What type of look would you like to create?
This will help us personalize your experience.

What Is Combination Skincare & How To Easily Tell If You Have It

Svetikd/Getty Images

Knowing your skin type is the first step to creating a healthy, sustainable, and effective skincare routine. Oily skin and acne-prone skin types, for example, can opt for deep-cleansing face washes with powerful exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, while dry skin types can seek out moisturizers that contain hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid or nourishing shea butter.

So what is combination skin? Combination skin types experience dry areas and oily spots at the same time, which can make finding the right skincare products feel like an impossible task. A gentle cleanser and a pore-shrinking toner? Or an exfoliating face scrub and a retinoid serum? With so many different options it’s hard to know where to even begin. If you have combination skin and want to live your best, most glowing, radiant skincare life, keep reading below for our guide to what combination skin is, what causes it (hint: you’re most likely born with it), and the best ways to take care of it.

About the Expert:

Emma Lewisham is the founder and formulator of non-toxic and natural skincare brand Emma Lewisham Skincare.

What is combination skin

Combination skin is–you guessed it!–a combination of two different skin types, and according to Emma Lewisham, founder of New Zealand skincare brand Emma Lewisham, it’s actually super common. Most commonly, combination skin types experience flaky, dry patches on their cheeks and experience excess oil production around their T-zone (the nose and forehead area).

How to tell if you have combination skin

Your skin type can usually be determined by closely observing your skin and how it behaves,” explains Lewisham. “There are four different skin types: dry skin, oily skin, combination skin and sensitive skin.”

1. Look for a difference in pore size.

For starters, take a look at your pores: are they large in some areas and smaller in others? If you have an oily T-zone, your pores are likely to stand out more in that area. This is because when the sebaceous glands beneath your skin produce more sebum (oil), your can pores become clogged, often leading to blackheads.

2. Track how your skin looks and feels.

Paying attention to how your skin looks and feels is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have combination skin. For example, if you have dry cheeks but constantly feel like you have to add powder to your nose or forehead to soak up excess oil, it's very likely you have combination skin. Also, if you experience dry patches even when your skin is at its oiliest (like during a breakout), then it's also likely you have combination skin. Paying attention to how your skin changes throughout the year and due to hormone fluctuations can also give you a clue. If you experience oily skin only when you’re on your period or during humid, summer months and dryness during winter months, you may very well land somewhere on the combination skin spectrum.

Skincare steps for combination skin

1. Cleanse

Cleansing should always be the first step of your skincare routine. Cleansing removes surface-level grease, grime, and make-up that clog pores and cause blemishes. Combination skin types should look out for gentle cream or gel-based cleansers that do the job without leaving your skin feeling tight.

2. Tone

The amazing thing about toner is that it can help control oil production and hydrate your skin at the same time, making it the ultimate skincare savior for combination skin types. Choose a toner that’s equal parts oil eliminating and skin-soothing.

3. Exfoliate

“Make sure you’re regularly using an exfoliant to help buff away dead skin cells,” says Lewisham. “This reduces the likelihood of blemishes in areas of your skin that are more oily.” Try to exfoliate two to three times a week.

4. Moisturize with a cream or oil

“Don’t be afraid of oils—they’re actually not bad for skin that has oily patches” says Lewisham. “It does feel like putting an oil on your skin will only clog pores and seems counterintuitive, but it can replenish the good oils in your skin and helps to rebalance skin for a healthy complexion.” If you’re going to use a cream moisturizer, look for a lightweight one that is water-based.

Products great for combination skin types

1. YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Superfood Cleanser

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Superfood Cleanser

Combination skin types should look out for gentle cream or gel-based cleansers that do the job without leaving your skin feeling tight. This YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Superfood Cleanser contains a mix of non-drying, pH-balancing natural ingredients like moisturizing spinach, anti-inflammatory green tea, and vitamin-rich kale, making it an ideal choice for skin with both dry and oily areas.

2. LAPALETTE BEAUTY Calming Green Turnover Toner

LAPALETTE BEAUTY Calming Green Turnover Toner

Choose a toner that’s equal parts oil-eliminating and skin-soothing. This toner uses 87% green tea extract ingredients to help remove dead skin cells and keep skin in balance before applying serums or oils. If you’re a fan of natural products, this one is vegan certified and uses only EWG Green Grade ingredients.

3. MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

The MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser is gentle enough to use on dry patches but cleansing enough to use on oily areas. AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) clear away dead skin cells and boost your skin’s moisture while BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) absorb oil from within your pores, balancing your skin in the process.

4. LANEIGE Water Bank Moisture Cream

LANEIGE Water Bank Moisture Cream

Mineral water is the first ingredient in this moisturizer from LANEIGE. Its hydro ionized mineral water helps your skin absorb moisture to keep it looking healthy, hydrated, and glowing all day long. Plus, you can even wear it under makeup since it’s non-greasy and lightweight. The inclusion of squalane also helps naturally strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier.

Want to discover more skincare products tailored to your skin type? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below!

About the author
Brittany Leitner
Brittany is an award winning beauty, health, and lifestyle writer and author of the poetry book "23 Emotions." She has eight years of experience writing for brands like Elite Daily, The. Dr. Oz Show, Shape, Stylecaster, Bustle, and more.
Share Article
Article Last Updated August 19, 2021 12:00 AM