How to Care for Combination Skin the Right WayDecember 15, 2022
If your skin is dry in some areas and oily in others, you most likely have a combination skin type. When you have combination skin, it can be challenging to create a skincare routine that can address both dryness and an excess of oil. You may find that some products are too hydrating, while others get rid of too much oil, leaving your skin flaky and irritated. Needless to say, having combo skin can be quite a balancing act. To help you achieve comfortable, healthy skin, we’re sharing everything you need to know about combination skin, below.
What Is Combination Skin?
Combination skin types struggle with both oily and dry skin areas on the face. Your T-zone might produce excess oil throughout the day, while your cheek area might peel or be excessively dry. According to studies, combination skin may have “regional differences in sebum secretion,” depending on the area of the face.
How to Determine If You Have Combination Skin
You can determine if you have a combination skin type if your skin exhibits both oily and dry qualities at the same time. Because these areas are different, it can be tricky to nail down a skincare routine that provides benefits to both, without drying out or adding extra shine to your skin. Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali previously told Skincare.com that “combination skin is by far the most common skin type” he sees in his patients. Often, it’s those who “come in with oily T-zone areas (nose, eyebrows, chin) and dry skin at the periphery.” We suggest visiting a board-certified dermatologist to determine what skin type you have.
Skincare Tips for Combination Skin
Read on for some simple tips to care for combination skin like a pro.
Avoid Harsh Soaps
First things first, pay attention to what kind of face wash you are using. Some soaps are formulated with ingredients that can strip your combination skin of vital moisture. This can trick your skin into thinking it’s dry, leading to hypersecretion of oil. So, not only can harsh soaps irritate your skin, they can also further aggravate your skin concerns.
Blot Away Excess Oil
Store some blotting papers in your purse, at your desk and in your car to help address unwanted oil in a pinch. “Grab a blotting paper and gently dab different areas of your face,” Dr. Bhanusali previously told Skincare.com. “If the sheet becomes translucent, it’s indicative of oil absorption.”
Exfoliate Regularly, But Not Too Often
Exfoliation is a key skincare step that involves sloughing away dead skin cells from the surface of skin. It helps your complexion appear less dull and also feel smoother to the touch. If you have a combination skin type that tends to get oily in spots, this step is a must.
As for how often you should exfoliate, there’s no universal frequency because exfoliation largely depends on your skin’s tolerance levels. No matter your skin type, you’ll want to avoid over-exfoliating as it can irritate your face. When in doubt, tread lightly and start by trying it once a week and slowly building up to two-to-three times per week, as tolerated. Your dermatologist can also help you determine what exfoliation ingredients are ideal for your skin type and concerns.
Multi-Mask to Target Different Facial Areas
One of the perks of having combination skin is being able to multi-mask. Multi-masking uses a targeted approach by allowing you to customize the mask you use on different areas of your face. For instance, it may be best to apply an oil-absorbing clay-infused mask like the Youth to the People Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask and a hydrating face mask, like the Kiehl’s Avocado Nourishing Hydration Mask, onto your cheeks.
Our Go-To Skincare Routine for Combination Skin
Need some help forming a skincare routine for your combination skin? Below, check out some of our go-to steps. Of course, we suggest visiting a board-certified dermatologist who can help you form a personalized routine that fits your skin type and concerns.
STEP 1: Cleanse Gently
It’s best to use skincare products tailored to your specific needs, and this is especially true for combination skin types. Morning and night, use a gentle cleanser to rid your skin’s surface of dirt, excess oils and lingering impurities. It can be creamy, foaming or gel-based, as long as it’s non-irritating. To help prevent blemishes in oily areas, we like the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser. The best type of cleanser for combination skin is one that can cleanse and balance oil without over-drying your cheeks or other dry patches. At night, always remove your makeup with a makeup remover wipe or cleansing water first. This helps ensure that your pores are free from buildup while you sleep.
STEP 2: Consider Balancing With a Toner
After cleansing, a toner can help to restore and balance your skin’s pH levels. Look for one formulated to help hydrate dry skin and minimize oil at the same time, like the L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 5 Percent Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner. It refreshes and smoothes your complexion while removing excess residue.
STEP 3: Moisturize Often
Having combination skin isn’t an excuse to skip moisturizer. Similar to SPF, all skin types need hydration. Stick to oil-free moisturizers that won’t add additional grease to your T-zone. The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Mattifying Moisturizer helps to target oil for a dual mattifying and pore-refining action, making it a great base to wear underneath makeup. If you prefer a gel formula, try the Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer for a more lightweight finish.
STEP 4: Protect With SPF
The number-one, non-negotiable skincare product that everyone should be wearing every day — regardless of your skin type — is broad-spectrum sunscreen. It’s essential to protect skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, even when it’s cloudy outside. If you have combination skin, look for a lightweight, non-greasy option like the SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30.
