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A Complete Guide for Combination Skin

by Helen K. |

There are four major types of skin, but one of the most frustrating to deal with is combination skin. Neither oily nor dry, this skin type is a little bit of both. This means that combination skin can be somewhat confusing and difficult to care for. 

Combination skin—or skin that combines both patches of oily and dry facial skin—is cared for through a combination of cleansers, moisturizers, and self-care practices that help improve skin's hydration and reduce oil production. There are many specialty skincare products designed specifically for combination skin.

Combination skin can be a real hassle if you don't know how to deal with it, but luckily combination skin doesn't have to be a life sentence for bad skin. Keep reading to learn more about combination skin and the best ways to take care of it so you can look and feel your best. 

What Is Combination Skin?

Combination skin is exactly what it sounds like—a combination of dry and oily skin on the face and sometimes on other areas of the body as well. This requires care and products that can treat both issues at once. 

  • Makeup and skincare products formulated for oily skin can worsen dry patches on the face of someone who has combination skin
  • Makeup and skincare products formulated for dry skin can cause clogged pores and breakouts

There's not really any way to tell what percentage of the population has combination skin, but overall, people are woefully undereducated on how to take care of their skin regardless of their skin type. 

In fact, a national study conducted in America in 2017 concluded that roughly 80% of Americans wash their facial skin incorrectly in ways that can damage their skin or cause skin problems. (Source: PR Newswire)

Combination skin can pose some unique challenges to people when it comes to skincare. The inconsistency with how skin reacts to moisturizing or astringent chemicals means it can be hard to choose skincare products that are properly balanced to treat the entire face when it comes to combination skin types. 

Signs That You Have Combination Skin

So you suspect that you might have combination skin, but you don't know for sure—what are some signs of this condition? Here are some of the things you should look for in your skin if you suspect that you might have combination skin (Source: Huda Beauty):

  • Dry skin patches under eyes and across cheekbones: Dry skin will not feel supple and soft like well-hydrated skin. People with combination skin often have rough or scaly patches across their cheekbones or beneath their eyes. Often you can tell dry skin just by rubbing your fingers along the surface—well-hydrated skin will feel smooth and almost moist. Dry skin around the eyes and cheeks can also cause a person to appear older than they actually are.

  • Oily skin in the "T zone": The "T zone" of the face consists of the forehead, the nose, and the chin. People with combination skin have dry skin around their eyes and cheeks but will have oily skin everywhere else.

  • After washing the face: After washing combination skin, the T zone of the face will immediately start to look shiny with oil, but the eyes and cleeks will not. This is a sign that the T zone of the face is over-producing skin oil, while the areas around the eyes and cheeks are not producing enough oils.

  • Mild breakouts, especially in T zone: Because the skin around the T zone in people with combination skin can become clogged with both oil and debris because of the larger skin pores found in this area, people with combination skin are often plagued with mild breakouts. These breakouts are usually not as extreme as those found in people with uniformly oily skin complexions, however. 

  • Flaking skin in eye and cheek area: Because the sky around the eyes and cheeks becomes dry in a person with combination skin, this can lead to skin flaking or scaling. In extreme cases, it can lead to redness or irritation.

  • Blackheads, whiteheads, and other pore problems: The excess oil in the T zone of people with combination skin—along with the larger pores that people with combination skin have in these areas—can lead to blackheads and whiteheads along with acne and breakouts.

  • Some problems with dandruff or dry skin elsewhere on the body: Because people with combination skin usually have dry scalp skin, this can translate to issues with dandruff or keratosis pilaris on the upper arms (dry skin that appears as dry patches or bumps on the skin of the upper arms). 

If you have several of the above symptoms, congratulations—you probably have combination skin. While this might be unwelcome news, it definitely isn't the end of the world. Thanks to the work of the modern cosmetics industry, there's never been a better time to be someone with a problematic skin type. There are literally thousands of products available on the market to help you achieve your best skin condition possible. 

