- Combination skin is characterized by having both dry and oily areas.
- This skin type benefits from mild products for use on the entire face.
- Products designed for very oily or very dry skin should only be used as spot treatments.
When developing a skin care routine for combination skin, it is important to not only choose the right products to address these individual skin concerns, but also to apply the products strategically for optimal results.
Combination skin can develop the same issues as both dry and oily skin. This skin type can experience flaking, dry patches and rough or scaly skin—the hallmarks of dry skin—at the same time as typical oily skin concerns such as excess oil, shininess and blemishes.
Understanding Combination Skin
Combination skin has the same characteristics as both dry and oily skin, with excess oil found in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) and dryness on the cheeks and jawline.
The strongest indicator of having combination skin is experiencing both oily, shiny areas of skin and dry patches at the same time.
Combination skin is found in a spectrum, with some people tending towards overall oiliness and some tending toward dryness. Your skin may also become oilier in the summer and drier in the winter.
Effective Ingredients for Combination Skin
Combination skin benefits from nourishing ingredients that will neither add greasiness to the skin nor strip it of its natural oils.
Hyaluronic acid helps the skin retain moisture and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It hydrates without adding oiliness, making it effective for all areas of your face.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can reverse collagen and elastin loss to improve skin texture and thickness while brightening its overall appearance. Regular use of vitamin C can improve the health of all skin types, including combination skin.
For exfoliation, lactic acid is effective as it is gentle, and therefore ideal for dry areas of skin.
All these ingredients can improve the overall health of your combination skin without exacerbating acne or dryness. They can be found in a wide range of products including eye creams, serums, face masks and moisturizers.
Ingredients to avoid
To avoid aggravating dry skin, proceed with caution when using astringent products containing witch hazel or tea tree oil and apply only to oily areas. Do not use products meant for the entire face, such as face wash, if they contain these ingredients.
Avoid comedogenic or blemish-forming ingredients such as coconut, camellia and sunflower oil. Only apply heavy emollient moisturizers to the driest parts of your face to avoid breakouts.
Morning Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin
An effective morning skin care routine hydrates the dry areas of your skin and mattifies the oily areas. This can be achieved by using certain products, such as an astringent toner, only on the areas of skin that need them.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and debris without overdrying
- Apply a mild toner using a cotton pad; If necessary, use a more astringent toner on your T-zone
- Dot an eye cream onto the under-eye area using a light touch to avoid stretching the delicate skin
- Finish with a light, oil-free moisturizer containing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30
Night-time Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin
Your evening routine is the time to cleanse your face of any accumulated grime from the day and nourish your skin with hydrating products. When using a heavy night cream, only apply to it to dry areas of skin; use an oil-free moisturizer on oilier zones.
- Wash and apply toner to your face as per your morning routine
- Gently pat a serum that contains vitamins C, E or hyaluronic acid to your face, avoiding the eye area
- Dot eye cream to the under-eye area
- Dab an oil-free moisturizer to oily areas of skin
- Dab a thicker night cream to dry areas of skin
Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin with Acne
Harsh anti-acne products can harm combination skin if they are used on the entire face. While it’s not necessary to avoid these ingredients altogether, they should only be applied to targeted areas.
If you have combination skin and acne, control breakouts by adding an extra step to your skin care routine. Use a serum or toner containing salicylic acid at night before moisturizing.
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic, meaning it breaks down the outer layer of dead skin cells to reveal newer skin beneath. It also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it ideal for fighting blackheads and other forms of acne.
Because salicylic acid decreases oil production, take care to only apply it to the areas of your face that need it.
To calm active breakouts, try using hydrocolloid patches, benzoyl peroxide or tea tree oil as spot treatments.
Long Term Skin Care for Combination Skin
Apart from your daily skin care routine, there are other measures you can take to keep your combination skin looking healthy.
The occasional use of skin care products beyond your daily regimen can be beneficial to combination skin in the long term.
Face masks, whether purchased or homemade, can be used once a week for extra hydration and other skin care benefits. Combination skin can especially benefit from multimasking, which is the application of different masks to different areas of the face.
For instance, apply a clay mask on the T-zone to draw out excess oil; simultaneously apply a hydrating mask on the dry parts of your face.
Chemical exfoliants can maintain your skin’s long-term health and benefit both dry and oily areas of the face. Look for a product containing an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) such as glycolic acid or lactic acid, or if you have sensitive skin, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) such as mandelic acid. Use once a week or as indicated on the packaging.
Lifestyle Habits and Environmental Factors
Regardless of your skin type, there are two important habits to improve and maintain skin health in the long term: wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day to protect your skin against environmental damage, and stay hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water.
Because combination skin is usually oilier in the summer and drier in the winter, it may be necessary to adjust your skin care routine with the seasons to keep your skin balanced.
Combination skin has both oily and dry areas. It benefits most from a simple skin care routine consisting of gentle products suitable for both skin types.
Use products containing hyaluronic acid and vitamin C to increase skin hydration and overall health.
Products containing astringent ingredients such as witch hazel or tea tree oil should only be used as spot treatments – not over the entire face. Likewise, oils and thick moisturizers should be either avoided altogether or only applied to very dry areas of skin.
The occasional face mask or exfoliant can also balance oiliness in the face and maintain your skin’s overall health.
- Pavicic T, Gauglitz GG, Lersch P, Schwach-Abdellaoui K, Malle B, Korting HC, Farwick M. Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Sep;10(9):990-1000. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22052267
- Garre, Aurora et al. “Antiaging effects of a novel facial serum containing L-Ascorbic acid, proteoglycans, and proteoglycan-stimulating tripeptide: ex vivo skin explant studies and in vivo clinical studies in women.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology vol. 11 253-263. 29 May. 2018, doi:10.2147/CCID.S161352
- Keratolytic Agent. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/keratolytic-agent