How to Reduce Sebum Production

How to Reduce Sebum Production

We've all been there. Looking at ourselves in the mirror only to find our skin looking oily and greasy. And it's not the good, post-workout kind of shine. It's all over your face, and it's extremely annoying and exhausting to deal with. It's also responsible for acne vulgaris, as extra oil can block pores and hair follicles.

However, with a little patience and research, and the right skincare products, we can all reach that happy state of balanced shine and moisture on our skin.

You might be wondering who's responsible for this oily mayhem. A substance called sebum is to blame. If you want to find out how to get rid of excess sebum and all the causes behind it, just keep reading.

What is Sebum?

Sebum is the substance that is produced by our sebaceous glands located all over the body, especially on the face and scalp.

Commonly referred to as oil, sebum is often demonized in terms of skin health and its functions. It mainly consists of naturally occurring oils, but there are also sugars, fatty acids, and other chemicals which are present in its formula. A normal amount of the skin's sebum production will moisturize and protect your face from damage or over-drying.

However, when the sebum our glands produce exceeds the normal amount, we can be left with a couple of problems. This is a common problem for people with oily or acne-prone skin since they already have excess oil.

The Function of Sebum

Sebum doesn't merely exist to torture our faces and cause acne breakouts. Believe it or not, the body's sebum production exists to protect the skin and hair from harmful influences and moisturize it.

What Are the Symptoms of Sebum Overproduction?

You might be wondering what the actual signs of sebum overproduction are and how it differentiates from having oily skin. Here are the most common symptoms of sebum overproduction:

  • Greasy looking skin, even after you wash it
  • Large pores
  • Constant congestion
  • Consistent acne
  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads

Causes of Sebum Overproduction


People who live in hot and humid weather tend to have oilier skin than those who live in cold and dry climates. However, if you have severely dry skin, your body may increase sebum production.

Not Applying Moisturizer

Some people believe that applying moisturizer to their skin might increase sebum production. However, it's been proven time and time again that those with oily skin need to moisturize after cleansing, especially if they use harsh chemicals, such as Retin A or benzoyl peroxide.

If you don't moisturize properly, your sebaceous glands will get a signal that your skin lacks oil and will produce even more sebum to overcompensate. You need to keep your skin hydrated, whether you suffer from oily skin, sensitive skin, or dry skin.

Instead of skipping moisturizer altogether, try using one appropriate for your skin type. Moisturizers and creams that are meant for people with oily skin are typically lightweight and don't sit too heavily on the skin. They are also almost always oil-free since adding additional comedogenic oils in skincare products is rarely a good idea for oily skin types. Misumi's Wrinkle-Free All Day Moisturizer is a great choice for treating acne.

Another label you should look for is "non-comedogenic." This will ensure you aren't wearing products that can cause breakouts.

Enlarged Pores

Enlarged pores can sometimes cause too much sebum on your face. Although this is a cause you can't have a direct effect on, switching up some of your skincare products usually gets rid of most of the excess oil, helping you control oily skin.


Hormonal medications (such as birth control pills) are notoriously associated with increased sebum production since it upsets your hormone levels. In addition, hormone replacement medication can also cause an overproduction of sebum as a side effect.

But keep in mind that oral contraceptives are also prescribed to reduce sebum production.

Generally speaking, any medication has the potential to increase sebum production and cause your skin to become oilier. If your medication is drying out your skin, your sebaceous glands will try to overcompensate and produce sebum, thinking it lacks oil.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Parkinson's disease has been correlated with the high production of sebum.

Generally speaking, any conditions which involve the pituitary and adrenal glands can cause fluctuations in the amount of sebum your body produces.


As we age, our skin protein decreases, which is good news since it means our skin becomes less oily the older we get. This is why some people's skin completely changes once they are in their mid to late twenties.

Your skin type might also change, requiring a completely new approach to skincare and new skincare products. This can be expensive for some people, but the results are usually worth it. If your skin becomes dry, it's wise to invest in effective anti-aging products.


There is some evidence to conclude that certain food can affect the body's sebaceous glands and cause them to produce more oil. Foods like refined oils, dairy products, and processed sugar can hurt the skin.

Dairy products, in particular, contain high levels of hormones such as testosterone which can lead to sebum overproduction and congestion.

Instead, increase the number of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains you consume.

Sebum Production and Hormones

Is there a correlation between sebum production and your hormones? The hormones which are in charge of sebum production are called androgen hormones. These are produced mostly by your adrenal glands. The more proactive they are, the more sebum the sebaceous glands produce.

Another hormone that has a role in sebum production is progesterone. The higher your levels of progesterone hormone, the more sebum is produced.

What can be done about this?

If your skin is producing more oil than you're used to, visit an endocrinology specialist and get a blood test to check your hormonal levels. If the abovementioned hormones are affected in any way, then your doctor might prescribe you hormonal medication to achieve an optimal balance. And if your hormones aren't to blame, look into the other causes.

