What is the function of oil glands?

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Our skin has oil glands which secrete essential oils to keep it moist and soft. The moisture helps the skin in fighting against outside climate and infections. But just as too much of even a good thing can be bad for us. The excess oil leads to pimples and the presence of oil on the skin, especially face, causes acne. Acne is very painful and secrete pus cells, not to say the bad look it gives to the face. Acne can occur anywhere on the body including the face. It also leaves ugly scars on the face which can leave life long scars sometimes. But why do we get acne or pimples? Due to the presence of oil glands!


What are oil glands?

Oil glands, also called as sebaceous glands are so small that they can be only seen under microscope. These are present in the skin and perform the function of secreting oil deposits on the skin hair. This secretion is termed as sebum. The main function of sebum is to protect against germs. But when it is secreted in excess, which could be due to hormonal imbalance or other side effects of medication, it causes acne.


Where are oil glands located?

Oil glands are present in all body parts wherever the skin stretches except for palms and the soles. These are more prominent in hairy body parts and are joined with the skin via hair follicle. Oil glands are sometimes even present in non hairy parts like nipples, penis, eyes, nose and Labia Minora. Around 300 oil glands are present per sq. inch of skin. Oil glands are also present on scalp, chest, back and face and become mature during puberty and start secreting sebum.


What are the functions of oil glands?

The primary function of oil glands is to protect the skin. These glands by secreting and producing sebum, lubricates hair and skin in the mammals. Huge amount of sebum is helpful in protecting our skin from water and it also assists in controlling the microorganism growth on the skin.


What is sebum?

In Latin language Sebum is the synonym of fat. Sebum presence helps to keep the hair and skin in mammals moisturized and saves it from being cracked, dry and also brittle. It is made up of lipids, dead fat producing cell clusters and wax. Sebum” is the Latin word for “fat”. It is the oily secretion of the Sebaceous Glands which keeps the hair and skin moisturized and prevents them from cracking, turning dry and getting brittle. The sebum is present in following composition :

  • Triglycerides – 40%
  • Wax monoesters – 25%
  • Free fatty acids – 16%
  • Squalene – 12%

Sebum is produced in the oil glands and is then further stored in small duct. It then reaches the hair shaft rising from the glands and then finally comes up to the surface of the skin via hair follicle. During the process of coming up, sebum pushes away all the dust particles or germs and debris of the skin that are present inside the hair follicles. Owing to the presence of sebum, hair follicles do not have any depositions of foreign material and on the other hand sebum is aided by the hair follicle for reaching the skin surface. So they both are inter -dependent. Mostly sebum is odorless but mild odor can be created when sebum breaks the surface of skin.


What are the problems caused due to overactive oil glands?

Sometimes the oil glands secrete sebum or oil in excess and become hyperactive. This usually happens in young people in the age group of 12 to 20 years. This over activity of oil glands leads to lot of skin disorders like:

  • Steatoma
  • Seborrhea
  • Acne
  • Milia
  • Comedones
  • Sebaceous Cysts
  • Ectopic Sebaceous Glands
  • Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma


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