Ask Curology: How do I take care of my combination skin?

What to do when just “dry” or “oily” doesn’t fit the bill.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Apr 27, 2020 · 4 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Welcome to Ask Curology, penned by one of our in-house medical providers in response to your questions about all things skincare. This week, what is combination skin and how do you take care of it? This skin type can be hard to pin down, but we’re here to help! Here’s what you need to know to build a skincare routine for combination skin.

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Dear Curology,

I never really bought into the whole “skin type” thing until I finally discovered that I have combination skin. Usually, I’m oily in my t-zone and have dry skin on my forehead, but sometimes it switches up. My skin is totally unpredictable.

I haven’t had any luck finding products for combination skin — almost everything seems to be for “dry” or “oily” skin. But I have dry AND oily skin at the same time! Can you help me figure out a skincare routine for combination skin that won’t make my skin freak out?


Combined and Confused

Dear Confused,

Great question! First off, please know you’re not alone. I know how challenging it can be to find good skincare products for combination skin, but they’re out there. In fact, dealing with different skin types on different parts of your face is quite common. Many people have “combination skin” similar to yours, with an oily T-zone and normal to dry skin everywhere else.

Many factors can contribute to your skin type, from hormones to genetics, and from diet to the weather. Also, our skin type can vary quite a bit from year to year (or even week to week). Sometimes, this is because of the season — for example, some people are prone to oilier skin in the summer, while others are prone to dry skin in winter. You might not know what’s causing your combo skin, and that’s okay too! Skin can be pretty unpredictable with so many factors at play.

How can I take care of my combination skin?

If you’re not sure of your skin type, we have a quiz for that! Once you know more about your skin type, you can develop a skincare routine to best suit your needs. You’ve noticed that a lot of products are labeled as being either for “dry” or “oily” skin, but I’d take those labels with a grain of salt. What’s important is whether or not a product works for you, and that all comes down to personal preference.

With that said, I generally recommend starting with a simple routine that includes a gentle cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer. As you discover additional products you love, feel free to add them to your routine.

Cleansers for combination skin

A gentle, non-drying cleanser is great for all skin types. You can often continue using the same one throughout the year, even if your skin fluctuates. Here are some cleansers we love:

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Moisturizers for combination skin

Even if only part of your face is feeling dry (as is the case for most people with combination skin), a moisturizer can help! Because dryness levels can vary with combination skin, it’s a good idea to have two types of moisturizers: one that’s light-weight for oilier skin and another that’s richer and heavier for the driest parts of your face.

Light-weight hydration:

Deep hydration:

Sunscreen for combination skin

No matter your skin type, be proactive with sun protection! It’s one of the best things you can do to keep your skin healthy, period. Here are a few products we’ve found work well for combination skin:

One last thing for combo skin: niacinamide.

If you’re struggling with excess oil on some parts of your face, you’ll be happy to know there’s some evidence that suggests topical niacinamide may decrease sebum (oil). You can get niacinamide in over-the-counter products we like, such as CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM with SPF 30 and EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer. We also prescribe niacinamide in some of our custom creams here at Curology. If you’re not a Curology member and want to try it, you can get your first month for just $4.95 (plus tax) to cover the cost of shipping and handling.

I hope that helps!

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

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We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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