Do I have combination skin?

While some women have either dry or oily skin, many find themselves in the middle with a combination of both. Dealing with combination skin can be tricky. Follow these tips to find out if you have combination skin and learn how treat it properly.

Woman reading cosmetics label

What is combination skin?

Combination skin features areas of both dry and oily skin. The oily areas are concentrated in the T-zone of the face (forehead, nose and chin), while the dry skin is on the cheeks and jawline.

Dry areas feel tight after washing and can often be flaky and dull. The oily areas in the T-zone can get shiny, feel greasy and be prone to breakouts. Cleansing, moisturizing and protecting combination skin can be difficult, as the oily and dry areas need different treatment and care.

Read about the golden rules of skin care >>

Best products for combination skin

Dr. Ava Shamban, renowned board-certified dermatologist and author of Heal Your Skin, suggests a consistent skin care regimen:

  • Cleanse with a gentle soap-free cleanser.
  • Exfoliate once per week with a finely textured scrub.  (Avoid exfoliation, however, if you have highly sensitive skin or if you are on acne medication that causes irritation.)
  • Moisturize lightly with a product that contains active ingredients such as antioxidants.
  • Protect with a broad spectrum of sunblock daily with no less than 30 SPF, UVA and UVB protection. Reapply over the course of the day.

“Read labels,” says Dr. Shamban. “Make sure your moisturizer and other products have ingredients that speak to your specific skin care issues. For instance, if you have excess oil production in some areas but dryness in others, your skin will benefit from a water-based moisturizer containing glycolic acid, tea tree oil, or zinc to address the oiliness. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramide, colloidal oatmeal, and/or apricot kernel oil to address the dryness.”

Dr. Shamban also advises, “Look for other active ingredients as well to address any additional skin issues you may have. For instance, mulberry extract, vitamin C, pine bark extract, strawberry begonia, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate will reduce redness/discoloration. Calendula, green tea, aloe vera, red algae, and colloidal oatmeal, among others, will bring down inflammation. And azelaic acid, tea tree oil, and zinc will help with acne problems.”

There are also a number of ingredients that you should avoid in your skin care products. “Steer clear of products containing mineral oil, petrolatum, and/or coconut oil,” explains Dr. Shamban. “Also, if your combination skin is prone to acne flare-ups as well as oil production, avoid ingredients such as butyl stearate, cinnamon oil, cocoa butter, jojoba oil, peppermint oil, octyl stearate, and palmitate.”

Learn more about acne treatments for your skin type >>

Makeup tips for combination skin

Of course, you should read the labels on your cosmetics as well. Avoid the potentially irritating and oil-producing ingredients mentioned previously.

“Also, be sure to wash brushes and other applicators with an anti-bacterial wash or soap often,” cautions Dr. Shamban. “Pass on products that contain ‘sparkles’ or other light-enhancement agents. These often contain mica or other particulate substances that can clog pores. In general, choose noncomedogenic (non-clogging) options, and look for hypoallergenic lines. Many mineral makeup lines offer great results, purity and protection; but be sure to check out ingredients lists on these products as well before you decide to buy.”

Cream blush is a better choice than powder for dry skin. So, it’s a good option for those with combination skin because the cheeks are one of the dry areas. For foundation, a cream-to-powder formula is optimal for combination skin, as it’s neither too greasy nor too dry.

Follow the 10 skin commandments >>

What to avoid

As a teenager, you were probably told that fried foods can cause acne breakouts. For adults, Dr. Shamban also recommends avoiding greasy foods, as well as some other environmental factors which can damage your skin.

“Stay away from excessively greasy or fatty foods such as fast food French fries and other deep-fried favorites. And make sure your skin is protected appropriately for weather conditions. For instance, in addition to reapplying sunscreen throughout the day, make sure to keep skin well-moisturized during the winter months or excessively windy conditions. This will provide a shielding barrier between skin and the elements.”

Find out what to eat for healthy skin >>

Ask the pros

If you have trouble finding the right skin care products or cosmetics to help balance your skin, don’t hesitate to ask a professional. “It’s always good to check in with your dermatologist in order to customize your skin care regimen,” says Dr. Shamban. “In addition, several in-office procedures — such as microdermabrasion and cleansing and hydrating facials — can work well to address concerns associated with combination skin.”


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