The Best Serums for Combination Skin
IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Glycolic Acid Serum
For a serum that will help exfoliate and balance combination skin, look no further than this potent little bottle. It contains glycolic acid which works to improve skin texture and tone, plus hyaluronic acid to guarantee moisture.
CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum
If you struggle with breakouts on your combination skin, we recommend trying this retinol serum. It works to resurface uneven skin tone and texture left behind from pimples, and even contains niacinamide to ensure a soothing application. If you’re new to retinol, introduce the ingredient slowly by incorporating it into your routine once or twice a week, and then work your way up to using it more frequently. Your dermatologist can help you determine if the ingredient is right for you.
SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF
If you have acne-prone combination skin, we love this Silymarin CF formula that works to minimize the appearance of breakouts and keep your skin looking matte. Bonus: Vitamin C improves skin dullness as well, to give you a brighter, smoother-looking complexion.
Tower 28 Beauty SOS Intensive Redness Relief Serum
Combination skin can sometimes mean stubborn breakouts that seem to stay red for weeks at a time. Combat the appearance of these pimples with this redness relief serum that helps calm and smooth the area. The hypochlorous acid promises to balance out the skin, which is pretty much a dream for combo-skin types.
The Best Moisturizers for Combination Skin
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Micro Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides Plumping Cream
For a moisturizer that will give you a boost of hydration and won’t sit too heavy on your combination skin type, try this drugstore favorite. It has hyaluronic acid and ceramides to help moisturize the skin and smooth out fine lines. The consistency is so good it won’t leave you feeling greasy, either.
Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Lightweight Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid
This lightweight option combines kale, green tea and hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin and keep it looking calm. It will help give you that lit-from-within glow without leaving you looking excessively shiny.
Kiehl’s Calendula Serum-Infused Water Cream
There’s a good reason why this water-based moisturizer is a combination skin favorite — it works to keep the skin looking calm, hydrated and shine-free. It has calendula extract to help visibly improve the appearance of redness and discoloration, giving you hydrated, glowy skin in a snap.
Renée Rouleau Daily Mattifying Solution
Keep shine at bay with this mattifying moisturizer that’s chock-full of good-for-your skin ingredients like witch hazel, totarol, honeysuckle extract and sodium hyaluronate. Combined, the brand guarantees a smoother, mattified and clear complexion.
Bioderma Hydrabio Gel-Cream
This lightweight gel-cream formula is a must try if you have combination skin. It helps boost hydration and radiance, all while keeping the skin matte, fresh and never shiny.
The Best Toners for Combination Skin
Thayers Rose Petal Toner with Witch Hazel
Clarify the skin with this witch hazel-infused toner and thank us later! Your combination skin will drink this one up for a matte, balanced finish. Not to mention, it has aloe vera for extra hydration.
Lancôme Absolue Rose 80 Toner
If your acne-prone combination complexion has resulted in dark marks and discoloration over the years, opt for this revitalizing toner that works to brighten the skin. It has salicylic acid plus sodium hyaluronate to help gently exfoliate, as well as e the addition of rosewater to help moisturize and soften.
Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner
Minimize pores with this toner made with f glycolic acid, grapefruit extract and aloe vera. The glycolic component works to gently retexture and soften the skin, while the aloe nourishes and hydrates.
INNBeauty Project Down to Tone Resurfacing Acid Toner
This toner is made with lactic, salicylic, malic, gluconolactone and citric acid to help brighten the complexion, plus niacinamide to soothe.
The Best Face Washes and Cleansers for Combination Skin
La Roche-Posay Purifying Foaming Facial Wash
Mattify your skin with this foaming facial wash that contains prebiotic spring water and ceramides to balance out the complexion. Our favorite part is that it won’t leave your skin feeling dry or stripped post-cleanse.
Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleansing Gel
Deeply cleanse congested combination skin with this gel that works to minimize the appearance of large pores and breakouts. It has salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and clarify the skin, plus volcanic water to hydrate and cleanse.
Biossance Squalane + Elderberry Nourishing Jelly Cleanser
This gel option is rich in antioxidants and a must-try on your drier areas if you have combination skin. It combines elderberry extract, a prebiotic complex and squalane to help balance out, brighten and soften the skin.
BLISS Clear Genius Clarifying Gel Cleanser
Salicylic acid is combined with Brazilian sea water in this detoxing gel formula to help improve the look and feel of skin. It works to keep the complexion looking matte while still radiant, and it can help decongest the skin, too.
Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Cleanser
AHAs, glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid are combined in this cleanser for a thorough and brightening wash. It helps even out uneven skin tone and rough texture over time.