skin from ageing is supplied to your skin by the sebaceous glands. According to medical evidence, Vitamin E is majorly found in sebum and abundantly supplied to areas of your skin, where there are more sebaceous glands.
4. Regulates Body Temperature
Sebaceous glands play an important role in thermoregulation. They work together with the sweat glands in order to maintain optimum body heat which allows your body enzymes to function. In cold weather, the sebum forms a protective layer over your skin to prevent unwanted heat loss. During hot weather, sebum prevents excess trans-epidermal moisture loss by combining with sweat.
5. May Secrete Pheromones
Though this is still a debatable topic, many researchers believe that sebaceous glands may help in producing pheromones. Pheromones are like hormones secreted outside your body and act as chemical signals.
A. Role Of Sebum
One of the main functions of sebum is to lubricate your skin and hair and prevent damage due to friction. Sebum is transported via the hair shaft to the upper layer of your skin. It is due to the presence of sebum that your hair feels moisturized and your skin soft and supple. Dry skin problems begin to crop up with age as the sebaceous glands lose their ability to secrete enough sebum.
2. Retention Of Moisture
Sebum on your skin and hair works like a two-way protective layer. It checks moisture permeability and does not allow excess moisture to enter the hair shaft or the epidermis. At the same time, it prevents your skin from losing too much moisture in the form of transepidermal water loss. This regulatory function of sebum helps to keep your skin's moisture barrier balanced.
3. Maintains pH Balance Of The Skin
Sebum, in combination with your sweat, keeps your skin's pH within 4.5 and 6.2, which is on the acidic side. This acidic nature of your skin prevents bacterial infiltration thus protecting you from pathogen attacks.
4. Protects Skin From Sun Damage
Vitamin E transported to your skin by sebum has the ability to protect your skin from UV ray damage. Being a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E reduces chances of photo ageing due to UVR induced free radical damage.
Certain components of sebum are known to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal properties . Triglycerides in sebum can prevent the proliferation of gram positive microorganisms on your skin.
6. Aids Wound Healing
As observed medically, sebum's moisture-regulating and antibacterial properties aid in wound healing. While it helps the injured area by keeping it moist, it helps to ward off certain pathogens that may infect the wound.
Is Sebum Good Or Bad For Hair?
Sebum is good for your hair. Sebum produced by your sebaceous glands nourishes your hair shafts and keeps them moisturized. This prevents hair damage due to friction and dryness. Sebum coats your hair strands and protects the upper cuticle layer, giving your hair a smooth, soft feel.
Straight hair is less prone to dryness as sebum can easily travel from the root to the tip of the hair shaft. On the other hand, wavy and curly hair can easily get dry and suffer from tangles due the lack of sebum especially at the tips .
Does Excess Sebum Cause Hair Loss?
Abnormalities in sebum production can impact your hair’s health. While your hair requires sebum, too much sebum can clog the pores on your scalp. This may block the nutrition supply from the blood to your hair follicles and result in dandruff or bacterial infections, eventually leading to hair loss.
According to Ayurveda, an aggravation of your Kapha Dosha results in excessive sebum production. Hence, people who have a Kapha- Pitta dominant Prakriti or body constitution are more prone to oily scalp conditions.
How To Prevent Sebum Hair Loss?
Excess sebum secretion commonly leads to minor scalp conditions especially from seborrheic dermatitis. In rare and extreme cases, sebum hair loss may be observed. This happens when the excess sebum blocks your hair follicle and prevents nutrition from reaching your hair roots. With time the hair follicles are damaged, causing your hair to fall out prematurely.
However, such hair loss can be reversed by tackling the underlying trigger factors. Consult your Ayurvedic doctor for a thorough diagnosis to check if other medical factors are in play. In the meantime, follow the below-mentioned tips to keep the condition under control.
1. Keep your scalp clean to prevent sebum build up and bacterial infections.
2. Avoid scratching your scalp as it may lead to scalp injuries and hairfall.
3. Apply Ayurvedic hair masks made from hair-growth-promoting herbs such as neem, tulsi, hibiscus, triphala, aloe vera, brahmi and bhringraj.