Causes of Combination Skin

So what causes people to have combination skin? There are actually several different possible triggers for this condition (Source: Holland and Barret): 

  • Genetics: Unfortunately, a good deal of your chances of getting combination skin or not are congenital ones. Some people are simply predisposed to this skin type. That being said, that doesn't mean there aren't ways that people who are predisposed to combination skin can't help improve their complexion with proper skincare.

  • Harsh skin products: Harsh skincare products such as products that contain alcohol and other dehydrating ingredients can make dry skin much worse and can actually worsen oily skin, too, since excess oil production is a symptom of dehydration in the skin.

  • Removing makeup with soap: While it might seem simple enough to scrub your mascara, eye shadow, and blush away with a bar of soap at the end of the day, this is one of the worst things you can do if you have combination skin since it can worsen the dry skin around the eyes and cheeks. Bar soap shouldn't be used on the face unless it is specifically formulated for the face.

  • Stress: Stress is one of the major contributors to bad skin and can aggravate all kinds of different skin conditions related to skin oil production or the lack thereof, from eczema to acne. Stress causes hormones in the body to affect the production of oils in the skin. Stress hormones can also lead to inflammation in the body, which—in the case of oily skin areas—can lead to breakouts.

  • Bad nutrition: Combination skin can be a symptom that the skin is not receiving the nutrients it needs to be well-balanced.

  • Overexposure to the sun or ultraviolet light: Overexposure to the sun can dry the skin of the face out, leading to dry patches on the face where oil production is low and oily patches where oil production is high. This is because the face will produce more oils where it can to combat dehydration and damage caused by ultraviolet exposure. 

There are lots of reasons why you might develop combination skin or the symptoms of it, but there are also lots of ways you can fight back, too. 

What is Good for Combination Skin?

Even though combination skin can be a challenge to take care of, there are several things that you can do to make your skin better behaved. Follow the skin care tips below to make the most of your combination skin: 

  • Nutrition and exercise: While it might be difficult to see the connection between skincare and exercise, exercise does help to cleanse the skin by encouraging perspiration and preventing the build-up of debris on the surface of the skin through secretions and oils produced while sweating. Proper nutrition ensures that you aren't suffering from a nutritional deficiency that can contribute to dry skin, such as lack of essential oils or fatty acids.

  • Gentle skincare products: If you have combination skin, the best thing you can do for it is to seek out skincare products that have gentle, natural formulas and (if possible) are specifically formulated for combination skin types.

  • Sunscreen: Excess UV exposure is a major factor in skin dehydration, which can significantly worsen combination skin problems. To combat this, use a light but strong sunscreen to block excess UV rays and prevent skin cancer while also preventing breakouts from clogged pores. It's also a good idea to just generally avoid excess exposure to the sun by using protective clothing or reducing the duration of your exposure.

  • Hydration: Of all the things you can do to better your skin and its appearance, making sure that you drink more than your fair share of water and keep your skin moisturized can both do wonders to give your complexion a radiant, healthy glow in a matter of weeks. There are many apps available that can help you track your water intake to make sure you're getting enough.

  • Self-care: Making sure that you take time to self-soothe and alleviate the daily stresses in your life can help prevent outbreaks and other problems caused by combination skin that are triggered by excess stress. Meditation, aromatherapy, journaling, and other self-care methods are a great way to help chill out and keep your skin calm too. 

You'll notice that none of the above tips mention skincare products at all. That's because the skin is the largest organ on the body and needs more than a magic potion to keep it in good shape. While there are many great skincare products that can help you improve combination skin, a healthy lifestyle can do just as much to put your skin in good condition. 

Taking care of combination skin is more than skincare products. It means taking care of your physical health overall, not just your skin. The cumulative effects of taking care of your whole body impact your mental and physical health can have drastic positive impacts on your skin health too. 

