Is too much sebum on your face causing acne breakouts? Excess sebum production can be naturally controlled with simple Ayurvedic remedies.
While sebum is essential to keep your skin moisturized and healthy, an imbalance can lead to various skin issues. Excess or low sebum production depends on both external and internal causes such as hormone fluctuations, weather changes, intense physical activity, etc. Thus, to balance your sebaceous gland activity, you need a holistic solution.
Ayurveda’s time-tested herbal remedies not just resolve sebum fluctuations, but also delve to heal the underlying conditions. Read on to know the best Ayurvedic treatments and home remedies to balance sebum production on the face and other skin areas.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
“Healthy digestion is the first step in balancing sebum. Consume a diet that has less sugar and salt with low bad fats and is high in good fats like coconut milk, walnut, almonds and foods rich in omega and Vitamin E.”
Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor Of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
- What Is Sebum?
- What Is The Function Of Sebum?
- What Causes Too Much Sebum?
- Benefits Of Sebum
- How To Balance Sebum Production?
- Skin Problems Due To Overproduction Of Sebum
- How To Reduce Sebum Production?
- Skin Problems Due To Underproduction Of Sebum
- How to Increase Sebum Production?
- Frequently Asked Questions About Sebum
What Is Sebum?
Sebum  is an oily lipid secreted by holocrine glands located in the dermal layer of your skin. These glands are known as sebaceous glands. Sebum is produced in the cytoplasm of these gland cells (sebocytes) and is released into the pilosebaceous unit as they disintegrate. It takes about a week for sebocytes to form and mature.
As sebum is discharged into the hair follicle, it reaches the skin surface via the hair shaft. These oil glands are located all over your body (except the palms and soles), but are more densely packed in the face, inside the ear and around your genitals.
Human sebum is a mixture of unique lipids such as squalene, esters of glycerol, fatty acids, cholesterol and wax which provide protection to your skin.
Triglycerides and fatty acids
What Is The Function Of Sebum?
- The majority of your skin’s surface lipid is sebum. It keeps your skin moisturized and prevents transepidermal water loss.
- Sebum is also known to protect your skin from UV ray induced cell damage.
- Sebum contributes to your skin’s acid mantle that wards off infection and maintains skin immunity.
- It contributes to the growth of the natural microbiome (good bacteria) that resides on your skin.
- Sebum is known to exhibit anti-inflammatory abilities that keep skin inflammation in check.
- It helps transport Vitamin E to the epidermis.
- It contributes to body odor.
What Causes Too Much Sebum?
Impaired hydration/ rasa causes excess or low sebum production. As sebum is basically kapha, more sebum is produced due to an increased kapha. “Increasing a diet rich in heavy milk food items, sleeping during the day, consuming oily food, and sweets can cause too much sebum. Also, increased heat (pitta) can dry up all the moisture and result in oily skin. Excessive cleansing and dryness (vata) can also trigger oils as an overcompensation,” says Dr. Zeel.
Other reasons for too much sebum are,
1. Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones influence the production of holocrine lipids in one’s body. Low estrogen levels during menstruation, menopause and pregnancy can lead to excess androgen accumulation in the body. High androgen content can stimulate sebaceous glands, causing overproduction of sebum.
Sebum production is also affected by strenuous physical activities and exercise . It is proven that at the initial stage of exercise, when one begins to sweat, the sebum secretion is more than when the body is at a resting stage.
Hot weather can accelerate the production of sebum in one’s skin. As part of the body’s cooling procedure, excess sweat and sebum are discarded through the pores to reduce body heat.
4. Harsh Cleansing Methods
It is believed that over-washing oily or combination skin keeps it clean and acne-free. However, this can in fact lead to increased sebum production. Excessive cleaning leading to skin dryness can trigger the sebaceous glands into producing more sebum.
5. Health Conditions
Internal conditions such PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), Cushing’s Syndrome and others that lead to an increase of androgen and/or cortisol hormones, can cause overproduction of sebum.
Certain medicines that impact your body’s hormone balance can stimulate your sebaceous glands into making more sebum.
Benefits Of Sebum
Sebum along with other body lipids keeps your skin moisturized. It also helps to hold moisture better and prevents transepidermal water loss, thus bidding adieu to dry skin skin problems.