4. Eat a healthy diet consisting of low glycemic index foods. Include vitamins, minerals and proteins to promote hair regrowth. Avoid fried foods. “Sebum make up is closely linked to the food one consumes, according to Ayurveda,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
5. Avoid applying hair gels, conditioners or serums to the scalp as they may further aggravate the condition.
6. Protect your scalp when your step out, as an oily scalp is often more prone to suffering from sun damage due to the presence of excess sebum.
7. Keep your stress levels low, as excess production of sebum can also result from stress related hormonal imbalances.
8. Practice yoga and exercise regularly to improve blood circulation to your scalp.
Vedix Tip: Contrary to popular belief, washing your hair everyday to reduce sebum hair loss may in fact affect your scalp health. Aggressive washing can further stimulate your sebaceous glands into producing more sebum to counter dry scalp conditions. Wash your hair 2 to 3 times a week with mild, Ayurvedic shampoos that clean your scalp without stripping your hair of its natural oils.
How to Reduce Sebum Production In Hair & Scalp?
Ayurveda recommends a number of Kapha pacifying herbs that have Keshya properties to nourish your hair and prevent excess production of sebum on your scalp.
A. Ayurvedic Herbs
Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki, the three powerful components of Triphala  are tridoshahara, i.e. they balance all three Doshas in your body, thereby improving your health holistically. Amalaki nourishes your scalp and bibhitaki’s astringent nature soothes overactive sebaceous glands. Triphala is also an antioxidant with antibacterial properties that rejuvenates your hair and prevents the growth of bacteria in sebum clogged pores.
This ancient herb is known for its tremendous ability to promote the digestive Agni. In turn, it improves your digestion and pacifies the aggravated Kapha Dosha. It also effectively removes Ama toxins from your body that can cause an imbalance in Kapha. Chitrak’s antioxidant nature has a therapeutic effect on many body ailments and may be helpful in reducing Kapha related health issues.
The widely available leaves of the drumstick tree or moringa, is an excellent Kapha pacifier. It also helps to balance your Pitta levels. Rich in oleic acid, moringa is hydrating and prevents your sebaceous glands from overproducing sebum.
Kumari or aloe vera is a proven remedy for treating excess sebum production on your scalp. Aloe vera helps clear sebum blockages from your scalp, thus ensuring proper nutrition availability to your hair follicles. Moreover, aloe vera's antibacterial nature keeps your scalp free from bacteria related infections.
Ashwagandha is a well-known Pitta Kapha balancing Ayurvedic herb used to control hair conditions arising from excess sebum production on the scalp. Ashwagandha improves blood circulation, which effectively detoxifies your scalp, thereby removing Ama toxins that can lead to hair loss.
Punarnava is the underrated Ayurvedic miracle herb with amazing Kapha pacifying properties. Frequent application of punarnava has shown gradual reduction in sebum production in people affected by sebaceous gland overactivity. Its cool, anti-inflammatory nature also calms scalp sensitivity caused by conditions like dandruff and scalp acne.
B. Essential Oils
Treating oil with oil may sound counterintuitive to most. However, as per the science of Ayurveda, the herbs used in these oils pacify the Pitta and Kapha Doshas and check excess sebum production. The oil base is merely a medium that helps your scalp absorb the goodness of these herbs better.
1. Neem Oil With Karpoora
Neem is cooling in nature and is used to pacify the Pitta and Kapha Doshas. Its antibacterial properties prevent bacterial infections due to overproduction of sebum on your scalp. Neem oil along with karpoora or camphor is a powerful sebum controlling remedy. It can also remove sebum induced dandruff from your scalp.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil’s astringent and antibacterial nature makes it an effective remedy for treating hyperactive sebaceous glands on your scalp. Massage your scalp for 30 minutes with this oil to calm your scalp and remove excess sebum from hair and scalp.
3. Amla Oil
Amla is a hydrating herb that soothes your scalp and prevents the need for excess sebum production. It can gently remove sebum build ups from your hair without irritating your scalp. Amla also exhibits certain antimicrobial properties which can keep scalp infections away.
4. Sesame Oil
Sesame is an amazing Kapha pacifying Ayurvedic herb. Massaging your scalp regularly with sesame oil can calm the effects of Kapha Dosha on your scalp, thereby reducing excess sebum production by your sebaceous glands. Sesame oil also promotes hair growth and can prevent hair loss due to excess sebum.
5. Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is a one-stop solution for all your oily scalp problems. Excess sebum can clog your hair follicles leading to various scalp problems such as dandruff, infections and scalp acne. Jojoba oil effectively battles all these conditions by regulating sebum production by the sebaceous glands on your scalp.
6. Patchouli Oil
Patchouli’s sebum balancing properties make it a great remedy for oily scalp. Regular application has shown a visible reduction in sebum production, thus preventing various sebum related hair issues.
C. Ayurvedic Shampoos
1. Reetha And Shikakai
Washing hair with reetha and shikakai has been an ancient Ayurvedic tradition. Enriched in natural saponins and hair growth promoting nutrients, reetha and shikakai are ideal for an oily scalp. Due to their Kapha balancing properties, these are used to control over-production of sebum by your sebaceous glands. They also prevent hair conditions caused by it.
To use, boil reetha in water and add this decoction to shikakai powder to make a paste. Leave it on your scalp for 30 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water.
2. Green Gram And Lemon Juice
Green gram flour is astringent in nature and can easily absorb excess sebum produced by the sebaceous glands on your scalp. Make a paste by adding some water and lemon juice. Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes, massage well and wash off. Apply this natural shampoo 2 to 3 times a week to prevent sebum build up in your scalp.
3. Green Tea
Washing your scalp 2 to 3 times a week with green tea can help in sebum control and also prevent oily dandruff conditions. Flavonoids present in tea prevent inflammations and keep your scalp free from itchiness and skin irritations.
Henna is known for its oil controlling and conditioning abilities. It is also beneficial for oily scalp that has a dandruff problem. Make a paste of henna leaves and add coconut oil to it. Henna powder can also be used. Apply it throughout your scalp and hair and leave it on for 30 to 40 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water.
5. Methi, Japa Patta And Triphala
All three ingredients have saponins or plant-derived surfactants that clean your scalp, nourish your hair and prevent sebum build-up. Japa (hibiscus) is known for promoting blood circulation to your hair roots and increasing hair growth.
To use, soak methi seeds overnight. Make a paste by blending methi, triphala and 5-6 hibiscus leaves. Apply this paste throughout your scalp and leave on for 20 to 30 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water.
D. Ayurvedic Diet
- Avoid foods that are too sweet, sour or salty in taste. These can aggravate your Kapha Dosha easily.
- Avoid cold beverages. Have beverages that are either hot or at room temperature.
- Oily and fried foods may not be a great choice if excess sebum production is your problem.
- Consume a wholesome diet that is freshly prepared, is light in taste and easy to digest.
- Include the below mentioned Kapha - Pitta pacifying foods for more benefits:
1. Vegetables: Carrot, lettuce, beetroot, celery, mushroom, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans.
2. Fruits: Apple, berries, peaches, mangoes,pomegranate, coconut, avocados.
3. Animal products: Chicken and eggs, Avoid red meat.
4. Cereals: Oats, barley, wheat, millets, brown rice, corn,muesli.
5. Spices: Ginger, coriander, turmeric, cardamom,cinamon, cumin, black jeera or kalonji.
E. Medical Treatments
Medical treatments include exfoliating shampoos that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and ketoconazole. Other treatment options may include topical Retinoids, Isotretinoin and Niacinamides. In case of hormonal imbalances causing excess sebum production on the scalp, oral contraceptives may be prescribed
How To Clean Sebum Plugs From The Scalp?
1. Wash your hair in lukewarm water using a mild herbal shampoo to remove surface impurities and mild sebum plugs.
2. For stubborn sebum plugs, hair steaming is a great treatment.
3. Apply a hair mask made of lemon, neem, shikakai, triphala and coconut oil. Leave it on for 20 minutes to loosen the sebum plugs. Follow it up with a gentle massage to exfoliate your scalp. Wash off with lukewarm water.
4. For extreme cases, use a salicylic acid shampoo or hair lotion for better exfoliation. Professional extraction methods are also available for hardened sebum plugs. However it is advisable to consult your doctor before resorting to such treatment.
The Last Word
Sebum produced by your body is necessary for your hair health. However, excess secretion of sebum can give rise to various scalp and hair problems. If the condition is ignored, it may eventually lead to the extreme condition of sebum hair loss.The best way to combat it is by following a healthy Ayurvedic routine that includes Dosha balancing herbal haircare, a wholesome diet and a healthy stress-free lifestyle.Know Your Dosha Now
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