Sebumetry and Sebumtape

  • Bernard Gabard
  • André O. Barel
  • Peter Clarys


Skin surface lipids (SSL) are a mixture of epidermal lipids and lipids from the sebaceous glands (sebum). Epidermal lipids are found on the whole body and are the sole component of SSL in anatomical regions where no or only few sebaceous glands are present. High quantities of SSL are present on cutaneous areas with many sebaceous glands such as the face (forehead, nose and cheeks), the scalp and the upper parts of the trunk and of the back where sebum may make up to 95–97 % of SSL.

Free fatty acids and ceramides are typical markers of epidermal lipids. Sebum is a mixture of lipids found on the skin surface produced by the sebaceous gland, which is located in the dermis and associated with a hair follicle. Native human sebum contains squalene, waxes, triglycerides and some cholesterol. Squalene is a characteristic component present in relatively stable concentration (12–15 %). The composition of “mature” sebum on the skin surface results from the action of bacterial lipases partially hydrolysing triglycerides, from chemical oxidation reactions and from a small contamination by epidermal lipids. This explains the presence of cholesterol, of diglycerides and particularly of free fatty acids in mature sebum in addition to the components of native sebum.

Sebaceous gland function is very variable between individuals and influenced by many physiological and external factors. Most important are endocrine regulation, variations with age, gender and most probably ethnic group belonging and circadian variations. External factors are most importantly temperature, relative humidity and the season of the year (climate). The SCL (sebum casual level) and the rate of secretion SER (sebum excretion rate) are used to measure sebaceous gland function. Additionally, new sebum collecting techniques allow the determination of active sebaceous gland density. SCL amounts to 100–200 μg/cm2 in normal subjects and up to >500 μg/cm2 in hyperseborrheic subjects. SER represents the spontaneous refatting rate during early times after defatting which corresponds to sebum coming from the infundibulum. SER amounts to 0.5–2.5 μg/cm2 × min on the forehead and varies between 0.1 and 0.8 μg/cm2 × min on the scalp and on the cheeks.

Measurements of SER and SCL require strict control of different measuring conditions such as temperature, relative humidity (no sweating), time (circadian rhythm) and time after skin cleansing. Among other, more traditional one, recent measurement techniques use grounded plastic ribbon and/or microporous polymer films applied for a short time on the skin surface. Meaningful results are obtained only under strictly controlled experimental conditions.


Stratum Corneum Skin Surface Sebaceous Gland Plastic Film Skin Surface Lipid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Gabard
    • 1
  • André O. Barel
    • 2
  • Peter Clarys
    • 2
  1. 1.Iderma Scientific ConsultingBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Human Biometry and BiomechanicsFree University of Brussels (VUB)BrusselBelgium

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