Physiological Reviews

Control and function of sebaceous glands

A. J. Thody, S. Shuster


This review describes the various types of sebaceous glands, their locations, and where possible their different functions. All sebaceous glands are similar in structure and secrete sebum by a holocrine process. However, the nature of this secretion and the regulation of the secretory process seem to differ among the various types of glands. Methods for measuring sebum secretion and assessing sebaceous gland activity are also described. The area of major interest during the last 20 years has undoubtedly been the mechanisms that control sebaceous gland function. Most studies have focused on the endocrine control and in particular on the role of androgens and pituitary hormones, although evidence suggests that nonendocrine factors may also be important. However, many questions remain and during the next few years attention will certainly be given to the role of retinoids and their mode of action in the treatment of acne.