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Figuring out the best skin care routine for combination skin can feel a bit like you’re going in circles. What happens when your skin decides it’s going to be oily and dry?
There’s no need to worry. It might not be easy, but it’s definitely possible to find a routine that softens dry patches and combats shininess. It doesn’t matter what percentage of your skin is oily and dry, or if your dry and oily patches aren’t in the most common areas — the approach is the same.
According to board certified dermatologist and aesthetic expert Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD, combination skin is normal, just like other skin types.
The difference is that combination skin is oily in some places and dry in others. For example, “It’s common to have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks.”
Nothing causes combination skin per se (it’s genetically pre-determined), but it can change with hormonal and seasonal shifts, Mariwalla explains.
Occasionally, as we age, skin becomes drier and less oily as it reacts to hormonal changes. Other hormone-driven factors that can cause changes in skin are periods and contraceptives.
A combination of oily and dry skin can appear in different ways and in different amounts.
There’s no hard and fast rule to how it looks and feels, and it’s not as if your skin is going to be exactly 5 percent dry and 50 percent oily all the time.
You’ll need to pay attention to figure out exactly how your combination presents itself.
Signs of oiliness may include:
Signs of dryness may include:
It’s a good idea to think conservatively when figuring out your skin care routine for combination skin.
Go for gentle products that can moisturize dry areas without creating more oiliness. And only apply treatments to the needed areas for specific issues.
Use products in this order to help create more balanced skin.
In the evening, try applying products in this order:
When creating a skin care routine for more mature-looking skin, you’ll want to plump fine lines, banish dark spots, and lift sagging skin. A few tips:
There are never-ending skin care products available that promise every benefit under the sun. But finding the right ones for your skin type is important.
Mariwalla suggests staying away from products that overlap (or do the same thing), like putting acids and retinoids on the skin together. This will make your skin go from combo to dry.
However, do continue to use sunscreen and antioxidants together.
With combination skin, you can separate your routine by day and night. Remember: You don’t have to apply everything everywhere or every time.
For example, if your T-zone is oily and the rest of your face is dry, apply the acids only to the T-zone and only at night.
Mariwalla also suggests a few specific types of products she prefers for combination skin.
“I like hydrating cleansers [and] micellar water for makeup removal and washing. I also like lightweight sunscreens that can double as moisturizers or even makeup,” she says.
Some ingredients to consider:
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel is an oil-free and soap-free cleanser that gently removes dirt and oil while respecting the skin’s pH.
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser helps clear pores and restores and maintains the natural skin barrier. Plus, it’s noncomedogenic, non-drying, non-irritating, and fragrance-free.
Honest Clearing Cleanser deeply cleans, refines pores, and keeps future acne breakouts at bay.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum is an oil-free, noncomedogenic serum with hyaluronic acid that provides a glowing complexion.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is formulated for multi-depth hydration in a water-based formula.
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment exfoliates the skin for instant glow and radiance. And it visibly brightens the appearance of dark spots and discoloration.
REN Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream is formulated to provide instant relief to dryness, dehydration, skin roughness, and sensitivity.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 is an invisible, weightless, and scentless sunscreen with a strong SPF.
Bioderma Sébium H2O Purifying Cleansing Micelle Solution cleanses, removes makeup, and purifies the skin for combination-to-oily skin.
Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack is a detoxifying face mask that helps manage excess oil, minimize the appearance of pores, and nourish the skin.
If you deal with oily skin, enlarged pores, and dry patches, you may consider a Korean skin care routine.
Ohlolly Korean Skincare Kit for Combination Skin Types is a specially curated kit for combination skin that includes nine hand-picked products.
Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Cream EX hydrates and delivers antioxidants extracted from green tea to nourish the skin while balancing its moisture.
Herbivore Natural Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner contains ingredients that are plant-based, organic, and food-grade. The toner is also cruelty-free and free of parabens and sulfates. It’s made in small batches through cold-pressed or steam-distilled methods.
bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15 is a clean, natural, loose mineral foundation that’s lightweight and helps improve skin.
TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum blends vitamin C with botanical hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, witch hazel, and jojoba oil. The serum doesn’t contain synthetic colors, fragrances, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, PEGs, or GMOs. This formula helps fight signs of aging, like wrinkles and dark spots, and it’s certified cruelty-free.
The green tea in this toner fights redness and acne while the apple cider vinegar works on balancing the pH level of your skin.
This DIY face mask helps hydrate dry patches. Honey is an excellent humectant, which means it retains moisture without feeling oily.
Every skin type needs moisture. However, it’s best to find formulas for your skin type. You may want to use moisturizer sparingly on oily areas and apply more to dry areas.
Healthy skin has dead skin cells removed via exfoliation. Use a gentle exfoliant once per week.
If your dry areas are causing sensitivity issues, you can exfoliate only in the needed areas.
Combination skin can change!
Make sure your routine keeps up with your skin’s changes. Switch up your products and regimen accordingly.
When it comes to combination skin, finding the right skin care routine can be tricky. It may take a bit of time to find the right combination.
However, using the best products in the right areas should create the best possible outcome for your skin.
You should always consult a dermatologist if you have any questions or concerns.
Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website.
Last medically reviewed on April 27, 2021



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