2. Supplies Antioxidants
Vitamin E , an important antioxidant that prevents cell damage and premature skin aging, is supplied to the skin by sebum. It is scientifically proven that Vitamin E, received from food sources and skin care products is transported to the skin surface via the hair shaft by sebum secreted by the sebaceous glands. Thus, areas that have more sebaceous glands get a better supply of this fat soluble antioxidant.
3. Improves Skin Texture
Sebum serves as a natural moisturizer for your skin and keeps it soft and supple. A balanced production of sebum prevents early appearance of lines and wrinkles, keeping your skin young and glowing.
Many claims have been made on sebum’s ability to protect your skin from sun damage. It is a known fact that UV rays are one of the primary causes of skin cell mutation and photoageing. Overexposure to the sun causes skin cancer. According to research, lipids in sebum such as squalene shields your skin from external damages including UV ray damage.
5. Prevents Inflammation
It is proven that sebum contributes to the skin’s natural barrier. It also exhibits certain anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce skin inflammation .
6. Strengthens Skin Immunity
The unique composition of sebum contributes to your skin’s natural barrier and protects it from various microorganisms. Its antibacterial properties prevent bacterial proliferation and keeps your skin free from skin infections.
7. Fosters Growth Of Natural Microbiome And Makes The Acid Mantle
The skin lipid film is mainly composed of sebum. This also forms the acid mantle that fosters the growth of good bacteria on your skin. This natural microbiome along with sebum, sweat and other skin lipids help maintain your skin’s pH balance of around 5.5.
With blood being alkaline, the acid mantle creates an unnatural environment for microbes trying to invade the body. The shift in the environment from externally acidic to internally alkaline makes it difficult for microbes to survive.
8. Creates Earwax
Sebum makes up most of your earwax that performs various important functions to keep your eardrums safe. Its moisturizing and antibacterial properties keep the interiors of your ear canal lubricated and prevent chances of infection.
Squalene, the component in sebum that prevents skin inflammation and offers sun protection to your skin, is unique to sebum. Nowhere else in the body is this compound produced as an end product.
How To Balance Sebum Production?
“Healthy digestion is the first step in balancing sebum. Consume a diet that has less sugar and salt with low bad fats and is high in good fats like coconut milk, walnut, almonds and foods rich in omega and Vitamin E. Water steeped with herbs like khus (Vetiver), fennel, yashtimadhu, when consumed throughout the day, can keep the skin plump and manage the sebum production,” says Dr. Zeel
Controlling your diet by avoiding hot spices and oily foods can help balance your sebum secretion. In addition to a light and healthy diet, an active lifestyle and an Ayurveda-recommended skincare routine can help lower your kapha levels.
Skin Problems Due To Overproduction Of Sebum
1. Oily Skin
Large pores and oily skin are two common skin issues related to overproduction of sebum. Hyperactive sebaceous glands especially in the T-Zone of your face (forehead, nose bridge, upper cheeks and chin) produce excess oil, giving your skin an oily and greasy appearance during the day.
2. Acne Vulgaris
Overproduction of sebum can lead to acne problems. Medically referred to as acne vulgaris, this skin condition occurs when excess oil, dirt and dead cells get trapped within your skin pore. This causes blackheads and whiteheads (comedonal acne) to appear in areas with excess sebaceous glands.
When bacteria gets trapped into one of these blocked pores, it causes infection and inflammation leading to inflamed acne lesions (pustules, papules and nodules). Deep acne lesions may take time to heal and cause scarring.
3. Sebaceous Hyperplasia 
In this condition, an overproduction of sebum occurs due to hyper-proliferation of sebocytes within the sebaceous gland. The excess sebum secreted gets trapped within the gland causing sebum-filled bumps under the skin.
How To Reduce Sebum Production?
A. Natural Ways
1. Rose Water
Washing your face with rose water or spraying it as a face mist or even using it as a toner can all help reduce sebum on the face. Being antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, it also helps fight acne. Rose water’s astringent properties prevent sebum plugs and keep your skin feeling fresh and rejuvenated all day.
2. Ice Packs
Massaging your face with an ice pack or simply rubbing an ice cube over your T-Zone can help reduce sebum on your face. Ice reduces excess heat on the face and prevents unwanted stimulation of your sebaceous glands.
3. Oil Cleansing
This is a great way to dissolve sebum plugs on your face. Using good oil to replace dirt, excess sebum and dead skin prevents skin damage from harsh cleansers. The oil keeps your skin moisturized, keeps your skin’s pH in balance and prevents minor skin issues.
