An Effective & Easy-to-Follow Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin

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Combination skin can be tricky to deal with. Many of the skin care products out there are designed for either dry or oily skin – what are you meant to do when your skin type sits in the middle of this?

The answer is simple – turn to us. We’re about to delve into the depths of combination skin – learn what it is, how to tell if you have it, and how to put together a skincare routine that’s capable of tackling both the dryness and the oiliness at the same time.


What is Combination Skin?

Combination skin is a skin type that brings together elements from both of the other main skin types; dry skin and oily skin. Some parts of the face will be oily, while dry patches will be apparent in other areas. Usually, it’s the t-zone, meaning across the forehead and down the nose, that’s responsible for the excess oil, while the cheeks remain dry.

What Causes Combination Skin?

There’s no one “cause” of combination skin – there are numerous factors that contribute to this skin type. While genetics may play the biggest role, age, lifestyle choices, hormonal fluctuations, and the seasons will also have an impact.

How Can You Tell if You Have Combination Skin?

Dry and flaky skin on the leg

It’s sometimes not easy to tell if you have combination skin – it doesn’t always manifest as an oily t-zone and dry cheeks. It could be that the majority of your face is dry, with only a couple of oily areas, or it could be the complete opposite. Either way, if you notice signs of both dry skin and oily skin, no matter how subtle they may be, then this points to you having the combination skin type.

Signs of Dry Skin

  • Flaking skin
  • Skin that feels tight
  • Roughness
  • Redness

Signs of Oily Skin

  • Skin that looks shiny and feels greasy
  • Large, visible pores
  • Acne breakouts

Choosing the Right Skin Care Products for Combination Skin

Finding the right products for combo skin can be tricky. If you want to use that product all over your face, then you’ll need one that contains non-comedogenic hydrating ingredients. This means that they’ll keep your skin hydrated without resulting in clogged pores and breakouts.

On the other hand, you could also use products designed specifically for dryness or oiliness. However, you’ll need to make sure that the products for dryness are only applied to your dry areas, while the products designed to tackle excess oil and prevent acne are only applied to your oily areas.

The Best Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin

Ideally, you should adapt your skin care routine based specifically on your skin’s needs. Even though you may have combination skin, you might also be dealing with wrinkles, or dark spots, or sensitivities, meaning that the products that you use should be able to tackle these issues too.

Here’s a basic skincare routine for combination skin to get you started. You can then adjust these steps, along with the specific products that you use, to make sure that they really do target each of your skin concerns.

Start with a Gentle Cleanser

Pretty woman applying cream on face

A good facial cleanser is a must for every skin type. Cream cleansers are great for nourishing the skin, while a cleansing lotion would also be a good choice. While foaming cleansers are usually a go-to when dealing with excess oil production, they’re known for drying out the skin’s natural barrier, which wouldn’t do your dry patches any favors.

Apply a Toner

Next up in your skin care regimen should be an alcohol-free toner. Not only will a toner clear away any residue that your cleanser has left behind, but it will also readjust the pH level of your skin – something that cleansers usually disrupt. This is what makes a toner so important – balanced skin is far less likely to dry out or produce excess oil, making combo skin less of a hassle.

Exfoliate Dead Skin Cells

It’s now time to exfoliate. You have two options; chemical exfoliants, which are usually acid or enzyme-based, or physical exfoliants, such as a scrub. A simple scrub may sound less scary, but chemical exfoliants are actually far gentler. Lactic acid would be the best one to use on combination skin – it’s effective at removing dead skin cells yet also acts as a humectant, which helps to hydrate the skin and strengthen the skin barrier.

One thing to keep in mind is that your oily areas will likely need to be exfoliated more often than the dry skin on your face, which could end up with sensitivities if you exfoliate too much. So, while you may only need to exfoliate your dry areas once a week, feel free to concentrate your exfoliant on your oily patches every 2-3 days.

Ways of exfoliating skin

Dab on a Serum

There are so many serums out there to choose from, but your first pick should always be one containing vitamin C. This is a must-have ingredient for all skin types – it’ll deal with an uneven skin tone, anti-aging, and overall skin health. Apply this all over your face, to both the oily and dry areas.

A retinol serum would also be a good idea, since retinol is a major multi-tasker. It helps to promote natural exfoliation in the skin, meaning no more clogged pores. A retinol serum will also fight skin aging, while brightening any dark spots.

Apply an Eye Cream

Since the skin around the eyes is thinner and more delicate than the skin anywhere else on your face or body, this area is usually one of the first to develop lines and wrinkles. If you really don’t want an extra step in your skincare routine, then this is one that you could skip, so long as the moisturizer that you use is safe to be used around your eyes too.

However, to give your eyes some extra TLC, use an eye cream designed to plump fine lines and thicken delicate skin. Since this part of the face contains fewer sebaceous glands, meaning that it’s not able to produce as much sebum, a formula that contains natural oils can help to counter this.


Moisturizers can be tricky to navigate when you have combo skin. Many are simply too rich for oily areas, while lighter formulas will leave dry skin parched. One ingredient that does work well is hyaluronic acid – it draws moisture to the skin without weighing it down, immediately giving your skin cells a plumper and fuller look.

Another beneficial ingredient to look for would be green tea. It works especially well when combined with hyaluronic acid, not only at reducing oil production, but also for aging-related concerns.

Woman about to use moisturizer

Another option would be to use two moisturizers on your face. Apply a light and oil-free formula to oily areas, but then slather a rich moisturizer on to any dry patches.

Either way, moisturizing is a step that shouldn’t be skipped. Even on the days when your skin feels heavy with oil, you’ll still need to moisturize. After all, oil is completely different from water, and it’s water that your cells need to function efficiently.

Don’t Forget About SPF

Not only do UV rays permanently damage your skin cells and increase your odds of developing skin cancer, but they also stimulate the skin into producing more oil, which you definitely don’t want when it comes to your t-zone. A mineral sunscreen would be best, with a formula that contains at least SPF 30. Remember to reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours, even in the winter.

Weekly Face Masks

This isn’t an essential step, but it’s one that your skin will love. Face masks contain high concentrations of active ingredients – they’re usually stronger than the products designed for daily use. This makes them useful for giving your skin a deep treatment. Plus, with face masks designed for every skin type, choosing one couldn’t be easier.

Again, look for a hydrating, non-comedogenic formula that’ll tackle any specific skin concerns you may have. Use it weekly, or even twice a week, for happy and healthy skin.


A cosmetic cream on a woman's face

What products are best for combination skin?

Products that hydrate the skin without weighing it down or clogging up pores are best for combination skin.

What is a good skincare routine for sensitive combination skin?

The skincare routine above can be followed by those with sensitive combination skin. However, you’ll need to adjust the products that you use, making sure that each formula is gentle and free of any harsh chemicals, such as fragrances and harmful preservatives.

Is aloe vera good for combination skin?

Yes, aloe vera is great for every skin type, including combination skin! Being a gel, it’s lightweight, yet it’s also incredibly hydrating and contains more than 75 biologically active compounds [1].


Combination skin can seem challenging at first, but, once you know exactly what each part of your face needs, you’ll be able to give your skin the best of care. If you struggle to find products that can be used on both dry and oily areas, then you always have the option of simply treating those areas separately. Whichever route you end up taking, don’t be afraid to experiment with the above skin care routine – trial and error may seem a little frightening, but this really is the only way to learn what works (and what doesn’t) for your skin’s unique needs.



Avatar for Alina Jumabhoy
About Alina Jumabhoy

With almost 10 years of experience writing for the skincare industry, Alina brings her unique perspective into all of the in-depth reviews and articles she writes.