What is Sebum & How Does it Affect Acne?

Article Read Duration 5 min read

Our skin produces sebum, a natural oil found within the skin cells, which plays a vital role in maintaining the skin’s health, balance and moisture. Learning about sebum’s role within the skin cell structure can help us understand what healthy oil levels are and when excess sebum production may be occurring. The skin will thrive when the balance is just right, as over-stripping the skin of this important element can have detrimental effects, while too much will also see negative consequences. For visibly dewy, glowing, hydrated and healthy looking skin, you want to incorporate skincare that works to strike the right balance in oil levels, such as the La Roche-Posay Effaclar range. 

What exactly is sebum?

Sebum is a fatty substance produced by the skin, its oily texture comes from the sebaceous glands. Covering the skin’s surface, sebaceous glands are small pockets that are usually found near a hair follicle and each of these glands will produce sebum. The skin holds thousands of these tiny glands, and are most densely found on the face, chest and scalp. The sebum itself consists of wax, triglycerides, esters, squalene and cholesterol, it is housed in these sebaceous glands until it is released through a pore. These natural skin oils are a key element to the skin and play a major role in a healthy skin cell cycle.

Why is sebum important?

Lubricating and protecting, sebum allows the skin to stay moisturised. Without enough sebum, skin cells can become rough, flaky and dry, this can lead to a weakened skin barrier that can’t effectively hold moisture or block irritants from entering the skin. Ensuring that the skin holds enough sebum will help strengthen the skin, minimise dry skin and maintain the skin’s barrier.

What are sebaceous filaments?

Appearing as tiny, dark spots on the skin’s surface, many think that sebaceous filaments are blackheads. However, these small and usually unnoticeable marks are passages from the sebaceous glands to the skin’s surface. Acting as a passage for the sebum to flow to the surface of the skin, sebaceous filaments are important for releasing the skin’s oil so it does not become trapped beneath the skin. However, these too can become clogged when the oil production is too fast, so maintaining a healthy level of oil will avoid this blockage. These sebaceous filaments are a crucial element when maintaining a healthy cell cycle with a natural oil flow. .

Can sebum production cause acne-prone skin?


Oily skin is often associated with acne-prone skin and there is a strong link between the two skin concerns. Acne breakouts can be worsened by a variety of environmental, genetic and hormonal impacts. Three main elements that provoke acne-prone skin, are blocked pores, bacteria and excess sebum production. While sebum is crucial for maintaining well-moisturised skin, when dead skin builds up it can block the pores and trap the sebum beneath the skin’s surface. This oil results in what is called ‘comedones’ and when the comedones are closed, without airflow, a blemish will form. Having frequently closed comedones will result in acne-prone skin. Managing the skin’s sebum production and exfoliating away dead skin will help minimise breakouts, therefore, sebum does play a key role in the formation of blemishes.

3 steps to remove excess sebum from the skin!

Often having overactive sebaceous glands is genetic and hormonal, something that cannot be changed easily. However, there are ways to manage this excess sebum and remove it before it develops into acne-prone skin. There are a variety of important skincare ingredients that can be introduced into a skincare routine for oily and acne-prone skin, which can help to minimise excess shine for visibly balanced oil levels.


Step 1: Cleanse away bacteria or excess sebum


Using an effective cleanser designed for acne-prone skin can help reduce unwanted breakouts and minimise a greasy finish on the skin. La Roche-Posay offers the Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel Cleanser to wash away impurities and oil build-ups from throughout the day. Formulated with salicylic acid, this face and body cleanser uses a chemical exfoliant to encourage a healthy cell turnover and reduce dead skin build-ups that can trap sebum beneath the skin. Encouraging a healthy skin cell cycle where the oil can naturally flow from the skin’s surface, this is an ideal cleanser for acne-prone skin types. 


Step 2: Apply a serum that can help minimise acne-prone skin


After cleansing, applying a nourishing facial serum can help deliver the right ingredients into the skin to promote a clearer complexion. The Anti-Wrinkle & Anti-Acne Facial Serum uses chemical exfoliants to reduce acne-prone skin for a clearer and smoother complexion. This serum contains glycolic acid, an effective hydroxy acid for an anti-bacterial and anti-redness action, two important concerns when dealing with acne-prone skin. Using this targeted serum can help deliver important ingredients into the skin for a nourished complexion.


Step 3: Rebalance the skin with a moisturiser for oily skin types

Finally, you’ll want to seal in the good moisture with the Corrective Moisturiser for Oily Skin, a cream that both hydrates and targets unwanted breakouts. This moisturiser can address skin tone, redness, breakouts and clogged pores through the use of chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid and Lipohydroxy acid (LHA) which can create a more visible even skin tone.

When creating a skincare routine for acne-prone and oily skin types, choosing products with the right ingredients is essential. Using alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) and retinol can see strong skincare results as they all encourage a healthy cell turnover rate where sebum can be naturally released without clogged pores interfering.



Achieve a clear complexion and minimise any unwanted blemishes. Finding the right products is simple with La Roche-Posay, as we use carefully selected skincare ingredients to promote a visibly balanced skin tone. Browse the full Effaclar skincare range to find the right products that suit oily and acne-prone skin types.