4. Check Your Medication
Certain hormonal medications cause excess sebum production. Talk to your doctor if you are on such medicines on how to avoid their side effects. Medications such as isotretinoin  and contraceptives reduce sebum production.
5. Cut Down On Oily Foods
Though debatable, there are scientific claims that diet is a major contributor to your oily skin problems such as acne. Excess sebum on the face can be a direct effect of oily and sugary food consumption. Steer clear from processed foods and those that contain trans fats.
B. Ayurvedic Methods
Cleaning with this ancient herb unclogs your pores and removes excess sebum from the face. Arishtaka’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help heal skin infections and acne conditions.
How To Use
Soak arishtaka overnight. Boil it in water till the mixture begins to froth. Cool it down to room temperature and use it as a natural cleanser for removing excess sebum from your face.
2. Haridra And Chandanam
How To Use
Mix haridra and chandanam in equal parts. Add raw milk to it and apply on the face and other skin areas affected by the overproduction of sebum. Wash off after 20 to 30 mins.
Ashwagandha can provide a holistic remedy if you are experiencing overproduction of sebum on your face due to hormonal imbalance. It balances the kapha dosha and keeps your skin free from hormonal acne.
How To Use
Prepare a paste by mixing a small amount of ashwagandha with enough water. Apply on your face and leave it on for 30 minutes. Wash off with cool water.
A great balancer of kapha and pitta, padmak (Himalayan cherry tree) is often used to treat skin disorders occurring from both these dosha aggravations. Applying padmak on the face and other parts of the skin not only helps control excess sebum but also prevents scars and marks caused by acne lesions.
How To Use
Mix padmak powder with milk or water and apply on the affected areas. Wash off after 20 minutes.
Naranga is packed with antioxidants. Further, its astringent qualities help reduce excess sebum production on the face. Naranga is also used as a skin brightening agent and helps improve your skin complexion when used frequently.
How To Use
Mix naranga powder with raw milk and apply on the face. Leave it on for 30 minutes and wash off.
6. Kamal Gota
Kamal gota or lotus seed is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin conditions resulting from excess kapha. Along with kamal gota, the root of lotus can also be used to reduce excess sebum production.
How To Use
Add Kamal gota powder to raw milk and apply on the affected areas. Keep for 20 to 30 minutes before washing off.
Sariva balances all three doshas and is thus used to treat a variety of skin diseases in Ayurveda. Its cooling properties help reduce sebum on the face naturally. Moreover, being antibacterial, sariva prevents bacterial colonization in your skin that leads to the formation of acne.
How To Use
Add water or milk to sariva extracts in powdered form. Mix well to prepare a paste and apply on areas with excess sebum. Wash off after 30 minutes.
C. Facial Masks
1. Clay Masks
The cooling properties of clay masks help calm overactive sebaceous glands and stop excess sebum on the face. These masks help extract deep set oil, dirt and dead cells from blocked skin pores, thus giving your skin a clean and fresh feel.
1. Multani mitti
2. Milk/ Water/ Yogurt
3. Turmeric/ sandalwood/ kesar (optional)
How To Use
Mix all ingredients well to prepare your DIY oily skin clay mask. Apply well and wash off after 15- 20 minutes once the ingredients dry off.
2. Papaya Mask
Papain, a naturally occurring enzyme in papaya, is an excellent skin cleanser and rejuvenator. Using a papaya mask can not only stop excess sebum and acne on the face but also keep your skin feeling moisturized. Papaya helps improve your overall skin tone and removes sun tan and acne scars.
1. Ripe papaya
How To Use
To get rid of excess sebum on the face, mash half a cup of ripe papaya and add a spoon of honey to it. Blend well and apply on the face. Wash off after 20- 30 minutes.
3. Acai Berry Mask
The immense benefits of acai berry has made it a well sought after ingredient in skincare products. It is loaded with antioxidants such as Vitamin C and helps strengthen the epidermal barrier. Acai berries prevent pore clogging and its astringent nature reduces excess sebum secretion on the face.
1. Acai berry powder
2. Aloe vera/ Honey
How To Use
Prepare your own DIY acai berry face mask by adding 1 part of aloe vera or honey to 2 parts of acai berry powder. Mix well and apply on the face and skin areas that experience excess sebum production. Leave it on for 15 minutes and wash off.
