The “T Zone” Area of the Face : What is it?
Sebum is something that should be looked at as a savior for your skin as you get older. However, in our youth, as it was for me, all I wanted it to do was go away.
I would have loved to be one of those kids with dry skin, the kind that never has to worry about a breakout. But no, I had extremely oily skin (and still do to this day, at almost 40 years old), and I also happened to struggle a lot with acne as a youth.
One of the areas of my face, the notorious T-zone, was the one that gave me the most trouble. This is not surprising, seeing how this “zone” is any adolescents bane until they figure out how to control their skin and what products to use.
However for me, it was more of the bottom of my T-zone that was the problem. It was my chin, which is often the most bothersome for most teens, which blossomed with acne at least once a week, sending me to the dermatologist only to get another medication that only worked temporarily.
More sebaceous glands and sebum in the T-Zone area
Sebum is the oil that comes up through the skins pores that helps lubricate and protect the skin. It helps protect us from the environmental toxins, from dehydration, and yes even from wrinkles since it provides a constant natural lubrication which helps prevent the “cracks” associated with aging.
It can be a Godsend when your skin starts to age, but in the teen years it can really cause problems because of the typical hormone swings we see around that time that cause it to really go into overdrive.
This, combined with bacteria becoming trapped in the pores, is what causes acne vulgaris. The sebaceous glands are not that far below the skin’s surface and they are really concentrated in this T-zone area, which is comprised of the forehead, the nose, and the chin area. This is why this area of the face is typically the highest-sebum producing area of most people’s bodies.
In fact, sebaceous glands can be found everywhere on the body in varying degrees of concentration, accept the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Not surprisingly, the areas where these glands are absent also happen to be the hardest hit by dryness and often need the most “outside help” for moisturizing and keeping soft and pliable, such as from a topically applied moisturizer or oil.
The sebaceous glands attach to the fine hairs that come out of our bodies, and it is through these hairs, which breach through the surface of our skin via “pores”, that the sebum reaches the surface of the skin and goes to work as a natural moisturizer and protectant.
If you happen to struggle with a super oily skin type, simply make sure you cleanse with a good antibacterial soap that also does not dry the skin out. You don’t want to dry out the skin and send it back into overdrive with oil production, but you do want to cleanse the surface of acne-causing bacteria.
Some medications can help with the oiliness, or they can address the secondary causes of acne, which is the most common skin condition associated with overly oily skin. However, many of them (actually most of them) have side effects.
The most well know and controversial one actually is a derivative of vitamin A, and shrinks the sebaceous glands down to almost nothing. However, this also isn’t good since these are still our body’s primary way of moisturizing and lubricating the skin.
Others, like antibiotics, only address the secondary problem that causes acne, which is infection and inflammation of the pores by clearing infections quickly. The problem with this is that you can be on antibiotics for weeks at a time and this greatly depletes the healthy flora (probiotics) in the gut which just sets you up for a whole different (and often more serious) set of problems.
Simply keep a nice little set of blotting sheets handy to blot away the shine in the T-zone. Eating right and staying away from foods that do not promote internal health will help keep your skin clear, and your body producing just the right amount of sebum. Of course, there are always those of us who are just naturally more oily, but that is easily controlled as long as the other issues that cause acne can be kept under control.