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Why Do I Have Sebum Under Nails After Scratching My Scalp?

For those who have noticed clumps of yellowish oils appearing under their nails after scratching their scalp, it may be more than just dried skin cells – why do I have sebum under nails after scratching my scalp? This sebum under nails is a strange phenomenon, and is a result of the normal production of sebum from the scalp.

So, if you’d like to find out more about what this substance is and how it gets under our nails, keep on reading for the full low-down.

Why Do I Have Sebum Under Nails After Scratching My Scalp?

What is Sebum?

Sebum is an oily fluid secreted by glands located inside the hair follicles of mammals, including humans. It plays an important role in protecting and lubricating the surface of skin and scalp itself.

Sebum is made up of fatty acids, wax esters, cholesterol derivatives, triglycerides and squalene. Sebum helps to keep the skin moist and supple by maintaining an acid mantle which slows down bacterial growth on the skin’s surface as well as protecting it from water loss.

As sebum production declines with age, lack thereof could contribute to dryness, wrinkles and sagging in older adults.

The balance between too much or too little sebum production can be disrupted due to a variety of reasons, such as changes in hormone levels during puberty or menopause, reactions to certain medications or genetic predispositions that control how our bodies produce oil.

Too much sebum can result in acne breakouts, while not enough can lead to dullness and scaliness, causing you to need extra moisturizing through creams and serums.

Cleansers with gentle surfactants are essential if you have excess oil production since they help rid your face of dirt while still preserving some natural oils, leaving your complexion balanced—not overly dried out nor too greasy either.

Similarly exfoliating regularly helps remove dead cells, so new ones can emerge, giving you a brighter complexion, but being careful not to over-exfoliate.

Which can strip away all your sebaceous lipids, weakening its barrier function, leading to potential irritation or other issues like sensitive skin types that are more prone to dehydration due to their impaired ability to produce adequate amounts of sebum on their own.

How is Sebum Produced?

Sebum is an oily secretion produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. It is composed of fat, wax and other substances including fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidants and pheromones.

Sebum helps protect our skin from environmental conditions, keeps it moisturized, and also serves as a natural lubricant for hair follicles.

The production of sebum is largely regulated by hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, which can be influenced by stress levels or dietary intake.

Certain age groups will produce more or less sebum than others due to hormone fluctuations throughout life stages.

Why Does Our Scalp Produce Sebum?

Our scalp produces sebum for a few reasons. Sebum is an oily substance that helps to keep our scalp and hair healthy by providing it with moisture, protecting it from environmental aggressors like dirt and pollution, and preventing the buildup of bacteria.

One of the main functions of sebum is to lubricate our scalp and protect it from drying out, which can happen due to sun exposure or excessive use of chemical products such as shampoos and conditioners.

Sebum production also helps prevent scalp buildup, since its oily nature keeps the pores on our scalps clean. This prevents follicles from becoming clogged or blocked, which can lead to dandruff and other conditions like psoriasis or eczema.

Sebum is created by apocrine glands located in the dermis layer in our skin, just below our scalp’s surface.

These glands produce small amounts of lipids, which then mix with sweat particles to create sebum when released through the pores on our skin’s surface. It’s important that we don’t overproduce sebum because this can cause an oily scalp.

This results in more frequent washing of your hair with harsh products that strip away moisture. Maintaining proper hydration levels will help sustain natural oil production and ensure your scalp remains healthy despite exposure to pollutants present in everyday life.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Scalp Suffering From Excess Sebum?

When a scalp is suffering from excess sebum, the most common symptoms that can be noticed include an oily sheen to the hair, greasy or flaky dandruff flakes on the scalp, an itchy and irritated feeling on the scalp, and strong odors emanating from the head, thanks to the scalp buildup of gunk and sebum plugs.

Other visible signs include enlarged pores on the scalp and clogged hair follicles caused by excess oil buildup. These symptoms often cause discomfort, making it difficult to wear hairstyles such as ponytails or braids without having residue left behind. In severe cases of overactive sebaceous glands, redness and bumps may appear as well.

How To Reduce The Amount Of Sebum On The Scalp?

How To Get Rid of Scalp Sebum Buildup?