D. Home Remedies
1. Tea Tree Oil And Black Tea
Tea tree oil’s  antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties coupled with the antioxidants in black tea help prevent excess sebum-related skin issues. Both ingredients being astringent in nature, keep your pores clean and balance sebum secretions on the face.
How To Use
Brew black tea and cool it down to room temperature. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to it and apply on the areas with excess sebum. This can also be used as a natural skin toner for oily skin.
2. Aloe Vera
Pure aloe vera gel can fight various skin issues including excess sebum on the face. Being light in nature, it can be used regularly as a natural moisturizer for oily and acne prone skin.
How To Use
Aloe vera can be directly applied on clean skin at any time of the day.
3. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel  is extensively used in skin care products for its ability to heal a variety of skin problems such as excess sebum, acne, inflammation, redness and skin irritations. It contains a high amount of antioxidants called tannins which enables it to repair damaged skin. Using this traditional herb to cleanse or tone your skin can help prevent sebum oil depositions on the face.
How To Use
Witch hazel extracts are available in liquid form. Check the concentration mentioned on the bottle and accordingly add a few drops to your regular skin care product as per the stated instructions.
4. Grapefruit Essential Oil
This citrus essential oil is antibacterial and packed with antioxidants. Its astringent properties and energizing scent can make your oily skin feel fresh and dry.
How To Use
You can add a few drops of grapefruit essential oil to water and use it to wash your face. Alternatively, you can add 10 to 15 drops of the essential oil to 6 spoons of a light carrier oil and apply it on your face. Wash off after 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar’s acidic nature prevents bacterial growth on the skin. Its astringent properties help treat excess sebum on the face. Including ACV in your daily skin care routine is known to be highly beneficial for oily, acne-prone skin.
How To Use
Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 4 tablespoons of water and apply on the face to reduce sebum oil. Wash off after 15 minutes.
Skin Problems Due To Underproduction Of Sebum
“Dryness on the other hand is triggered either by depletion of kapha or when kapha thickens/ dries and is unable to ooze out of the channels. Very cold climate and diet comprising very cold and thick food items like frozen yogurt can reduce kapha. Excessive heat (Pitta) can trigger dryness by depleting kapha. Excess vata can dry up the kapha and make plugs of sebum resulting in comedone laden dry skin,” adds Dr. Zeel.
1. Dry Skin
Lack of sebum can result in increased skin dryness. Skin cracking, peeling, redness and inflammation are all symptoms of dry skin. Underproduction of sebum not only affects the skin’s internal moisture source but also compromises the lipid film that holds moisture and prevents transepidermal water loss.
2. Premature Skin Aging
A lack of sebum hinders Vitamin E supply to your skin leading to the early appearance of wrinkles and lines. Further, squalene in sebum is known for its UV ray protection ability. An underproduction of sebum makes your skin more vulnerable to UV ray cell damage.
3. Increased Chances Of Skin Infection
A lack of sebum on the skin can decrease skin immunity. A weak epidermal barrier is unable to prevent microbial invasions, making your skin an easy target for infections.
How to Increase Sebum Production?
A. Ayurvedic Remedies
1. Herbal Oil or Ghee Massages
According to Ayurveda, regular Abhyanga or massage with vata balancing herbs, oils (coconut, sesame, mustard) and raw, uncooked ghee can increase sebum production on the face and skin. Abhyanga balances a vitiated vata and increases healthy kapha, thus balancing sebum production in the body.
Ela’s hot and oily nature and vata- kapha balancing properties help reduce skin dryness, keep your skin moisturized and increase sebum secretions on the face. Apply a paste of ela and ghee on affected areas regularly till skin conditions improve.
Shunti or dry ginger’s  hot, oily potency stimulates good kapha in the body. It balances excess vata, reduces skin inflammation due to dryness and aids sebum secretion on the face and other skin areas. Applying a paste of shunti and lukewarm water on affected areas can stimulate sebum production.
Using this oily medicinal herb to treat vata disorders has been in practice since ancient days in Ayurvedic medicine. Clove and clove oil can be mixed with ghee or coconut oil and applied on skin areas that are affected by an underproduction of sebum.
This Ayurvedic herb is extensively used to treat skin problems, liver disorders and body inflammation. Its sweet and heavy nature alleviates vata and increases the kapha dosha in the body. Topical application of this herb with honey/ ghee can enhance sebum production in the skin.
