Managing combination skin is a balancing act. However, it is possible to achieve balanced skin with the right products and an effective skincare routine.

Continue reading to learn more about the causes of combination skin, as well as the products you should be using for this skin type.

What is Combination Skin?

Combination skin refers to a skin type where some areas of the face are dry and others are more oily.

This is due to the number of sebaceous glands (which produce oil) on each area of the face, as well as their oil-producing rate.

What Causes Combination Skin?

There are many factors that cause skin to be oily in some areas, and dry in others. Here are the many causes of combination skin:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Stress
  • Hormones

Dr. Richard L. Torbeck, MD and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai, explains that oilier areas tend to be around the nose and forehead (the T-zone).

Drier areas tend to be around the cheeks, mouth, and eyelids.

How Do You Know If You Have Combination Skin?

Do you suspect you have combination skin? Here are a few ways you can tell:

  • Look at Post-Face Wash Appearance: Dr. Torbeck notes that, after washing your face, if your skin is oily in some areas despite being rough or irritated in others, you’re dealing with combination skin.
  • Assess How Moisturizer Affects Your Skin: You likely have combination skin if your face moisturizer makes drier areas feel comfortably hydrated, but makes oil-prone areas appear shinier.
  • Note Seasonal Behavior: If you have drier skin in the winter, oilier skin in the summer, and a mix of the two in the spring and fall, you likely have combination skin.

How to Take Care of Combination Skin

Those with combination skin need to find a balancing routine that doesn’t strip the skin of it’s natural oils (which triggers more oil production) or neglect moisture (which can lead to irritated and parched skin).

Here are a few tips for taking care of combination skin:

  • If you are acne-prone, Dr. Torbeck recommends focusing your use of acne washes and creams in areas with oilier skin, since acne tends to be worse in these spots.
  • Use a gentle cleanser that removes debris without stripping the skin, as this will help effectively cleanse (for oily areas) without over-drying (for dry areas). If using an acne cleanser on oily areas, focus the gentle cleanser on dry areas.
  • Avoid using thick moisturizers in areas where you have oily skin, since they can increase oiliness and the likelihood of acne.

Best Products for Combination Skin

These are the best products for combination skin that will keep your skin as balanced as possible.

1. Best Face Wash: Paula’s Choice Resist Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser

Best Face Wash for Combination Skin

Best Face Wash for Combination Skin

This gentle cleanser is ideal for those with combination skin, as it helps balance moisture levels while still removing debris and excess oil from the skin. The cream-to-foam formula has replenishing ingredients, and effectively cleanses without disturbing the skin’s barrier.

How to Use: Wet your face. Massage 1-2 pumps of the cleanser into the skin, using gentle, circular motions. Rinse thoroughly. Use both morning and night.

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2. Best Toner: Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion

Best Toner for Combination Skin

Best Toner for Combination Skin

Hada Labo’s toner contains ingredients that lock in moisture, including five types of hyaluronic acid and urea. The formula – which is free of fragrances, alcohol, and mineral oils – is perfect for combination skin, as it hydrates without leaving behind an oily residue.

How to Use: Dispense the product into your hands. Gently pat the formula into dry, clean skin until it is completely absorbed.

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3. Best Exfoliator (Acne-Prone): Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

Best Exfoliator for Acne-Prone Combination Skin

Best Exfoliator for  Combination Skin (Acne-Prone)

BHAs are great for those with acne-prone skin, as they are oil-soluble and able to penetrate deep into the pores to clear up debris. It also sheds dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. The 2% concentration in this treatment is effective, but still gentle enough for drier areas of the skin.

How to Use: Cleanse and dry the skin. Saturate a cotton pad with the product, and then sweep all over the face. This formula may be used daily.

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4. Best Exfoliator (Anti-Aging): Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel

Best Exfoliator for Combination Skin (Anti-Aging)

Best Exfoliator for Combination Skin (Anti-Aging)

Those treating wrinkles and signs of aging should use AHAs, which are water-soluble and exfoliate the surface of the skin. This gel contains glycolic acid, an AHA that sheds layers of dead skin cells to reveal radiant and smooth skin. The formula is gentle, and also contains natural ingredients that replenish the skin.