When it comes to reducing sebum on the scalp, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Here are some tips to help reduce a sebum scalp buildup issue:

  • 1. Wash Hair Regularly – Washing hair regularly is essential to keep sebum buildup at bay. But be careful not to overdo it—washing too frequently can strip away natural oils that help keep your scalp and hair healthy. Experts suggest avoiding shampooing every day and instead washing no more than three times per week, using lukewarm water.
  • 2. Use Clarifying Shampoos – If you experience excess sebum buildup, reach for a clarifying shampoo. This type of shampoo is specially formulated with ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine and glycerin to help strip away extra sebum and impurities without stripping away natural oils.
  • 3. Try Apple Cider Vinegar – Believe it or not, apple cider vinegar has long been used as a natural remedy to reduce sebum buildup on the scalp. When mixed with water, the acidic content in the vinegar helps balance the pH level of your scalp and remove excess oil. Try adding two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm water, then massaging it into your scalp before shampooing.
  • 4. Avoid Overusing Hair Products – Hair products like gels, mousses, and sprays are designed to boost volume or hold styles in place, but overusing them can actually weigh down your hair and clog up pores. To avoid this problem, opt for light formulas that are designed to be used sparingly and wash off easily.
  • 5. Invest in a Haircut – Regularly getting haircuts helps remove the outermost layer of sebum from your scalp, which, in turn, helps reduce buildup and keeps your hair looking healthy. If you’re prone to sebum buildup, try getting a trim every 6–8 weeks.

Why Do I Have Sebum Under Nails After Scratching My Scalp?

Sebum, otherwise known as the body’s natural oil, is produced in the sebaceous glands all over your scalp. The purpose of this oil is to promote healthy hair growth and to keep the scalp from becoming too dry.

In some cases, scratching or rubbing of the scalp can cause an increase in production of sebum, which results in it being deposited underneath your nails of your fingertips.

This can happen for a variety of reasons including genetics, skin type, hormonal changes within your body, and even environmental factors such as exposure to UV radiation from the sun or pollutants from air or water pollution.

Sometimes stress levels and anxiety can also trigger an increase in sebum production, resulting in it accumulating under your fingernails after scratching your head.

Having excess sebum under your nails can lead to bacterial and fungal infections that may be difficult to treat if left unattended. It is therefore very important that you wash your hands thoroughly regularly, as well as ensure proper hygiene when caring for your scalp by not excessively scratching it.

It’s advised that you use only cleansers specifically formulated for the scalp, so they don’t strip away its natural oils while washing away dirt and debris.

If you suffer from excessive scaly patches on your head along with increased amounts of sebum underneath nails, then perhaps consulting a dermatologist might be a good idea.

So, they can review potential underlying causes for these symptoms occurring alongside lifestyle modifications that could possibly help alleviate them over time.

Is It Possible To See Sebum In Other People’s Hair And Scalps?

It is possible to see sebum in other people’s hair and scalps. Sebum is the natural oil produced by the body that helps condition and moisturize the scalp, as well as provide protection from external pollutants.

It is typically visible on lighter-colored hair or when examining a person’s scalp under magnification, such as when looking through a microscope. When there is an overproduction of sebum, it can become visible on the surface of one’s head and appears like a thin film.

It may vary in color depending on skin type, with some individuals experiencing an oilier scalp than others, which produces more sebum than necessary.

Those with coarse or curly hair are more likely to have noticeable amounts of sebum due to trapping pockets of air within each strand where the oil can accumulate.

If you suspect someone has excessive amounts of sebum in their scalp, then it would be best to visit health professional for evaluation and potential treatments if needed.

How To Get Rid Of Sebum Under The Nails?

How To Get Rid Of Scalp Buildup Sebum Under The Nails?

When it comes to removing excess sebum from under the nails, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, here are a few tips that can help get rid of the white stuff sebum under my nails:

Firstly, use a nail brush to gently scrub away any built up sebum underneath your nails. This will help to remove any stuck on debris and help unclog pores around the nail bed. It will also help reduce any swelling or discoloration of the skin that might have occurred as a result of excessive sebum buildup.

If you find that your nails are still too oily after brushing them, consider using some exfoliating products (especially those containing salicylic acid). Once applied, these products should work to break down any oils and bacteria that may be hiding under the nail.

Another option is to apply natural oils such as jojoba oil or almond oil directly onto your nails and gently massage it into the skin beneath them.

This helps replenish moisture into the cuticles, which in turn will reduce excessive sebum production. You can also take some over-the-counter supplements like biotin and vitamin E as they both play an important role in healthy nail growth and regulating skin oiliness.

Lastly, make sure you keep your hands moisturized with hand cream so that excess oily deposits don’t build up within them again – this will prevent further acne on your hands.


Sebum is an oily lubricant produced by the sebaceous glands in our scalp to keep it hydrated and protected from environmental aggressors.

If you scratch your scalp, you can get a waxy buildup, caused by a production of sebum, leading to it being deposited onto our fingertips in the form of clumps, giving a yellowish hue under nails.

To reduce a sebum buildup issue, if necessary, one should regularly wash their hair with gentle cleansers that are designed not to strip away natural oils. 

Exfoliating products specifically created for your scalp may help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores where excessive oil accumulates.

If you’re worried about developing any underlying conditions due to excess sebum present on your scalp, then consulting a health professional might be best practice, as they will be able to provide advice tailored specifically for you and potentially prescribe treatments depending on the severity of symptoms.

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