Your scalp is constantly producing sebum, but what is it for? Find out how sebum works to protect your hair.
What is sebum?
Sebum is a natural oil constantly produced by your sebaceous glands.
It’s the sebum produced by the glands on your scalp that can make hair look greasy in between washes.
We all produce it throughout our lives, but hormonal changes (during puberty or pregnancy, for example) can increase or decrease sebum production.
What does sebum do?
Put simply, it helps to protect your scalp and hair, to keep them healthy and feeling moisturized.
Sebum forms a kind of barrier on the surface of the skin to protect it from the elements, and oxidative damage (the same harmful force that causes skin aging).
It also travels down the hair shaft to protect each hair strand.
Your scalp oils also help to protect from bacterial infection by forming a barrier to keep most disease-causing microbes out.
What problems can sebum cause?
When the sebum builds up, it can start to cause problems.
First, there’s the look. A build-up of sebum can make the hair look greasy, dull and oily rather than looking healthy, shiny and voluminous.
Then there’s the risk of scalp and hair damage. The naturally occurring, dandruff-causing microbe Malassezia globosa is one organism that has evolved to live in sebum.
It breaks down these scalp oils into potentially irritating substances that can damage your scalp and hair.
If you’re sensitive to these irritants, you’re likely to experience itching and some degree of dandruff.
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