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Ingredients For Reducing Sebum



Below is a list of ingredients, along with relevant studies or anecdotes, that are indicated to help reduce sebum production, either directly or indirectly. I posted this on the Oily Skin forum, but I want it here too so that it has a greater chance of helping anyone else who is also searching for an oily skin cure. My next blog post talks about a new experiment I'm doing involving products that contain a number of these ingredients.

If you suffer from oily skin and are desperate for a cure, please consider experimenting with products that contain some of these key ingredients. The only way we will find a solution for oily skin is if we experiment.

Green tea (camellia sinensis)

60% reduction of sebum after 8 weeks using a formulation containing 3% green tea extract:


“Twenty mg of (-)epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in 0.2 ml 70% ethanol was applied to the left forehead twice a day for 6 days (FIG. 25). The L/R ratio decrease from 1.20±0.02 to 0.71±0.04 during this period . . . Clearly EGCG was more effective in reducing the sebum production from forehead than (-)epicatechin.”


“we examined the effects of EGCG, the major polyphenol in green tea, on human SEB-1 sebocytes and in patients with acne. In SEB-1 sebocytes, we found that EGCG reduced sebum”


“Steady and statistically significant reductions in sebum secretions were noted for mono (green tea) and combined treatments (green tea plus lotus) compared to placebo treatment.”


Ketoconazole (Nizoral)

“The sebum casual level appeared to be decreased by KCZ”

“A 19.4% decrease in the mean sebaceous gland area was observed in the KCZ group”

[Yes, the ketoconazole decreased the actual size of the sebaceous glands.]


“The sebum excretion rate is reduced with ketoconazole (-6.54%)”


Sea buckthorn (hippophae rhamnoides)

“Concentrated sea buckthorn (H.rhamnoides) fruit extract was entrapped in the inner aqueous phase of w/o emulsion. . . the Formulation showed statistically significant (P < 0.05) effects on skin sebum secretion.”


Licorice (Glycyrrhiza inflata or glycyrrhiza glabra)

Among the herbal extracts tested, polyol-soluble licorice extract P-U (product name) derived from Glycyrrhiza inflata showed the most potent testosterone 5 .ALPHA.-reductase inhibition, androgen receptor binding inhibition and antimicrobial activities, which are closely related to sebum secretion. In addition to the findings on polyol-soluble licorice extract P-U, clove extract and peppermint extract showed testosterone 5 .ALPHA.-reductase inhibition, arnica extract and rose fruit extract showed androgen receptor binding inhibition



Licorice study.


Licorice study.

Rose hip/fruit

Licorice study.

“Effects of rose fruit extract on sebum secretion were evaluated by determining the inhibitory effect on TSR activity and androgen receptor binding. Rose fruit extract showed inhibitory effects on TSR activity and androgen receptor binding.”



Licorice study.

I experimented with peppermint oil and saw results firsthand:

Saw palmetto (serenoa repens)

Study: " The study participants applied a cream containing saw palmetto extract, sesame seeds, and argan oil twice daily for four weeks. . . a significant reduction of sebum levels was noted—up to 42% in oily spots."


“In a study of 34 men and 28 women (18-48 years) topically applied SR [serenoa repens] extract in lotion and shampoo base for three months led to 35% increase in hair density and 67% increase in sebum reduction”


Sesame seed

First saw palmetto study.

Argan oil

First saw palmetto study.

Cedarwood oil

"The two extracts- cedarwood and poplar bud extract retained their activity at 0.5%. and effectively reduced the sebum levels."

“Cedar wood and elubiol application led to a significantly greater fall in the sebum reading at 6 weeks as compared to 3 weeks”



“After a couple of weeks, I noticed the chin was "dryer", indicative of less sebum being secreted than the other side . . . I can certainly assert that cedarwood alone helped that side of my chin to make less sebum."



“topical in vivo application of a formulation containing 2% L-carnitine for 3 weeks significantly decreased the sebum secretion rate compared to the treatment with vehicle.”


