What Are Sebaceous Glands? - Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 What Are Sebaceous Glands?
  • 0:39 Function
  • 1:24 Potential Issues
  • 2:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Sebaceous glands are very important for the overall health of our skin and body. In this lesson, learn more about these glands and their role in our lives.

What are Sebaceous Glands?

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and wondered why your face looks so oily and shiny in the frame? Maybe you even wanted to delete the photo or throw it away. Well, the reason why your face appeared so shiny is because your sebaceous glands were working hard.

Sebaceous glands are exocrine glands that release sebum. These glands are connected with the hair follicles, and, in most cases, sebum is released through the same pore through which hair grows. Sebaceous glands are located on every surface of your skin, with the exception of your palms, bottom lip, and the soles of your feet.


Sebaceous glands function by producing and releasing sebum in order to help protect and lubricate the surface of the skin. Sebum is composed of fat, cellular debris, and keratin. This lubrication helps to keep our skin from drying out and becoming susceptible to cuts. If your skin has ever felt very dry, then you know how much easier it is to cut yourself when your skin is dry versus when it is moist. It's important that sebum moisturizes the skin and helps to keep it intact, as we are subject to infection any time our skin breaks.

Sebum also makes our hair waterproof. We are all familiar with the saying that 'water and oil don't mix.' Secreting oil where your hair grows protects the hair from water, which would eventually evaporate and leave it brittle.

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