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10 Ways to Treat Oily Skin and T-Zone Breakouts


If you’ve read anything about skincare, you’ve heard about the T-zone. This area of your face, which includes your chin, nose, and forehead, is prone to excess oil and acne breakouts. But why is this such a problem area, and how can it be treated? Find out now.

What causes T-zone breakouts?

woman applying pore strip to nose

Our skin needs oil to remain supple and protected against harsh elements. This oil is called sebum, and is secreted from sebaceous glands located in our skin. Sebum is a mixture of nourishing fats and oils, and is a major component of our acid mantle. This is the protective barrier that covers our skin. Sebaceous glands are located underneath our skin, open into hair follicles, and exit through our pores.

Sometimes sebum production gets out of control. We can produce too much sebum, or an imbalanced combination of the ingredients that sebum is made from. This leads to oily skin and clogged pores, causing acne breakouts. And while a clogged pore can happen almost anywhere on the body — we have oil-producing pores everywhere except our palms and the soles of our feet — they are more common across the T-zone of the face. The reason for this is simple, we have more pores in that region.

What does the T-zone have to do with combination skin?

close view pores on a woman's face

You’ve probably heard of the five skin types — normal, oily, dry, combination, and sensitive. People with over-productive sebaceous glands in their T-zone but dry skin elsewhere are said to have “combination” skin. At Qyral, we know everyone’s skin type is unique and we can’t all be neatly packaged into a handful of skin types. The higher number of glands in the T-zone just means oil production in this area is more noticeable than elsewhere on the face. That’s both a good and bad thing. Nobody wants oily skin, but it’s the concentrated presence of skin oils that protect the most exposed regions of your face from becoming dry and irritated.

When the T-zone does get out of control, the trick is to balance oil production without stripping so much oil that your skin gets damaged. Or worse — if you remove too much oil, your sebaceous glands will produce even more to compensate, exacerbating the problem instead of making it better.

Here’s our tips for getting your T-zone under control while nourishing all of your skin, for a beautiful complexion that’s glowing with health.

1. Wash your face regularly

man washing his face with soap

It goes without saying, but washing your face every day really does help control oil production. Washing also removes impurities, pollution, and dead cells that can contribute to excess sebum and the breakouts that causes. Use a gentle face wash and don’t scrub your skin. This just creates more irritation that increases the need for protective skin oils.

2. Use a noncomedogenic cleanser

If you’re prone to blocked pores, the word “noncomedogenic” is magic. Noncomedogenic products have been tested and found not to block pores, and can therefore help prevent blackheads and acne. Stick with mild cleansers for the best results. Remember, increased oil production is a defence mechanism designed to protect your skin. The more harsh products you use, the more you’ll trigger the very effects you’re trying to prevent.

3. Avoid alcohol-based products

Lots of products marketed for oily skin are alcohol-based, for good reason. Alcohol is very effective at cutting through sebum and stripping oils. That might look great immediately after you’ve used the product, but long-term you’ll only encourage more oil production as your skin tries to compensate and correct the imbalance.

4. Moisturize every day

woman dispensing moisturizer onto hand

You might think your skin has enough moisture already, but part of the role sebum plays is to lock in moisture. As a result, oily skin can be a sign of underlying dryness. This is especially true if the skin around your T-zone is usually dry. Look for a water-based moisturizer that contains sebum-busting ingredients like salicylic acid.

5. Exfoliate 2-3 times per week

Excess skin oils can make it harder for the skin to shed the outermost layer, leading to a dull complexion and more breakouts. Using a gentle exfoliant helps keep your skin in optimal condition by speeding up this process. However too much exfoliation can have the opposite effect, stripping away essential oils and healthy cells, leaving the exposed skin red and raw. Exfoliating two or three times per week is usually optimal for oily skin, although if you find your skin getting irritated, you should take your cues from what your skin is telling you and reduce your exfoliation routine.

6. Add beneficial oils to your skincare routine

It might seem strange to add oils to oily skin, but it really can help. Your sebaceous glands create excess oil because they’re trying to protect your skin and solve an imbalance. By adding oil to your skin yourself, you signal to your sebaceous glands that they don’t need to produce any more. Jojoba oil is a great oil to try. It’s antibacterial, noncomedogenic, hypoallergenic, and molecularly similar to sebum, meaning your skin loves it!

7. Consider clay masks

woman using clay face mask holding makeup brush

Clay is awesome for absorbing skin oils and impurities, and is generally a safe and gentle treatment for problem skin. You can use a clay mask on your T-zone once or twice per week to help control oil production and keep your pores clear. Avoid using clay on dry skin, as it can absorb too much moisture and lead to irritation. There are many different types of clay available for skincare uses, so experiment with which one is best for you. Green clay has strong absorbing properties, while red clay is recommended for drier skin. Bentonite or volcanic ash clay can provide extra minerals and nutrients your skin needs. You can even make your own clay masks and add skin-loving ingredients such as honey, turmeric, tea tree oil, witch hazel, or aloe vera.

8. Find the right skincare ingredients

Salicylic acid is a powerful ingredient if you have oily or acne prone skin. Derived from willow bark, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is oil-soluble, meaning it uses the sebum on your face to help it get to work looking after your skin. It not only helps exfoliate the outer layer of dead skin, but penetrates deeper into follicles to unblock pores. Retinol is another great ingredient for problematic T-zones. Hyped as a skincare miracle ingredient, retinol can increase the production of elastin and collagen, unclog pores, exfoliate your skin, and balance hydration. There isn’t much it can’t do, and that’s fantastic news for irritated skin.

9. Stick to powder makeup

Power makeup is better for your T-zone for two reasons: the powder helps absorb excess oil, and it can prevent clogged pores. Just make sure you use a noncomedogenic formulation — silicone or mineral based makeup will clog pores, so be sure to avoid these ingredients.

While your makeup doesn’t necessarily treat the source of an oily T-zone, it can minimize the effects, keeping your skin looking matte and fresh all day.

10. Use blotting paper

If you notice your skin getting shiny throughout the day, invest in oil blotting papers to remove the excess. These products are great at spot-treating your T-zone and providing instant relief. Make sure to actually blot your face, don’t wipe, as wiping spreads skin oils around.

In conclusion

Getting an overactive T-zone under control can be tricky. However, by making a few simple changes to your skincare routine, and using products designed to treat the problem at a cellular level, you can balance your complexion, control oil production, and get healthy looking, happy skin that glows.

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