- Combination skin has both oily and dry areas
- Gentle products work best for use on the entire face
- Problem areas can be targeted with stronger products
- Keep your skin healthy with products containing hydrating, exfoliating and anti-aging ingredients
Combination skin is characterized by having both oily and dry areas. Usually, the forehead, nose and chin (called the T-zone) are oily and the cheeks and jawline are dry.
To address the unique needs of combination skin, you need to have not only the right skin care products, but to apply them correctly to deliver active ingredients to the areas that need them without irritating the areas that don’t.
How to Care for Combination Skin
Because combination skin is both oily and dry, it can have a wider range of issues than skin that is uniformly one way or the other.
A frequent challenge for people with combination skin is finding products that are appropriate for use on their entire face because the different zones of their face have very different needs.
To address this issue, for any product that you use on your entire face, such as foundation, choose a formula that’s gentle enough for both oily and dry skin.
For area-specific issues like dry skin on your cheeks or an oily T-zone, apply stronger products to those areas alone.
Types of products for combination skin
Because there is a lot of variety within the combination skin type—some people are on the oilier side, some on the drier—there are few rules for product types to use. You may need to use some trial and error to discover whether creams, gels, lotions or liquids work well with your skin.
Ingredients to look for in combination skin products
A few ingredients are particularly useful for combination skin because they work well on both oily and dry areas.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and photo-protectant that promotes collagen growth while brightening skin tone. It is one of the most multi-purpose skin care ingredients and highly beneficial to combination skin.
For both oily and dry skin, adequate hydration is crucial to maintaining skin health. Hyaluronic acid draws moisture into the skin to hydrate without adding any oil that causes breakouts or greasiness in your T-zone. It has also been proven to help skin retain elasticity.
If you’re starting an anti-aging skin regimen, peptides are the perfect ingredient to begin with. Peptides signal to the body to produce more collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep skin looking firm and wrinkle-free.
Best Exfoliants for Combination Skin
Exfoliation is a key skin care step for combination skin. Regular exfoliation loosens the clogged pores and debris that contribute to acne in the oily parts of your skin. Simultaneously, it clears the dead skin cells from the dry parts of your face that can make your skin appear dull and tired.
Best Cleansers for Combination Skin
In addition to washing off the day’s makeup, oil and grime, a facial cleanser can provide additional benefits to balance your skin.
If your combination skin has very oily areas, you can use a product containing salicylic acid to regulate oil control and prevent breakouts. For drier skin, try a moisturizing cleanser containing hyaluronic acid or vitamin E to deeply hydrate the skin.
Best Toners for Combination Skin
A toner restores your skin to its correct pH after cleansing. The way you use a toner depends on the needs of your skin.
If your combination skin is usually blemish-free, you might only require a mild, balancing toner that can be used over the entire face. Try one containing glycerin or hyaluronic acid for extra hydration or soothing rosewater and aloe vera, the latter of which reduces redness.
If you experience breakouts and shininess, you can spot-treat those areas of your face with a stronger, anti-acne toner containing astringent ingredients such as witch hazel or salicylic acid.
Best Moisturizers for Combination Skin
A moisturizer for combination skin can be difficult to choose. A product that adequately hydrates the oily parts of your skin might leave the dry parts too dry, whether a richer product designed for dry skin may be too heavy for oily areas.
If a middle-of-the-road moisturizer designed for normal skin leaves you under- or over-moisturized, try applying two products: a lighter one containing hyaluronic acid for the whole face and a heavier one with jojoba oil or shea butter for very dry areas.
Best Anti-Aging Serums for Combination Skin
Serums deliver concentrated amounts of anti-aging molecules to keep your skin smooth and firm.
Apart from the aforementioned vitamin C and peptides, look for are vitamin E, which works with vitamin C to reduce sun damage. Another powerful ingredient is niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that has been proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, brighten dark circles and reverse hyperpigmentation.
The most powerful anti-aging ingredient is likely retinol. A type of vitamin A, it increases cell turnover, promotes collagen production, lightens dark spots and even reduces acne.
Retinol can be harsh on sensitive or dry skin and makes your skin sensitive to light, so it should be used at night and at maximum only two or three times a week.
Best Sunscreen Products for Combination Skin
The daily use of a sunscreen is the most important part of your skin care routine—there is no better way to slow the signs of aging and keep your skin healthy.
Sunscreens come in two forms: chemical and physical. Skin care and makeup products contain chemical sunscreens, which protect your skin by converting UV rays into heat, which then dissipates from the skin.
Physical sunscreen, usually in the form of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, forms a barrier to block UV rays from reaching your skin. It can leave a whitish cast on the skin and must be more frequently reapplied than a chemical sunscreen.
Because physical sunscreen is unlikely to clog pores, it works well for people with acne. It may also be less irritating than chemical sunscreens to people with sensitive skin.
If you spend most of the day indoors, a product containing SPF 30 is enough to protect your skin. If you’ll be outside for long periods of time, opt for a higher SPF product and reapply every two hours. When possible, avoid direct sunlight during the peak daylight hours of 10 am to 2 pm.
Best Acne Products for Combination Skin
The best acne products for combination skin are spot treatments. The type of spot treatment you choose, whether it be a cream, gel or serum, is less important than ensuring that you only apply the product to acne-prone areas of skin. This will focus the active ingredients on your oily areas and not dry out the other parts of your face.
Look for products containing salicylic acid, which reduces oil production in the skin, benzoyl peroxide and exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). These ingredients will cleanse your skin of excess oil and debris while killing the bacteria that causes acne.
Products to Avoid
Avoid products containing alcohol, which is too drying even for the oily areas of your face. Whenever possible, choose products that are fragrance-free. Added fragrance is one of the main causes of acquired skin sensitivity.
When you have combination skin, the way you apply your skin care products is as important as the products themselves.
Any products you will use on your entire face, such as foundation or face wash, should be mild and balanced. Only use products designed to treat extreme oiliness or dryness on the areas that need them. This strategy will prevent you from worsening the extremes between the zones of your face.
Some ingredients that work well for all areas of combination skin are vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and peptides. From there, you can build a skin care regimen using other ingredients customized to your skin’s needs.