OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology
Exocrine glands can be classified by their mode of secretion and the nature of the substances released, as well as by the structure of the glands and shape of ducts.
Merocrine secretion is the most common type of exocrine secretion. The secretions are enclosed in vesicles that move to the apical surface of the cell where the contents are released by exocytosis. For example, watery mucous containing the glycoprotein mucin, a lubricant that offers some pathogen protection is a merocrine secretion. The eccrine glands that produce and secrete sweat are another example.
Apocrine secretion accumulates near the apical portion of the cell. That portion of the cell and its secretory contents pinch off from the cell and are released. Apocrine sweat glands in the axillary and genital areas release fatty secretions that local bacteria break down; this causes body odor. Both merocrine and apocrine glands continue to produce and secrete their contents with little damage caused to the cell because the nucleus and golgi regions remain intact after secretion.
In contrast, the process of holocrine secretion involves the rupture and destruction of the entire gland cell. The cell accumulates its secretory products and releases them only when it bursts. New gland cells differentiate from cells in the surrounding tissue to replace those lost by secretion. The sebaceous glands that produce the oils on the skin and hair are holocrine glands/cells.
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