Comprehensive analysis of the major lipid classes in sebum by rapid resolution high-performance liquid chromatography and electrospray mass spectrometry

J Lipid Res. 2010 Nov;51(11):3377-88. doi: 10.1194/jlr.D008391. Epub 2010 Aug 17.


Sebum is a complex lipid mixture that is synthesized in sebaceous glands and excreted on the skin surface. The purpose of this study was the comprehensive detection of the intact lipids that compose sebum. These lipids exist as a broad range of chemical structures and concentrations. Sebum was collected with SebuTape(TM) from the foreheads of healthy donors, and then separated by HPLC on a C8 stationary phase with sub 2 µm particle size. This HPLC method provided high resolution and excellent reproducibility of retention times (RT). Compound mining was performed with time of flight (TOF) and triple quadrupole (QqQ) mass spectrometers (MS), which allowed for the classification of lipids according to their elemental composition, degree of unsaturation, and MS/MS fragmentation. The combination of the two MS systems detected 95 and 29 families of triacylglycerols (TAG) and diacylglycerols (DAG), respectively. Assignment was carried out regardless of positional isomerism. Among the wax esters (WE), 28 species were found to contain the 16:1 fatty acyl moiety. This method was suitable for the simultaneous detection of squalene and its oxygenated derivative. A total of 9 cholesterol esters (CE) were identified and more than 48 free fatty acids (FFA) were detected in normal sebum. The relative abundance of each individual lipid within its own chemical class was determined for 12 healthy donors. In summary, this method provided the first characterization of the features and distribution of intact components of the sebum lipidome.

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol Esters / analysis
  • Cholesterol Esters / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glycerides / analysis
  • Glycerides / metabolism
  • Glycolipids / analysis
  • Glycolipids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis*
  • Male
  • Sebum / chemistry*
  • Sebum / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Squalene / analysis
  • Squalene / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycerides
  • Glycolipids
  • Lipids
  • Squalene
  • Wax D