How to Use: Cleanse and dry the skin. Apply a dime-size amount all over the face. This formula may be used daily.

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5. Best Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C

Best Serum for Combination Skin

Best Serum for Combination Skin

Vitamin C serums are great for all skin types, as they fight free radicals, build collagen, and even out skin tone. This 20% vitamin C serum doesn’t leave a greasy finish, and is fragrance, color, and paraben free.

How to Use: Apply two to three drops of the product to clean, dry skin. The formula may be used daily.

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6. Best Sunscreen: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF 50

Best Sunscreen for Combination Skin

Best Sunscreen for Combination Skin

This sunscreen is non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores), which makes it ideal for those with combination and acne-prone skin. It also contains hydrating ingredients that help moisturize dry spots, including hyaluronic acid and royal jelly extract. The lightweight, watery formula absorbs quickly into the skin, and doesn’t leave a greasy finish.

How to Use: After moisturizing, apply a nickel-sized amount of the formula to the face and neck.

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7. Best Moisturizer: Cosrx Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion

Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin

Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin

This moisturizer contains vitamins and antioxidants that calm, soothe, and hydrate the skin. It is oil-free and has a lightweight consistency, but still effectively hydrates the skin. This makes it ideal for skin that is both oily and dry.

How to Use: Gently massage the product into the skin after cleansing and applying serums or treatments.

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8. Best Face Mask: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

Best Face Mask for Combination Skin

Best Face Mask for Combination Skin

This mask is excellent for treating oily and acne-prone areas of the skin. The bentonite clay gets deep into the pores to cleanse and draw out impurities, helping to reduce breakouts and oil production.

How to Use: Mix the dry clay with equal parts water or apple cider vinegar. Apply the mask to clean, dry skin. Avoid dry patches, and instead focus on oily areas of the skin. Leave on for up to 20 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse. Use weekly.

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Best Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin

Looking for the best skincare routine for combination skin? Follow these skincare steps, both morning and night:

  1. Cleanse: Use a gentle cleanser all over the face to remove debris without stripping natural oils
  2. Tone: Apply a hydrating and non-irritating toner all over clean skin
  3. Exfoliate: After toning, apply a chemical exfoliator all over the face. You may only need to exfoliate once per day, depending on your skin’s needs
  4. Serum: Allow the exfoliant to dry, and then follow with your serum of choice
  5. Spot Treatment: If necessary, apply a spot treatment to blemishes
  6. Moisturize: Once the spot treatment has dried, gently massage a moisturizer all over the face
  7. Sunscreen (Morning Only): Sun protection is crucial for skin health, so apply a sunscreen daily

Keep in mind that the best skincare routine is one that works for YOU. You may need to change up your usage and how frequently you use products depending on how your skin reacts. In short, the above routine is a great starting point for combo skin.

Other Recommended Products for Combination Skin

Looking to complete your skincare routine? Consider these favorites:


How can you tell whether you have dry or combination skin?

If your skin feels tight and dry all over, you likely have dry skin. However, if you notice areas that are shinier and more oily (particularly around the nose and forehead), you likely have combination skin. The amount of oil may fluctuate, especially as the weather changes, but it signals that you have combination skin.

Do you have to use all of the products mentioned above?

The best skincare routine is one you’ll actually commit to, so a simpler routine will work. No matter how complicated or simple your skincare routine is, it should always include cleansing, moisturizing, and sunscreen. You can always add more products in the future if you’d like to target and treat your skin’s unique needs.

How do you moisturize combination skin?

This skin type should be moisturized twice daily. Many people avoid applying moisturizer to oily areas of the skin in an attempt to reduce oils, or use harsher products to “dry” the oil up. However, these methods only end up stripping and dehydrating the skin, which triggers it to produce even more oils. Moisturize the entire face to maintain hydrated, balanced skin.

The Bottom Line

Combination skin is tricky to manage since you have to focus on two very different issues. However, by using the right products and taking smart skincare steps, you’ll be able to find balance and maintain skin that is hydrated and doesn’t overproduce oil.