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Everything You Need To Know About Caring for Combination Skin

If you have a hard time categorizing your skin type, it may be because you have two.
  • Wendy Rose Gould
March 15, 2024

If you experience dryness on some parts of your face but still battle afternoon shine, chances are good you have combination skin. This skin type, as the name suggests, exhibits a combination of different characteristics, like dryness in some areas and oiliness in others. Because of your skin’s differing (often contrasting) needs, it can be tricky to figure out how to care for combination skin properly, especially when you’re just starting out.

Ultimately, the key to caring for combination skin lies in finding balance. Ahead, we’ll teach you how to do just that and share a few helpful tips on building a skincare routine that works for your skin type. Plus, you’ll discover some of our favorite products for combination skin to add to your routine. Keep reading for all the intel.

What Is Combination Skin?

Per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a combination skin type is one that has characteristics of both oily skin and dry skin. Typically, those with combination skin have drier skin on the cheeks and a more oily T-zone (an area that includes the forehead, nose, and chin). Those with this skin type may also face related concerns, such as tightness or sensitivity on the drier areas of their face, and clogged pores or breakouts on the oilier areas.

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How To Tell if You Have Combination Skin

Before we dive into building a skincare routine for combination skin, we thought it would be useful to go over how to identify combination skin.

The easiest way is to try what we like to call the cleansing test. It involves nothing more than cleansing your face as usual, letting it dry (without any products on it), then examining your skin. Dry skin will usually start to look and feel tight shortly after cleansing, while oily skin may start to appear slick. Combination skin, meanwhile, will have both characteristics—meaning your cheeks may feel tight and dry, but your nose, forehead, and chin may have a bit of shine.

If the cleansing test doesn’t clear things up for you, here are a few more indications you may have this mixed skin type:

  • You have both oily and dry areas: This is among the most common signs of combination skin and, as we mentioned, typically manifests as dry cheeks and an oilier, shinier T-zone.
  • Your skin changes with the seasons: Many people experience some dryness in the winter, but it tends to be more pronounced for those with combination skin. Similarly, you may notice your skin feels oilier than usual in hot, humid weather.
  • Your skin becomes oilier throughout the day: If your skin feels drier in the morning and becomes more oily as the day progresses—especially in the T-zone region—you may have a combination skin type.
  • It’s challenging to find products that sit well on your skin: Perhaps you find that mattifying products make your cheeks feel too dry, while dewier makeup leaves your T-zone looking overly slick. This is often a sign that your skin is neither fully dry nor entirely oily, but a combination of both.

What Causes Combination Skin?

The main cause of combination skin is the presence of overactive oil glands in the T-zone. However, your skin’s oil production is influenced by a number of different factors, including hormones, stress, and the weather, according to Cleveland Clinic. While these factors are often out of your control, a proper skincare routine for combination skin can help keep your skin feeling balanced.

What Are the Best Skincare Products for Combination Skin?

The best products for combination skin are those that provide enough hydration to moisturize your dry areas without leaving your T-zone feeling greasy (or clogging your pores). Here are a few things to look out for when restocking your skincare shelf:

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1. AHAs and BHAs

Regular exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells and debris that may clog your pores. While this is true of all types of exfoliation, we recommend those with combination skin look for products containing chemical exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy acids, as these tend to be gentler than scrubs, per the AAD. One pick we love is L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 5% Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner. The gentle, fragrance-free toner helps remove dead skin cells and smooths the skin’s texture, revealing brighter-looking skin over time. Use it in the evening, after cleansing, and before applying serums and moisturizer.

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2. Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant moisturizer that exists naturally within the skin, so it’s generally considered compatible with all skin types. Incorporate it into your routine for combination skin with L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, which hydrates, plumps, and helps firm the skin—all without clogging pores or leaving behind a sticky or tacky feel.

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3. Water-based moisturizers

All skin types need moisture, and that includes combination skin. For lightweight hydration that won’t weigh down your oilier areas, we recommend reaching for a water-based face moisturizer, such as L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream. Its non-greasy formula absorbs quickly, deeply hydrating the skin for a plumper, smoother appearance with continued use.

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An Easy 5-Step Skincare Routine for Combination Skin

Now that you know what combination skin is, you’ll be better equipped to care for it properly. Here are the steps you should aim to follow every day for balanced, healthy-feeling skin:

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Step 1: Cleanse

Regardless of your skin type, your skincare routine should always begin with a fresh canvas, and that requires cleansing. For combination skin, it’s generally best to stick to a gentle cleanser that will remove pore-clogging dirt and debris without stripping your skin. Try L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser, which helps remove makeup and impurities while gently exfoliating your skin. Be sure to use lukewarm water when you lather up—hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving it feeling dry and tight.

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Step 2. Tone

After cleansing, reach for your exfoliating toner and use a clean cotton round to swipe it onto your face. Allow the toner to absorb fully before continuing on to the next step in your skincare routine for combination skin.

3. Step 3: Apply serum

Using a facial serum is a great way to add extra moisture to your skincare routine and address any skin concerns you may have (such as fine lines, wrinkles, or clogged pores). A hyaluronic serum is ideal for hydrating drier areas, while those containing vitamin C, like L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum, can help to promote a brighter, more even skin tone. And if you want to use both, feel free—hyaluronic acid and vitamin C make a great pairing.

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Step 4: Moisturize

As we mentioned earlier, moisturizing is non-negotiable if you want your skin to look and feel its best. Apply your face cream after layering on your serums, making sure to give the moisturizer adequate time to absorb before continuing to the next (and final) step in your routine. If your eye area is prone to dryness, you can take this time to apply an eye cream or serum—we love L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid + Caffeine Eye Serum, which hydrates, brightens, and de-puffs for younger-looking eyes.

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Step 5: Apply sunscreen

Much like the way moisturizer is necessary for all skin types, so is SPF. The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every day (yep, that includes on cloudy and cold days). Give your combination skin a little extra TLC by reaching for a sunscreen that offers skincare benefits, like L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion. The lightweight sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays and absorbs quickly without leaving behind a white cast. Plus, the unique formula contains vitamin C and vitamin E and helps protect the skin from free radicals that can contribute to visible signs of aging, promoting a brighter, more even complexion with consistent use. (It even helps prime skin for makeup!)

Keep in mind that SPF is only one part of proper sun protection. Per the FDA, you should also avoid direct sun exposure during the midday hours, wear protective clothing, and stick to the shade when possible.

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