Why Your T-Zone Is Trying To Ruin Your Life

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The T-zone: It’s named for the T-shaped area it covers on your face, but it might as well be named for The Twilight Zone, considering how weirdly it acts compared with the rest of your skin.

For so many of us, the skin on the forehead, nose, and chin has a mind of its own, behaving very differently than the cheeks, jaw, and neck. More often than not, that behavior includes excessive oiliness, blackheads, and whiteheads, even when the rest of your face is clear and matte, or even dry. But, why? Why must the T-zone act out like an eternal teenager?

“The T-zone may look shinier or greasier than the rest of the face, as it has a higher content of oil glands producing more oil and sebum, leading to a higher probability of breakouts and clogged pores,” explains New York City dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, MD. “This usually results in what we call combination skin, where some areas are greasy while others are dry.”

Getting your entire face to cooperate can be a challenge, but it’s not an impossible one. Through trial and error, you can find a regimen that encourages skin harmony. We want you to deal with as little error as possible, though, so we’ve rounded up some of the best products and techniques for getting your T-zone under control.
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Don’t try to dry out your T-zone.
Using a super-drying formula on this area will only backfire on you. “The first step is to balance the skin — without stripping it of its natural oils, which will only result in producing more oil,” says Dr. Nussbaum. While it may be tempting to use an acne spot-treatment all over your T-zone, this could actually lead to even more greasiness when your skin tries to compensate for all that oil being zapped.

Spot-treat smartly.
Instead of using hardcore acne-fighting ingredients that’ll ultimately amp up the oil, treat your T-zone with a formula made specifically for its rebellious ways. Dr. Brandt’s Pore Thing T-Zone Pore Tightener contains gentle oil-controlling, pore-minimizing ingredients that won’t dry out the area, such as lentil seed, Eijitsu rose, and alpine extracts.
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Exfoliate like you mean it.
Once or twice a week, kick up the spot-treatment a notch by using a mask or scrub to help keep your T-zone clear. This one from Soap & Glory combines the drawing-out power of kaolin clay and diatomaceous earth with willow-bark extract, a natural source of salicylic acid at low-enough levels that it won’t overdry, to help unclog and mattify without stripping.
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Share some products with the rest of your face.
Your T-zone acts differently than the rest of your skin, so it’s wise to treat it differently. But, some products benefit your entire face, and for the sake of convenience, your cleanser should be one of them. “I recommend Sebamed Clear Face Cleansing Foam, which balances the skin's pH level, allowing it to be cleansed but not irritated,” Dr. Nussbaum says. “Additionally, it contains coconut oil, which has antibacterial properties that can fight the T-zone flares.” Plus, the mild, soap-free formula will help your face appear mattified.
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Up your blotting game.
Anyone can use blotting papers when the grease gets going, but you? You take it to the next level — starting now. Boscia’s linens are classics: We especially love the version that’s infused with black-bamboo charcoal, which adds extra antibacterial properties to the purifying power of these sheets.

Bring out the big guns.
If you’re ready to make a bigger investment in overhauling your T-zone, you may want to talk to a dermatologist about a laser treatment. Diode lasers like the Smoothbeam shrink your skin’s sebaceous glands, helping stop oil overproduction. In three to six treatments, you could see a complete 180 in your T-zone, but even a single session could make a noticeable difference.
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