If you have oily or combination skin, chances are good you struggle with the area on your face known as your t-zone. If you're unfamiliar with what exactly your t-zone is, imagine drawing a "T" on your face. Your t-zone consists of your forehead, nose, and chin—and it's an area that many of us struggle with. This area commonly has excess oil, acne, and blackheads, especially for people who have an oily or combination skin type.
Luckily, you can whip your face into shape and diminish the acne, oiliness, and blackheads that can be bothersome—it's all about taking the proper steps in your skincare routine. Keep in mind that some people can have an oily t-zone and dry cheeks; that's called combination skin. If that's the case with your skin then be sure to use separate products for your t-zone and your cheeks. You don't want to dry out your cheeks while clearing up the acne and blackheads in your t-zone! To get expert advice on managing an oily t-zone, we turned to celebrity dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, and celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas for their top tips.
Keep scrolling to learn how to care for your t-zone and banish excess oil for good, according to experts.
Meet the Expert
- Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, is a celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD.
- Joanna Vargas is a celebrity esthetician and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care.
- Julia Siegel, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Boston, Massachusetts and practicing at Boston Dermatology and Laser Center.
Wash Your Face Frequently and Regularly
If you have an oily t-zone—or any skin type for that matter—make sure that cleansing is part of your daily routine. "Wash your face regularly, at least two times per day," says Frank. This will help keep excess oil from building up on your skin, as well as remove impurities that build up throughout the day. Try using Neutrogena's Oil-Free Acne Wash ($10) to start your morning and evening skincare routines.
Use the Right Cleanser
If you're dealing with excess oil, you'll need to use a cleanser that's meant specifically for oily skin in that area. While an oil-free cleanser is a good option, Frank recommends using a "foam or gel cleanser and avoiding cream cleansers," like Caudalíe's Instant Foaming Cleanser ($28). To take your cleansing routine up a notch, Frank suggests using FOREO's LUNA 3 for Combination Skin ($199). This duo will give your t-zone the powerhouse cleansing it needs!
Try a Powder Sunscreen
You can also help combat shine with the help of a powder sunscreen, rather than using a liquid or spray formula. Vargas recommends Supergoop's 100% Mineral Invincible Setting Powder ($30) for combating oiliness. "It's great because it contains zinc, which eliminates the excess oil without signaling the skin to produce more oil," she says.
Board-certified dermatologist Julia Siegel, MD, notes that in terms of protection, powder sunscreen is unlike to be enough. "Some powders may not go on thick enough to fully protect your skin, so it may be helpful to also use a sunscreen lotion underneath," she says. And make sure to apply the powder all over your face, and not just in your t-zone.
Keep a Toner On Hand
If your t-zone is very oily but your cheeks are dry, use a toner to treat your t-zone. Toners are designed to get rid of excess oil and soothe your skin, and you can decide exactly where to apply it. If just your cheeks are oily, use a gentle cleanser all over your face, and then go over your t-zone with an anti-acne toner or toner formulated for oily skin. You can use a toner that has anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid to clear up your acne. Skin extra oily? Use a toner twice a day after cleansing your face. If your skin is mildly oily, use once a day. Keep in mind that for some people, using a toner twice a day or even once a day is too much; they may only need a toner a few times a week! Frank recommends Caudalíe's Vinopure Purifying Toner ($28).
Use a Clay Mask
Use a facial mask once a week that's formulated for acne or oily skin. Vargas explains that clay is a great way of pulling impurities from the pores. "A clay mask is perfect for an oily t-zone because everyone has larger pores in that area that tend to get clogged easily." Pulling away these impurities may help prevent breakouts in your t-zone.
If your cheeks tend to be dry, apply the mask only on your t-zone. Try Dermalogica's Sebum Clearing Clay Masque ($49). This will help to "absorb excess sebum," says Frank.
Make a DIY Mask
If you're like us, you love a DIY skincare recipe. We have good news: If you don't have a clay mask on-hand, you can make your own face mask to help manage an oily t-zone. Try Vargas' pore minimizing DIY recipe:
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup mashed strawberry
- 1/4 cup honey
"Mix together and apply to your face and neck for 10 minutes. It's soothing and will help your skin feel more tight," she says.
If you want to add some extra exfoliation, Vargas suggests adding two tablespoons of almond powder and scrubbing it onto the skin with extra time spent on the t-zone, where most blackheads are found. Leave it on as a beauty mask.
Get Some Pore Strips
Pore strips are a great way to clean out your pores, especially if you have blackheads. Make sure to use a toner after you remove the strip so you don't leave any residue behind. That said, be sure to use pore strips with caution since they can tug and pull at your skin causing damage instead of helping get rid of blackheads. Keep in mind that pore strips are only a temporary fix for blackheads. And if you want to have fun with your routine, Korean skincare brands make some cute and trendy (and effective) pore strips like TONYMOLY's Egg Pore Nose Pack ($7).
Use Oil-Blotting Sheets
Blotting sheets are an easy way to instantly get rid of excess shine. Frank explains you can "use a blotting paper to remove excess oil throughout the day." These discreet tissues are perfect to stick in your handbag or backpack to refresh your face when needed. If you are in a pinch you can even use napkins or toilet paper to blot excess oil on your t-zone. Blotting papers are super affordable and portable. Frank recommends Boscia's Clear Complexion Blotting Linens ($10).
Don't skimp on finding the right moisturizer just because you're dry in some patches and oily in others. Even oily skin can use a moisturizer.
Look for Salicylic and Glycolic Acids
Remember the salicylic acid we talked about early? It's an ingredient to take note of. "Use a product with salicylic and/or glycolic acids, which will keep pores clear," explains Frank. For an overnight treatment, he suggests using SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight ($80).
Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly
Another way to help combat excess sebum—and remove any buildup of oil on your t-zone—is to exfoliate. "Exfoliate your skin regularly, about two to three times per week," Frank says. Try Fresh's Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Exfoliator ($33).
Opt for Gentle Exfoliation
Speaking of exfoliation, it's important to be gentle while doing so. Vargas recommends using a gentle scrub like her Exfoliating Mask ($75), since these products are hard to over-use and keep the skin nice and clean. "Apply the scrub to clean skin twice a week. Use gentle circular motions, with extra time spent on the oilier t-zone, for three minutes for effective exfoliation," she says.
Pay Attention to Your Makeup Ingredients
When it comes to managing an oily t-zone, your skincare products aren't the only thing to consider—your makeup plays a role, too! "Avoid makeup with silicones and mineral oil, which will your clog pores," says Frank. "Opt for an oil-free or water-based tinted moisturizer instead."
He recommends using Laura Mercier's Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer ($47) and Pure Canvas Primer Blurring ($39).
Use Baking Soda
There are certain household items that can help you to manage an oily t-zone, and baking soda is one of them. In fact, Vargas suggests mixing baking soda with water and applying it as a mask. "Scrub it onto the skin and leave it for a few minutes. After rinsing with water, blackheads will be softer and ready to come out."
Try a Serum
One last tip—a face serum! Not just any serum, though. Frank recommends The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($6). The formula works to combat oiliness and minimize pores. Apply a few drops every morning and evening before moisturizing.