Skincare Regimens for Combination Skin

There are a few different skincare regimens that are recommended for use with combination skin—most of these regimens involve treating the dry skin with one set of ingredients, while treating oily patches of facial skin with another. Consider these skincare regimens to help improve the balance of combination skin: 

  • Multi-masking: Multi-tasking is the practice of using multiple mask types at the same time in order to address both oily areas and dry areas of the face. In the case of combination skin, masks intended for oily areas are used on the forehead, nose, and chin, while masks intended for dry areas are used on the eyes and cheeks. This helps to treat each area of the facial skin as it needs to be treated, rather than just blanket treating the entire face. (Source: Yora)

  • Moisturizing combination skin: Moisturizing is an important part of skincare when it comes to combination skin because it both addresses the lack of moisture in dry areas while also keeping oily skin hydrated, so it is less triggered to produce excess skin oils that cause breakouts and clogged pores.

  • Cleansing combination skin: Cleansing combination skin is important because without cleansing the skin, the oily areas of the face will be prone to breakouts, a shiny appearance, and other problems related to excess oil production. However, it's important with combination skin to choose a facial cleanser that doesn't have alcohol or other harsh chemicals, as these drying agents can make dry patches of the face much worse. 

There are several basic steps to a good skincare regimen when it comes to taking care of combination skin. It might seem tedious at first but working these skincare regimens into your daily routine is a good way to take care of your skin. 

They're also a way to set your day off on a productive foot. Practicing a skincare regimen is not just an important part of good hygiene; it's a practical way to exercise appreciation for your body. 

Skin Cleansers for Combination Skin

Cleaning the skin involves a process called exfoliation, which is the removal of dead skin cells that build-up on the surface of the skin over time. Without being washed away, these skin cells can enlarge pores, clog pores to cause breakouts or cause blackheads and whiteheads. 

Skin cleansing can be achieved through a combination of exfoliating scrubs, masks, and toners. 

Here are some of the best skin cleansers available for combination skin: 

Using the right cleanser each morning and night can do wonders towards helping you get your combination skin under control.

Skin Moisturizers for Combination Skin

Moisturizing is one of the most important parts of caring for combination skin since it treats both dry patches and oily patches at the same time. 

Here are some of the best skin moisturizers available for combination skin: 

Moisturizing your skin each day is just as important as making sure it's clean when you have combination skin. Cleansers can strip moisture from your skin, which can leave it dry and flaky unless you put moisture back in the form of a moisturizer. 

Sunscreen for Combination Skin

Sunscreen is a good idea as part of a daily skincare regimen for all people no matter what their skin type, but it's especially important for combination skin. This is because exposure to UV rays can make both dry skin and oily skin problems even more pronounced. 

Sunscreen not only helps keep skin hydrated and helps people with combination skin avoid the problems associated with dry skin, but it can also help prevent melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer in the world. (Source: Melanoma Research Alliance)

Here are some of the best sunscreens for combination skin: 

It might seem tedious to apply sunscreen every morning whether the sun is blaring or not, but your skin can sustain UV damage even on a cloudy day. Plus, making sure your skin is protected from the skin can greatly reduce the effects of aging on the skin such as fine lines and wrinkles or sagging. 

Other Skincare Tools for Combination Skin

Along with moisturizers and cleansers, there are also several other skincare tools that can be useful in helping to appropriately treat combination skin issues. Here are a few that you might want to add to your arsenal if you have combination skin: 

  • Serums: Serums are highly concentrated skincare chemicals that can help deliver high-power hydration or collagen repair straight to problem areas on the face. Serums are typically stronger than usual moisturizers and are also usually more expensive.

  • Blotting papers: If you are prone to excess oil around your T zone, blotting papers can help you clear away any excess oil as it appears throughout the day. Doing this over time can also help prevent the breakouts and skin problems associated with excess oil build-up on the skin's surface and in the pores.

  • Anti-aging eye creams: Dry skin affects the area around the eyes in combination skin types, and over time this dry skin can lead to an aged appearance. Anti-aging eye creams can help hydrate the skin around the eyes and keep the face looking radiant and youthful.

