sebum n : the oily secretion of the sebaceous glands; with perspiration it moistens and protects the skin
- Finnish: tali
- Korean: 피지[piji]
Locations and morphologyA branched type of acinar gland, these glands exist in humans throughout the skin except in the palms of the hands, lips and soles of the feet.
Sebaceous glands can usually be found in hair-covered areas, where they are connected to hair follicles. The glands deposit sebum on the hairs, and bring it to the skin surface along the hair shaft. The structure consisting of hair, hair follicle, arrector pili muscle, and sebaceous gland is known as a pilosebaceous unit.
Sebaceous glands are also found in non-haired areas (glabrous skin) of eyelids, penis, labia minora, and nipples. Here, the sebum traverses ducts which terminate in sweat pores on the surface of the skin. The inner surface of the lip contains sebaceous glands also, here they are common as Fordyce's spots.
At the rim of the eyelids, meibomian glands are a specialized form of sebaceous gland. They secrete sebum into the tears coating the eye, to slow evaporation.
SebumSebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum (Latin, meaning fat or tallow) that is made of fat (lipids) and the debris of dead fat-producing cells. In the glands, sebum is produced within specialized cells and is released as these cells burst; sebaceous glands are thus classified as holocrine glands. Sebum itself is odorless, but its bacterial breakdown can produce odors. Sebum is one cause of some people experiencing "oily" hair or skin if not washed for several days. Earwax is partly composed of sebum.
Sebum acts to protect and waterproof hair and skin, and keep them from becoming dry, brittle, and cracked. It can also inhibit the growth of microorganisms on skin.
CompositionThe composition of sebum varies from species to species; in humans, the lipid content is as follows:
Changes during developmentThe sebaceous glands of a human fetus in utero secrete a substance called Vernix caseosa, a "waxy" or "cheesy" white substance coating the skin of newborns.
The activity of the sebaceous glands increases during puberty because of heightened levels of androgens. In males, sebaceous glands begin to appear predominantly on the penis during and after puberty. This is normal, however, and not to be confused with an STD. In females, they appear predominantly in the labia minora.
PathologySebaceous glands are involved in skin problems such as acne and keratosis pilaris. The prescription drug isotretinoin significantly reduces the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, and is used to treat acne.
The extreme use (up to 10 times doctor prescribed amounts) of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders for muscle gain and repartitioning effects tend to stimulate the sebaceous glands which can cause acne.
A blocked sebaceous gland can result in a sebaceous cyst.
One condition involving enlarged sebaceous glands is known as sebaceous hyperplasia. Another common condition is seborrheic dermatitis.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer involving the sebaceous glands; sebaceous adenoma is a more benign neoplasm of the sebaceous glands.
Importance to other animalsCertain species of Demodex mites feed on sebum and are commonly found in the sebaceous glands of mammals, including those of humans.
- - "Integument: scalp"
sebum in Danish: Talgkirtel
sebum in German: Talgdrüse
sebum in Spanish: Glándula sebácea
sebum in French: Glande sébacée
sebum in Italian: ghiandola sebacea
sebum in Japanese: 皮脂腺
sebum in Dutch: Talgklier
sebum in Polish: Gruczoł łojowy
sebum in Portuguese: Glândula sebácea
sebum in Finnish: Talirauhanen
sebum in Swedish: Talgkörtel
sebum in Serbian: Лојнице