sebaceous gland (səbāˈshəs) [key], gland in the skin of mammals that secretes an oily substance called sebum. In humans, sebaceous glands are primarily found in association with hair follicles but also occur in hairless areas of the skin, except for the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. Sebum is a mixture of fat and the debris of dead fat-producing cells. These cells are constantly replaced by new growth at the base of the glands. Generally the sebum is deposited on the hairs inside the follicles and is brought up to the surface of the skin along the hair shaft. In hairless areas, the sebum surfaces through ducts. Sebum lubricates and protects the hair and skin and prevents drying and irritation of membranes. Sebum may collect excessively as a result of poor hygiene, a diet rich in fats, or accelerated glandular activity, especially during adolescence. Excessive secretions of sebum may be related to acne, certain forms of baldness, and other skin disorders.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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