Skincare 101: Combination Skin

Skincare 101: Combination Skin

Up, down, and never at the same time: combination skin might be one of the trickiest skin types legit EVER. Why? It’s so damn mutable. The dry patches switch up on you, parts of your face’s makeup melts off: it’s a fucking shitshow. If you clicked on this article, I’m sure you’re no stranger to that. While I have a true oily skin type, I find that it shifts into combination during certain seasons, and sometimes even while using different products. Some of you that weighed in on my Instagram poll yesterday know the struggle all too well: products your skin has a love/hate relationship with, makeup that fights your skin, the whole nine yards. Before you throw yourself into the skincare product gauntlet of trial and error, there are a few basic things you need to understand first to really have a fighting chance on solving it. As always, make sure you consult your dermatologist/estheticians before trying anything totally out of the box for you first. These product recommendations are helpful once you know which ingredients are ideal for your personal needs.

Combination Skin: The Cold Hard Truth

Let’s get down and dirty, shall we? Those of you with combo skin will know the basics: dry patches on the cheeks/oily T-Zone. Put simply, it means your skin has two or more skin types on the face. It comes with a slew of drama when it comes to T-Zone issues like breakouts, visible pores, and blackheads. From personal experience, it’s been a life long battle of figuring out how to balance my skin properly. Which brings me to the good part…how do you solve it? It boils down to two main needs: exfoliation and optimized moisturizing. From there, the key to really getting a grip on both the dry skin and oily skin on your face is knowing what to avoid as far as ingredients go.


Regardless of what type of skin you have, exfoliation is a must. Here’s how it changes for combination skin:

  • Generally, physical exfoliators like granular scrubs, cleansing tools/brushes are best. I personally love using my facial razor (pictured below) to remove dead skin and peach fuzz. If you’re not on the sensitive side, you can also go for a light chemical exfoliator.
  • Key ingredients to look for: lactic acid, salicylic acid, AHA,
Optimized Moisturizing

This is often the trickiest part. However, the one thing you should ALWAYS do is moisturize your entire face. When it comes to combination skin, ingredients are key when it comes to choosing the right one. You’ll want to choose ones that contain the following:

  • Salicylic Acid/Silica [for oily areas]
  • Oil-free hydrating ingredients (hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe) [for dry areas]

I’ve personally seen the best results when I use two different moisturizers for each area when my skin is more combination. There are a few, however, that do work for the entire face, linked below!

The Product Breakdown

Look for foaming or balancing cleansers. This is important in starting your skin off on the right foot in treating the actual problems at hand. If you’re more on the oily side, finding cleansers that contain glycolic acid helps exfoliate your skin without drying out your more dry areas. Salicylic acid is also a great choice for combination skin that’s on the more oily/acne-prone side. It will also help exfoliate away blackheads and pimples.



With combination skin, this is the step you absolutely must not skip. Like the cleanser, it helps balance your skin out and preps it for the rest of your skincare routine. Make sure to steer clear from alcohol-based ones, and opt for ones with moisturizing properties. The best part? Results, baby: toners will help keep your pores clear which reduces how large they look. Did I mention some are also great for controlling breakouts? Finding one with AHA will be your best friend if that’s the case. The following options cover each type of combination skin need:



Serums are your secret weapon when it comes to combination skin. It helps you treat problems directly, regardless of what they are. I’ve found it helpful to layer serums when I have multiple concerns. The same goes for sectioning your face to give different areas what they need. The following serums help aid combination skin in all it’s biggest needs: acne, dry spots, minimizing oil production, and even anti-aging.



The best way to balance your skin? Use the proper moisturizer for your needs, and never skip it. It takes a little trial and error. If seeing a doctor is out of the budget, remember the moisturizing tenets above, and try samples of different ones until you find one that works for you. The following moisturizers are a great starting point!



This step is what sets combo skin apart from other types. Splitting up your mask game is key for combination skin. Opt for a clay mask/clarifying one on your T-Zone, and a more hydrating one on your cheeks. I use some of the following ones year-round, and others only during the winter when my skin is extra dry.


Skincare 101- Combination Skin x New York Apartment

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Photos by Mari Uchida Photography


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