Hydrolyzed wheat and soy protein

“Mean sebum readings charts showed Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein and Hydrolyzed Soy Protein exhibiting similar profiles versus Elubiol, with sebum readings decreasing with time, from 124-138 mu g/cm<2> at baseline to 68-81 mu g/cm<2> at week 12.”

“a similar trial in Australia on Australian teenagers . . . again showed Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein and Hydrolyzed Soy Protein exhibiting similar profiles to elubiol with sebum readings decreasing from 145-155 mu g/cm<2> at baseline to 117-124 mu g/cm<2> at week 12”


"We have demonstrated the inhibitory activity of [soy] isoflavone . . . suggesting that genistein and isoflavone would be used as an effective agent for androgenetic acne and for the inhibition of secretion of sebum by modifying androgen conversion"



"Transactivation of the MMTV-luciferase reporter plasmid by 0.1 nM DHT was inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner by both lavender oil and tea tree oil"



"About a month-6 weeks ago I started using about 1 drop or less of lavender essential oil in my nightly moisturiser (Neutrogena Essential Moisture) . . . Since I made this change (and I have pretty much kept everything else in my pretty simply routine the same) I have noticed a huge difference- I now don't get shiny skin at all, but it doesn't really feel dry.”


“I noticed that Lavender oil helped reduce the oiliness. But it also dries out your skin if you don't moisturize.”

Tea tree oil

Lavender study.

Seaweed extract (laminaria digitata)

“The findings taken together suggest that SOZC can significantly ameliorate symptoms of acne vulgaris, particularly in terms of reducing sebum production and populations of Propionibacterium acnes.”


Green apple rind extract

“These results suggest that GAR-E can be applied in cosmetics to reduce facial pore size and sebum secretion.”



“Zinc displays 'in vitro' some antiandrogen activity through an inhibition of the 5 alpha-reductase activity”



“The results of the Japanese study demonstrated that the SER of the two groups was not significantly different at baseline, but the 2% niacinamide treated group demonstrated significantly lowered SER after 2 and 4 weeks of application. The results were somewhat different in the Caucasian study. After 6 weeks of treatment, the CSL was significantly reduced, but the SER was not significantly reduced.”


Pumpkin seed oil

“The oil fraction of pumpkin seed has been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase. The mixture of delta 7-sterols has been shown to inhibit the binding of DHT to androgen receptors.”



Other ingredients that are purported to have an anti-androgenic or sebum-reducing effect but don’t have studies or significant anecdotal evidence to back them up (that I can find).

Topical: Thyme, sage, nettle, rosemary, pygeum, azelaic acid.

Oral: Curcumin, resveratrol, magnesium, lithium.


Recommended Comments

Vitamin B6, azelaic acid are a few others from here


I am using I am using Pyrithione Zinc which is found in head and shoulders, It works great for back acne but does nothing for my face. Great list I have tried a few of those already, but I am going to work my way threw them. It is something I have been reading up on myself. Here is another good post on the subject.


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I didn't include azelaic acid because even though I found one study claiming that it mildly reduced sebum output, I've seen several other studies showing that it had no effect. I'll include it at the bottom of the post though. I'll look into B6. Let me know if you see any results from the topicals you're using!

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Dear Jofo, thanks for the articles!
Is your experiments led to a reduction in the production of sebum in your face?

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No unfortunately none of the topicals I tried (besides ppermint oil) had any noticeable effect on sebum output. I'm testing out internal vitamin A now.

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Hey Jofo ! Your blog is awesome ! How are you going now ? I see you didnt test B5 ?
I'm currently on accutane low dose for 3 years.... Did you find anything ?
Cheers !

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Hi there guys I was just wondering if someone could tell me what severity of acne I have. I have had acne since I was about 12-13 much worse than it is now. Currently I use epiduo every night with aveeno moisturiser afterwards and I use a black pore mask once a week. However despite this I continue to suffer with large red pimples under the skin that are painful and take a long time to go away. Does anyone have any tips to help get rid of these because they make me extremely unhappy and make me not want to show my face at times. Thanks a lot any help would be appreciated.

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