How to Reduce Sebum Production

Isotretinoin (Accutane)

If you have severely oily skin and constantly suffer from acne breakouts, you might want to consider going on Accutane.

Isotretinoin is a part of a group of medicine called retinoids. These are essentially vitamin A derivatives that have the power to rewrite our DNA and permanently cause the sebaceous glands to shrink, producing less oil than before.

There are thousands of patients whose Accutane journey has been successful, but due to the serious potential side effects and precautions that go along with it, consult your dermatologist if you're considering going on Accutane. They will inform you about the treatment process and the products you will use topically.

If you're unsure about the medicine, you can always try applying Retin A topically first. It can be found in many skincare products (such as Misumi's Retinol Intense Repair PM Creme), and it has a lot of benefits, such as anti-aging properties and a decrease in acne and oil production.

Cleanse Your Face Two Times a Day

Acne sufferers have heard the good old "you should wash your face more often" more times than they can count. However, if you're going through an oily phase, the number of times you wash your face is important to regulate sebum production. It shouldn't be overdone, and you shouldn't neglect it.

The sweet spot is usually two times a day, in the morning and before you go to bed. If you're confused by some of these steps, click here for a comprehensive guide about creating your own routine.

Regular washing will remove all the dirt, sweat, dead skin cells, and bacteria on top of your skin. If you're a makeup user, using a gentle cleanser is the best way to remove makeup traces from the skin's surface.

In terms of picking out a cleanser, choose ones aimed at people with oily skin. It probably has an "oil-control" label. Go for ones with either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in their ingredients - especially if you have acne.

There are many salicylic acid products on the market, such as the Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser. This will remove dead skin cells, treat acne, and help you achieve healthy skin.

Use a Toner

Using a toner to balance sebum production is one of the most important steps in combating oily skin. Toners can do a myriad of different things for our skin; needless to say, they come with many benefits.

There are, however, certain things you should avoid when purchasing toner. Don't use toners with bad ingredients, like alcohol or fragrance, as this can cause dry skin, resulting in excess oil production.

Moisturize Daily

As we've mentioned before, moisturizing is crucial if you want to avoid over-drying your skin which can inevitably lead to the formation of excess oil.

Pick an oil-free moisturizer that will work wonderfully as both a hydrating product and a makeup primer.

Use Blotting Sheets

People with oily skin who wear makeup tend to pack layers upon layers of powder on top of their foundation. This can be damaging to the skin because it can clog the pores and prevent the skin from breathing.

There's an alternative to this which is very practical and stops breakouts - and that is to use blotting sheets on any shiny spots which appear on your face after you've applied makeup.

Blotting sheets are already a famous phenomenon within the makeup community, and for a good reason. They are easy to find, inexpensive, absorb all excess oil, and don't ruin your foundation all at the same time! What's not to love? You can buy blotting sheets in most drugstores and some makeup counters.

Ingredients That Help Stop Excess Oil Production


Coffee is not only amazing for preparing us for the day ahead, but it can also aid your battle against sebum production! Due to its high antioxidant content, it can lower the production of this oily substance.

So, how should you use coffee on your face? There are a couple of different ways you can include it in your routine.

For one, it makes for an excellent exfoliator! It can promote a healthy glow, boost collagen production and help with premature signs of aging. Some even claim that it has antimicrobial benefits, which can help fight off germs.

To make this efficient exfoliator, simply combine ¼ of a cup of fresh coffee grounds with 30 grams of brown sugar and some honey to bring the two ingredients together. Gently massage the mixture on your skin multiple times a week. If you use the same mixture on your body, you can also notice some cellulite reduction.


Looking to reduce sebum production naturally? It seems like every answer to a skincare question begins and ends with turmeric. This popular spice has been known for centuries to heal the skin and help many skin conditions, including redness, acne, and eczema. So it only makes sense that it affects sebum production too.

Turmeric helps with oily skin by lowering the amount of sebum produced. This happens due to its ability to neutralize the chemicals in our skin.

Here's a simple face mask you can try to decrease sebum production:


  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ papaya, mashed
  • 1 tsp coconut milk

Mix the ingredients to form a paste. Apply the mixture to your skin and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes before washing it off with warm water.

Other ingredients to reduce sebum production and achieve healthy skin include tea tree oil, green tea, and more.


Although oily skin is primarily due to genetics, there are some things you can do so that you can control excess sebum production. One of the most important steps to achieve this is to create a consistent skincare routine that focuses primarily on lowering sebum production.

There are other ways to speed up the process, such as using certain medications and skincare products. You can also add more fresh vegetables to your diet - not only will a balanced diet help gut health, but it will also help the skin produce less sebum.


What Is Sebum and Why Does It Build Up on Skin and Hair?

Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options

Study: Curbing a Skin Oil Might Help Reduce Acne

This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.

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