- Combination skin is characterized by an oily t-zone and dryness elsewhere on the face
- It is largely due to genetics but may be improved by a good skin routine, exercise and reduced stress
- This skin type requires the strategic application of products to suit the skin’s varied needs
Combination skin is often considered difficult to care for. But with the right combination of products and skin care routines targeted at your skin’s unique issues, it’s possible to keep your combination skin feeling and looking healthy and balanced.
What Is Combination Skin?
The face is divided into three zones: the t-zone (the forehead, nose and chin), the undereye area, and what’s sometimes called the s-zone—the cheeks and jawline.
Combination skin tends to be oily in the t-zone and dry in the other areas of the face.
Often, combination skin is drier in the winter and oilier in the summer. Women with combination skin are also likely to break out during their periods.
Causes of combination skin
Combination skin is thought to be the most common skin type. While having combination skin is mostly a matter of genetics, a few other factors may influence it.
The overuse of harsh skin care products may contribute to uneven levels of oil in your skin. Their drying ingredients may trigger overproduction of sebum, the oil produced by your skin, in your t-zone while simultaneously drying out your cheeks.
It is also possible that stress contributes to combination skin because the skin is undernourished and more likely to break out.
How to Tell If You Have Combination Skin
If you experience acne at the same time as you do dry patches, it’s very likely you have combination skin. (People with oily skin don’t usually get dry patches, while people with dry skin rarely have breakouts.)
Other signs of combination skin include shiny patches of skin, dandruff, and enlarged pores.
Best Products for Combination Skin
Because this skin type has a wider range of needs than dry or oily skin, the best products for combination skin must either spot-treat specific issues or be gentle enough to use on the entire face.
If your skin has very oily areas, it may be tempting to use a cleanser designed for oily skin. However, cleansers for that skin type will likely be too drying for use on your entire face and may encourage the oily areas to overproduce sebum.
Instead, the best cleanser for combination skin will be a gentle cleansing gel or cream. Look for a cleanser containing hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which helps skin retain elasticity; vitamin E, which smooths the skin; and soothing plant extracts like aloe vera or chamomile.
The best toner for combination skin may be two toners applied to the different zones of the face.
The first should be a mild, not overly astringent product that can be used on the entire face. Try a toner containing niacinamide (o reduce fine lines and other signs of aging, or soothing cucumber extract.
To deal with an oily t-zone, you may also add to your routine a more astringent toner containing witch hazel or salicylic acid, which can decrease oil production in the skin. This toner should only be applied to the oily areas of your face as necessary.
Moisturizers and creams
The best overall moisturizer for combination skin is one that’s light enough for use on the entire face. Gel-based and oil-free formulas hydrate the t-zone without causing breakouts. For very dry patches, spot-treat with a heavier, cream-based or oil-based moisturizer.
Foundation and makeup
Makeup for combination skin should be oil-free and noncomedogenic, meaning its use doesn’t create blemishes. For both foundation and blush, a cream rather than a powder will sit better on dry cheeks.
For an oily t-zone, make use of oil-blotting papers to reduce shine without disturbing your makeup.
How to Care for Combination Skin
There are a few specific strategies for caring for combination skin.
Firstly, spot-treat any skin issues that crop up. For example, if you start getting blemishes on your chin, you’ll want to apply a localized treatment and not start using an anti-acne face wash, which would be too drying for your face overall.
For makeup, non-comedogenic products won’t clog your pores and exacerbate acne on the oily parts of your face. If your combination skin is on the drier side, avoid products containing fragrance as dry, sensitive skin will be further irritated by the chemical additives.
Skin care routine for combination skin
A typical skin care routine for combination skin involves balanced, gentle products and the occasional stronger product used where necessary.
If you’re experiencing acne, apply a salicylic acid serum to those parts of your face. Finish with a thicker night cream as a moisturizer.
Exfoliate once a week, ideally with a chemical exfoliator because the dry parts of your face are likely to be irritated by facial scrubs. Try glycolic acid, which has a small molecular size allowing it to penetrate deeply into the pores to dissolve dead skin and impurities.
If your skin has excess oil, use an occasional clay mask on your t-zone to dry out excess sebum.
A few healthy lifestyle habits can help manage your combination skin.
Daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen is the best way to maintain the overall health of your skin. Choose a product containing SPF 30 (a higher number isn’t necessary) and reapply throughout the day.
Exercise may help manage combination skin. Exercise improves circulation, which may regulate oil production in your skin. And as aforementioned, reducing and managing stress may also help reduce breakouts.
However, the efficacy of using exercise and stress management to improve the skin has not been studied.
Home Remedies for Combination Skin
DIY face masks and other home remedies are usually safe to use on combination skin as long as you target them at the areas that need it.
If you have combination skin, you’ll want to apply different remedies to the different zones of the face. This strategy is called multi-masking.
Here are two masks you can strategically apply to balance your combination skin.
For the dry parts of your face:
- Mash up half an avocado in a bowl
- Add a teaspoon of raw honey
- Add a teaspoon of olive oil for extra softness
- Apply to the cheeks, jawline, and dry patches on your face
For your oily t-zone:
- Squeeze a tablespoon of aloe vera gel (fresh from the plant, or a store-bought extract) into a bowl
- Add a teaspoon of honey
- Apply to the t-zone: your forehead, nose, and chin
After 15-20 minutes, wash off both masks.
Because combination skin often has multiple issues at the same time, it requires a wider variety of skin care products and extra care in applying them to different areas of the face.
Any products that you use on the entire face, such as face wash, should have mild formulations to neither dry out nor add oil to the face. Using stronger products only as spot treatments to target specific problems like breakouts and dry patches. The same principle applies to any DIY remedies designed to tone or moisturize the face.
With strategic use of skin care products, it’s possible to keep combination skin looking healthy, hydrated, and blemish-free.