The sebaceous glands of man show age-related differences in their activity as determined by quantitative and qualitative examination of sebum. Sebaceous secretion is low in children and begins to increase in mid- to late childhood under the influence of androgens. This rise continues until the late teens, after which no further significant change takes place until late in life. In elderly men, sebum levels remain essentially unchanged from those of younger adults until the age of 80. In women, sebaceous secretion decreases gradually after menopause and shows no significant change after the 7th decade. The most likely explanation for the decrease in sebaceous gland secretion with age in both men and women is a concomitant decrease in the endogenous production of androgens. Although surface lipid levels fall with age, paradoxically the sebaceous glands become larger, rather than smaller, as a result of decreased cellular turnover. Nonetheless, as the higher surface lipid levels after administration of fluoxymesterone (a synthetic testosterone derivative) indicate, the glands have the capacity to respond to androgens.