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How To Treat An Oily T-Zone

I’ll be the first one to admit; I love summer. There is nothing more satisfactory than leaving my apartment at 8 am in the morning and feeling warm. Plus, a Summer Friday every now and then never hurt anyone. But the one thing that drives me crazy is that magically on June 1st, my T-zone becomes an excessively oily hot mess—blotting papers, anyone?

Without fail, around 3 pm, I can feel my bronzer sliding down my face, and I get a deep urge to wash my face. Why is this happening to me?!? I turned to a dermatologist and an aesthetician to get some peace of mind and actual answers.

The first step in fighting my problem? Understanding what I’m up against. “Your T-Zone is your forehead, nose, and chin, and makes a T-shape on your face,” Jill Kibildis, a skin therapist at Heyday NYC, explains to me. “Quite simply, it behaves differently because it has more oil glands.” Unfortunately, that equates to one of the most undesirable skin conditions: acne.

(Related: Beauty Myths: Does Putting Toothpaste On A Zit Actually Work?)

“Teenagers are more likely to break out in the T-zone,” shares New York-based dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe. “But adults, particularly women, may see more breakouts along the lower part of the face and chin, which can signify hormonal acne. When I see adults breaking out along the T-zone, it can be due to stress or a new product they are using that could be clogging their pores.”

Next up? Admitting fault and analyzing my current skincare regimen. “Most people go overboard and strip their skin to feel squeaky-clean,” shares Kibildis. “That feeling may make you feel good, but it puts your skin in a very unhappy, imbalanced place. Make sure you’re not only treating the oily part but that you’re replenishing the less oily parts.” As popular as a product like toner or astringent might be, check the ingredient list first. “Anything with alcohol with wick away and strip moisture,” adds Kibildis—leaving you at square one.

As tempting as it might be to slather your entire face with an acne cream, simply put, slow your roll. “Some acne creams can be drying or irritating if you use too much, too soon. Start by using a pea-sized amount and dab that pea all over the face [every other night] to equally distribute it, then rub in. If you’re not dry or irritated after 2 weeks, then you can use it every night,” she explains. “To combat teenage and hormonal adult acne, I often prescribe my patients Aczone, a non-drying, non-irritating topical acne treatment with active ingredient dapsone to treat inflammation,” she adds.

Another skincare faux pas is over-exfoliating amidst a bad breakout. “If you’re fully broken out with active acne (think angry, red pimples), that may not help you,” advises Kibildis. “We know you want to scrub it all off, but don’t. However, exfoliation can help prevent breakouts. It’s all about moderation and being gentle on your skin.

Selecting the right moisturizer can be another challenge, especially if you have combination skin. “Look for a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog the pore,” shares Dr. Bowe. “I also recommend using a daily moisturizer with SPF. [In terms of formulas] lotions and gels are ideal for people with oily skin.” Other keywords to look out for are “mattifying” and “shine-reducing,” along with ingredients like glycerin, dimethicone, and silica to zap up excess oil.

An exception for heavier creams are only necessary if you are fighting dryness or irritation from ingredients like retinol or benzoyl peroxide. “Both [of these ingredients] are great for acne and oily skin, but can paradoxically create very dry patches even on oily skin.”

Thankfully amidst my frustration, Kilbis leaves me with a little reinforcement. “Be patient and consistent,” she shares. “The skin loves consistency, and it’s hard to know if something’s working overnight. As much as we’d love to wake up and see blemishes gone, seeing if a new product or regimen is working takes time. Give it a few weeks!”

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