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October 06, 2021

Have you ever wondered why your face sometimes looks greasy and shiny? The answer is sebum oil ...too much of it.

Have you ever wondered what makes your beard reasonably glossy and soft before you even enhance it with beard oil? Again, the answer is sebum oil ...when it’s in balance.

The health of your beard is directly related to the health of your skin – and sebum oil is the common link. 

With a little knowledge and care, you can achieve a balance so your beard stays glorious and your facial skin stays in the “Goldilocks” zone – not too greasy, not too dry, but juuuuuust right.

What exactly is Sebum oil?

Sebum oil is a yellowish, waxy, oily wonder-substance that your body produces everyday. 

To put it simply, sebum oil forms a defensive layer on your skin that helps fight off bacteria and infections while simultaneously sealing in a layer of moisture to keep skin flexible and stop it from drying out.

When everything is working properly, sebum is awesome for the health of your facial skin, your hair follicles and your beard itself.

When things are not working properly, or when the environment around your face isn’t favorable, you produce either too much or too little sebum oil:

  • Too much and your skin looks and feels greasy. Then dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria can stick to the oil and become lodged in the pores of your skin, causing irritation, infection, acne and folliculitis. Hormone levels in teenagers cause excessive sebum production, leading to infections and acne.
  • Too little sebum and your skin dries out and sheds excessive flakes, causing itchy, scratchy, unsightly beard dandruff (beardruff).

What does “skin oil” have to do with your beard?

Everything! Anywhere hair grows, sebum is produced – although most is produced on and around your face. 

In balance, sebum provides ideal lubrication for your skin and beard hairs. It’s made by your sebaceous glands, which are attached to hair follicles. You literally have millions of these microscopic glands on your body, scalp and face.

Sebum oil and your sebaceous glands are essential to your skin’s very structure and ability to function. And when skin functions properly, beard hairs can flourish.

Your sebaceous glands release sebum into hair ducts. As hairs grow, they bring sebum to the skin surface with them. Some of it stays on the follicles, some stays on the skin, and some coats the beard hairs.

What’s in this oil?

In a word, lipids. These are made up of oils, fats, waxes and hormones that are vital for skin and follicle health.

But why is acne more common on your face than anywhere else?

The major reason is that facial skin contains more sebaceous glands. As we said earlier, too much sebum oil results in dead skin cells, dirt, dust and bacteria getting trapped in pores, causing inflammation, infection and eventually acne breakouts.

The other major factors in play are hormones and genetics, along with environmental elements.

Teenagers get zits galore because they have high hormone levels coursing through them – hormones they need to mature into adulthood – and some of that activity causes excessive sebum oil on the face.

What about beard acne?

It’s not your beard itself that causes beard acne. It’s your levels of sebum oil and your cleansing and grooming routine (or lack of).

When you’re a bearded bro, if you don’t wash, oil and brush your beard regularly, the hairs will become loaded with dirt, bacteria and dust particles. The unwashed skin beneath will become laden with built-up sebum, which will hold those particles against your skin and in your pores.

If you oil your beard too heavily, it’s like having too much sebum and again pores will become clogged.

What do you do about low sebum production?

Dry beard and skin happens when the sebum oil produced by your face isn’t enough to keep the skin, the follicles and the whiskers lubricated in a healthy way. When your face stubbornly stays dry and you just can’t get rid of flaky beardruff, you gotta change things up. Here are some tips:

  1. Wash your face and beard using lukewarm water. No hot water – it strips sebum oil away and dries your skin like a raisin. This rule goes double if you live in a place with really low humidity.
  2. Wash your beard only with a professional-grade beard conditioner shampoo. Regular soap and shampoo will scrub away everything harshly like paint stripper. Beard conditioner shampoo is specially formulated to keep your skin and beard hydrated and healthy.
  3. Apply a beard moisturizer after washing it and patting it dry with a towel. It’s called beard moisturizer but it’s especially for your face. It will provide that thin protective layer of lubrication that sebum should provide.
  4. Apply beard oil. Only a few drops are needed, so don’t go overboard. More is definitely not always better here. Rub it in thoroughly - right down to the skin.
  5. Brush your entire beard to distribute a super-light and even coating of moisture and oil. No combs – they snag and tug and don’t distribute moisture properly along the hairs. A wild boar bristle beard brush is ideal for delivering the even coating while gently massaging your skin.
  6. Drink tons of plain water and eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, walnuts, and seeds.

How do you handle excessive sebum production?

Got persistent beard acne or folliculitis? Sick of your face and beard looking greasy?

Do almost exactly what we said above about handling low sebum production. The only difference would be:

  • Maybe ease off the beard moisturizer. Maybe. Try it and see. 
  • Maybe try a little less beard oil. But don’t stop oiling your beard. Just use a drop or two less. Every bearded bro needs beard oil. Needs
  • Keep up the brushing. Maybe even brush one extra time each day. Make sure that sebum oil is distributed well.

In summary, while you can’t make permanent changes to your face’s sebaceous glands and how much sebum oil they produce, there’s plenty you can do to manage the issue. Properly managed sebum oil results in healthier facial skin, a healthier beard, and a much happier bro.

If you still have questions, drop us a line and let us know your exact situation. We’re happy to help and point you in the right direction. In the end, all we want is for our fellow rugged bros to look and feel their badass best!