Jan 03, 2023 · 6 min read
Combination skin is exactly what it sounds like—a combination of different skin types. Yes, you read that right. Because caring for this skin type can be confusing, we did a deep dive into what combination skin is and which products may work best to balance you out.
If your face has both dry and oily areas, you likely have combination skin, which may be the most common skin type.¹ Most people with combination skin types have an oily T-zone—the forehead and nose area—and normal-to-dry or tight skin everywhere else. You may notice dry cheeks or a dry jawline and hairline.
Skin type is connected to genetics, meaning you may inherit it from your family. Other factors contribute to combination skin (and all other skin types) like weather and seasonal changes—for example, summer heat and humidity might make your skin more oily. This can lead to an oily T-zone, which regular cleansing and exfoliation can help address.
Combination skin may be irritated by harsh ingredients in your skincare products. This may stimulate oil production in some parts of your face while drying out others. Everyone experiences combination skin differently, which is why it’s so important to figure out what works for you.
Wondering how to know if you have combination skin? While combination skin typically refers to an oily T-zone and dryness on other parts of the face, this can vary from person to person. Some people with combination skin might also experience symptoms associated with sensitive skin, like over-reactivity to topical products.
These steps will help you determine your skin type:
Wash your face using a gentle cleanser.
Wait for about an hour.
Look at your face in the mirror—if oil has reappeared, your skin type is likely oily. If your skin type is normal, it will feel smooth and balanced instead of oily and dry. If your skin type is dry, your skin may feel tight and might appear flaky. Any combination of these results indicates combination skin.
Dealing with different skin types on different parts of your face is common, but figuring out how to treat it may not seem so easy. Because many factors may contribute to your skin type—genetics, hormones, your diet, the weather—you may not know the source of your combination skin, which can make it harder to treat. While we typically recommend starting with a simple skincare routine that includes a gentle cleanser, sunscreen, treatment, and moisturizer, here are a few tips that can help make your combination skin glow:
Combine different types of products: Combination skin is made up of different skin types, which means that areas of your face may require different care. Combining products to treat specific areas may help you give your skin exactly what it needs, where it needs it. Look for those specifically designed for combination skin or that are made for all skin types.
Choose non-comedogenic products: Non-comedogenic products, which don’t clog pores, may help avoid acne on breakout-prone parts of your face. (Learn how to check your products for pore-clogging ingredients here.)
Use ingredients like niacinamide: Topical skincare products containing niacinamide may help control the oily areas of your skin. A study shows that topical niacinamide application can help control sebum², which can clog your pores and contribute to acne.
If you have combination skin, choosing the right type of makeup can sometimes seem difficult. Makeup can sit on the skin differently depending on whether it’s applied to an oily or dry area. That’s why our dermatology providers often suggest applying a moisturizer to the dry parts of your face and an oil-absorbing powder to your T-zone. That way, makeup has a smooth base.
If you have combination skin, you might be on the hunt for products that will simplify your skincare routine and keep your skin feeling balanced. Our experts recommend a simple routine regardless of your skin type, but sometimes combination skin requires a unique approach. You may want to try these cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens:
Curology Gentle Cleanser: Designed by dermatologists, Curology’s lightweight foaming face wash will leave your skin clean and hydrated. It’s gentle and non-clogging, and it washes away dirt and excess oil. It’s also vegan and fragrance-free.
Vanicream Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser: This nourishing cleanser is gentle, effective, and ideal for use on your face, hands, and body. This is one of the best when it comes to cleansers for normal and combination skin.
Neutrogena Ultra Gentle HydratingCleanser: A great facial cleanser for combination skin, the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle HydratingCleanser clears dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping the skin’s moisture barrier.
First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser: Gently clear away dirt, excess oil, and makeup with First Aid Beauty’s Face Cleanser. It has a creamy texture and can help maintain your skin’s natural acidity.
Derma-e HydratingGentle Cleanser: This cleanser from Derma-e deeply moisturizes skin, leaving it soft and smooth. It contains hyaluronic acid for deep hydration, which makes it a good option if your combination skin is on the oily side
Curology Rich Moisturizer: Does your skin need a little extra hydration? Curology’s creamy Rich Moisturizer soothes dry skin without making you too oily. It also may help reduce the appearance of signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles, with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid.
Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel Cream: Neutrogena’s Hydroboost Gel Cream has a lightweight formula that absorbs like a gel but provides the long-lasting moisturizing power of a cream. It’s alcohol-free and formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream with Hyaluronic Acid: This rich, non-greasy night cream rehydrates and nourishes the skin. It’s great for all skin types.
The Everyday Sunscreen by Curology SPF 30: Curology’s sunscreen protects combination skin from sun damage without clogging your pores. This non-greasy, non-comedogenic lotion absorbs quickly and gives your skin a fresh finish.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46: This lightweight sunscreen is ideal for combination, normal, and sensitive skin types, including those prone to rosacea and blemishes. It contains niacinamide (vitamin B3), hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid.
Cetaphil Pro Dermacontrol Oil Control MoisturizerSPF 30: Designed for oily and combination skin, this three-in-one lotion hydrates, controls shine, and offers SPF 30 sun protection.
CeraVe Facial MoisturizingLotion AM with SPF 30: CeraVe’s two-in-one moisturizer and sunscreen will protect your skin in more ways than one. It’s formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid and ceramides to restore the skin barrier, and it’s non-comedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free.
Because combination skin may require different products on different parts of your face, we suggest seeking professional advice to build your skincare routine. Curology was founded in 2014 by board-certified dermatologists. We believe everyone is unique—and this includes your skin. We’re a full-service skincare membership offering products made with proven effective ingredients, including those that treat acne, fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea.
Our experts can help take the guesswork out of caring for your skin by providing a custom treatment plan and personalized prescription formula. We’ll determine the products you need to help you tackle your skin concerns and reach your skincare goals. Our personalized prescription formulas can include active ingredients like tretinoin, a topical vitamin A derivative.
Ready to get started? Just answer a few questions and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin better. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers to start you on your skincare journey.
If your face has both dry and oily areas, you likely have combination skin, which may be the most common skin type.¹
Skin type is connected to genetics, meaning you may inherit it from your family. Other factors contribute to combination skin (and all other skin types) like weather and seasonal changes.
While combination skin typically refers to an oily T-zone and dryness on other parts of the face, this can vary from person to person. Some people with combination skin might also experience symptoms associated with sensitive skin.
Choi, C.W., et al. Subjective facial skin type, based on the sebum related symptoms, can reflect the objective casual sebum level in acne patients. Skin Res Technol. (2013).
Draelos, Z.D., et al. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. J Cosmet Laser Ther. (2006).
Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.
Kristen Jokela, NP-C