  • Face mist: Face mists are a type of spray-on condition that applies essential oils and other clarifying ingredients directly to the surface of the skin in a fine layer. Face mists are a good option for a lightweight moisturizer that won't clog oily areas of the face.

  • Facial oil: A few drops of facial oil can be used to revitalize dry patches on the face when they start to flake or get scaly. Keep in mind that less is more when it comes to facial oil—too much, and you'll be inviting a breakout. 

All of the above products can be used alongside traditional cleansers and moisturizers to really help you put your best face forward, even if you have combination skin. 

Problems with Combination Skin

While combination skin is a natural skin type, it can cause some skin conditions that can be embarrassing at best and painful at worst. These are some of the problems you may end up dealing with at one point or another when you have combination skin:  

  • Acne breakouts: People with combination skin are prone to breakouts in the T zone of the face where excess oil is produced. This means dealing with acne—or bacterial infections of the skin that take the appearance of painful, inflamed bumps—that can end up covering the forehead, nose, and chin in extreme cases.

  • Whiteheads: Whiteheads are skin pores that have become so clogged with skin oil and other debris that they've become sealed over. Whiteheads are best removed with exfoliation, which scrubs away the dead skin cells and allows fresh skin to regenerate underneath.

  • Blackheads: Blackheads are similar to whiteheads except that blackheads are skin pores that remain open and clogged. Blackheads can often turn into acne once these open, dirty skin pores become infected by bacteria.

  • Dandruff: Combination skin problems don't just end at the face. Often those with combination skin have issues with a dry scalp as well, which in turn can lead to scaly skin on the scalp and skin flaking off in embarrassing dandruff.

  • Flaky skin: Flaky skin is the result of dehydration and lack of moisturizer in the skin cells, and this can lead to dry patches, scaling, or ashy areas on the elbows. Flaky skin is best addressed through the use of a good moisturizer. 
  • There are many ways that having a combination skin type can potentially make your life miserable if you let it. But there are also many ways you can help improve your skin if you have combination skin, as long as you use the right tools and products. 

    Tips for Managing Combination Skin


    Combination skin can be tricky, but people have been dealing with it for centuries, and as a result, we've come up with some pretty good ways to help reduce the negative effects associated with combination skin. Try out these tips for helping to manage your combination skin along with skin products designed to improve it: 

    • Drink plenty of water: Proper hydration can't be emphasized enough when it comes to skincare. Making sure that you get at least eight glasses of water a day can be one of the most effective ways to affect the overall appearance of your skin. In fact, studies have shown that over 75% of Americans go around chronically dehydrated, despite plentiful access to water.
      (Source: Drip Drop)

    • Reduce your stress: Any kind of skin problem you have, whether it's breakouts or dry skin, will be negatively impacted by stress. Stress increases the levels of cortisol in the blood, a hormone that tells your body that it is in distress. In response to this, the body produces more oil in the skin, and this, in turn, can lead to breakouts and other skin problems. (Source: Web MD)

    • Make your skincare regimen consistent: One of the most important things about setting up a skincare regimen to try and improve or take care of your skin is consistency. When it comes to cleaning and moisturizing your skin, these tasks should be undertaken morning and night in order to be most effective in combating combination skin problems. Masks and other deep cleaning procedures should also be done on a weekly or at least every few weeks.

    • Always take off your makeup: Sleeping in makeup is terrible for your skin, and it also usually means that you didn't follow a good skincare regimen before turning in for the night. Always make a point to take your makeup off before you go to bed no matter how late it is, and use gentle formulas designed specifically for makeup removal rather than harsh body soaps. 

    Setting up good skincare habits when you're young can go a long way towards making sure that you end up with good skin in your middle age and golden years, too. 

    Skincare Is an Important Part of Having Combination Skin


    If you've been blessed (or cursed) with combination skin, you might feel as if you've gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to skin types. But luckily, there are plenty of skincare products and practices out there that can help you make the most of your skin type and can leave you with skin that is just as glowing and beautiful as someone who has an even complexion. 

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