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Embrace Your Skin's Natural Oils: Five Myths About Sebum

No matter how often it's debunked, the myth that sebum should be stripped from the skin to prevent breakouts and excessive oiliness is one that's remarkably persistent. The reality is that the skin produces sebum for a number of good reasons!

Read on to discover what sebum is, and learn the truth behind five common sebum-related myths. Finally, we explain how a high-grade moisturizer that contains squalane oil can complement your body's sebum production to help keep the skin in top condition.

What is Sebum?

Sebum is the skin's natural moisturizer. Composed of a finely balanced blend of fatty acids, wax compounds, cholesterol, and triglycerides, sebum provides your skin with a nourishing, protective layer. 

Sebum has several functions, including:

  • Moisturizing the skin to prevent flaking and irritation.
  • Helping the skin to stay water-resistant.
  • Antibacterial properties.
  • Protecting the skin from damaging radiation.
  • An anti-oxidant effect.
  • An anti-inflammatory action.
  • Protecting the skin from friction by providing a moisturizing, lubricating barrier.

With so many benefits, it's clear that sebum is an essential requirement for healthy skin.

Myth #1 Sebum Makes Your Skin Too Oily

Produced in the correct amount, sebum will provide just the right amount of oil your skin needs for optimal health. Unfortunately, in some circumstances the sebaceous glands can be overstimulated, leading to the production of excess sebum. 

Hormonal imbalances are a key cause of excess sebum production, which is why teenagers are particularly prone to oily skin. Certain medications and pre-existing medical conditions may also interfere with the body's natural sebum production system. 

Sebum production declines with age, so in adulthood, it's highly unlikely that sebum levels will be problematic unless you have an underlying health problem that should be addressed.

Myth #2 Sebum Should be Removed

Given the long list of benefits that sebum provides, it's clear that sebum should be present on the skin for optimal skin health. For this reason, harsh cleansers or exfoliators should be avoided, as they may strip away the sebum, leaving the skin exposed to dryness and its damaging effects.

That said, air pollutants, dirt, and grime still need to be removed from the skin on a regular basis. To retain sebum whilst also removing grime, we recommend a squalane-based deep cleansing oil. This type of product can remove impurities at the same time as supporting and complementing the body's natural sebum.

Myth #3 Levels of Sebum Remain Constant

As already indicated, sebum levels vary considerably, depending on age. Babies and younger children have adult levels of sebum (which is one of the reasons their skin is so flawless). In puberty, sebum production can increase by as much as 500%. In adulthood, levels slowly decline, which is why many people find they have problems with dry skin as they age.

For older people whose levels of sebum are naturally dropping, squalane-based cleansers and moisturizers can help. Squalane is a plant-based compound that is very similar to squalene, one of the active lipids in sebum. Used regularly, squalane can reduce the negative effects of declining sebum levels.

There are a number of other factors that may cause sebum levels to decline, such as:

  • Stress.
  • A poor diet.
  • An unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Overexposure to the sun.
  • Some medications.
  • Health condition.

A healthy lifestyle and appropriate sun protection can make a noticeable difference to the skin's condition.

Myth #4 Sebum Causes Blackheads

Although sebum is one of the "ingredients" in a blackhead, there are other factors that can increase the likelihood of blackheads developing.

Blackheads are caused when dead skin cells, pollutants, bacteria, and excess sebum are deposited in pores. When exposed to air, this mixture turns black, giving rise to unpleasant blackheads. 

Sebum on its own doesn't cause blackheads. Blackheads are more likely to develop when:

  • Excess levels of sebum are produced (for example during puberty).
  • The skin isn't cleansed or exfoliated regularly, which allows dead cells and other detritus to build up.

To reduce the risk of blackheads, we recommend the following:

  • A high-grade skincare routine.
  • Sun protection.
  • A healthy lifestyle.
  • Appropriate medical management of any health conditions that are causing excess sebum production.

Myth #5 You Shouldn't Use Oils If You Have Oily Skin

As already indicated, adults are more likely to encounter skin problems due to a lack of sebum, rather than because they have an excess of it. 

It is unlikely that an oily moisturizer will make a difference in sebum levels. What may be more likely is that, if the wrong type of moisturizer is used, it won't be properly absorbed. This may lead to an unwanted oily sheen on the skin. Petroleum-based compounds, for example, can often leave the skin looking greasy and shiny.

As we age, it's important to ensure that the skin still receives sufficient oil in order to protect and moisturize it. When natural sebum levels decline, using a squalane cleanser and moisturizer can help to replace naturally reducing oil levels. 

Squalane's similarities to the body's natural sebum mean it has a number of beneficial effects on the skin and is well tolerated by most people. A squalane-based product is easily absorbed and will work in much the same way as the body's natural oils. Although squalane is a lipid (a type of oil), its composition and action mimic sebum, providing skin benefits without unwanted levels of greasiness.

A Squalane Cleanser Works With Your Body

If you're looking for a cleanser that works with your body to maintain healthy skin, a squalane cleanser could be the perfect solution.

Composed of a carefully chosen blend of active compounds, our squalane cleanser acts in a very similar way to the natural oils present in sebum. By gently nourishing and protecting the skin, squalane products provide effective aid to skin health. It can potentially reduce blemishes, enhancing the overall appearance of the skin. Suitable for almost any skin type, squalane cleanser may result in a noticeably smoother, healthier complexion.