Vedix Tip: Add herbs like cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger to your tea and consume daily for a healthy generation of sebum.
B. Vitamins That Increase Sebum Production
1. Vitamin D
A healthy intake of Vitamin D can prevent various skin conditions that occur due to an underproduction of sebum. Vitamin D is also known to boost hormones that stimulate sebum secretion in the body.
2. Vitamin E
An essential antioxidant, Vitamin E, plays a pivotal role in determining skin health. Consumption and topical application of this antioxidant can help stabilize sebum production, keep your skin moisturized and protect it from environmental damages.
3. Vitamin B6 (Biotin) and B12
Both these types of Vitamin B help balance hormone fluctuations in the body that can lead to underproduction of sebum. Regular intake of foods rich in Vitamin B6 and B12 can improve sebum balance on your skin and bring a natural glow to your face.
C. Foods That Increase Sebum Production
“Oily herbs like cloves, cardamom, dalchini etc. when used with ghee and milk can help increase sebum production. Oily nuts, warm cow’s milk, butter, coconut milk and oil can all trigger healthy sebum,” adds Dr. Zeel.
Below listed are foods that you can include in your daily diet to boost sebum production:
1. Grains and cereals - Raw rice, barley, oats and corn.
2. Fruits - Avocado, banana, figs, olives, peaches.
3. Vegetables - Squash, sweet potato, zucchini, beetroot.
4. Non-vegetarian foods - Eggs, fatty fish
5. Nuts and seeds - Almond, peanuts, hazelnut, cashew, walnuts, pine, sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flaxseeds, sesame.
6. Oils - Canola, sunflower, mustard, sesame, coconut.
7. Dairy - Cheese, whole milk, yogurt.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sebum
1. Where Are The Sebaceous Glands Located?
These glands are part of the pilosebaceous unit which also includes the hair shaft, the arrector pili muscle and the hair follicle. Sebaceous glands are located in the mid-dermal layer of your skin and open out into the hair follicle.
2. Is It Good To Remove Sebum?
Your skin needs a certain amount of sebum for moisturization and protection from external damages and microbial invasions. However, it is a good practice to wash your face twice a day or after intense physical activities to prevent excess sebum from building up and clogging your pores.
3. Should You Squeeze Sebum Out Of Pores?
Comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads) is a nuisance but it is better to have them removed professionally. Forcefully squeezing sebum out of your clogged pores can result in skin damage and marks. It can also make your pores look larger than they actually are.
4. Does Increased Sebum Cause Acne?
Increased sebum secretion into a hair follicle can clog it, leading to the formation of a sebum plug. Sebum plugs often cause comedonal acne. If bacteria gets trapped into one of these blocked pores, it may cause inflamed acne lesions.
The Last Word
To balance sebum secretions on the face, opt for a skin care routine that does more than focus on cleansing the oil away. It must consist of ingredients that seek to calm the sebaceous glands, keep your skin moisturized, prevent clogged pores and improve the overall texture and health of your skin. Consulting with your Ayurvedic doctor can further help you understand your skin type and select the right diet and skin care ingredients that suit your needs.Know Your Dosha Now
1. Sebaceous Gland Lipids, Mar- Apr 2009
2. Effect Of Exercise- Induced Sweating On Facial Sebum, Stratum Corneum Hydration, And Skin Surface pH In Normal Population, Feb 2019
3. Genetic Control Of Sebum Excretion And Acne - A Twin Study
4. Sebaceous Glands As Transporters Of Vitamin E
5. Sebum, Inflammasomes And The Skin: Current Concepts And Future Perspective
6. Sebaceous Hyperplasia, Jan 2021
7. Changes In Long-Term Sebum Production From Isotretinoin Therapy, Apr 1982
8. Turmeric And Turmeric Containing Tablets And Sebum Production, Feb 2017
9. Tea Tree Oil Gel For Mild To Moderate Acne; A 12 Week Uncontrolled, Open- Label Phase II Pilot Study, Aug 2017
10. Antioxidant And Potential Anti-Inflammatory Activity Of Extracts And Formulations Of White Tea, Rose, And Witch Hazel On Primary Human Dermal Fibroblast Cells, Oct 2011
11. Anti-Oxidative And Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Ginger In Health And Physical Activity: Review Of Current Evidence, Apr 2013
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