This section doesn’t currently include any content. Add content to this section using the sidebar.

What is combination skin?

Manage Subscription

When it comes to skin types, we’re all just as beautifully different as different skin tones.

There are many skin types, just as there are many skin tones and skincare for all skin types. Generally speaking, our skin type can be classified as normal, oily, dry, sensitive, acne prone or combination. How we look after our own personal skin type is also unique – what works for one person’s skin may not work for another and vice versa, but there are general rules to follow. There 

Here, we’re discussing combination skin – what it is, what causes it and how to treat it to get the best from it.

So here’s how to know if you have combination skin, and what to do about it if you do.

What is combination skin?

The combination skin type is a common skin type and on the most basic level, it means having parts of the skin on your face that are prone to oiliness and other parts prone to dryness.

As a general rule, if you have combination skin, you will have the distinctive characteristics of combination skin. Your T zone – your forehead, nose and chin – will be oily and prone to shine throughout the day, and the other areas of your face – your cheeks, temples and the sides of your face – will be prone to dryness and flaking.

You may also find that your oily areas are more prone to spots, breakouts and acne and have visibly larger pores.

The skin is covered in tiny holes, or pores, and within these pores sit the sebaceous glands. These sebaceous glands are responsible for producing sebum, a wax like substance that is naturally present in all skin.

Sebum helps to protect the skin from outside elements and also helps to prevent too much moisture escaping from the skin. In people with oily skin, their pores tend to be larger, which means they can produce more sebum, leading to oilier, shinier skin. In people with combination skin, their T zone tends to have larger pores and a shinier look.

How will I know if I have combination skin?

To truly know if you have combination skin, wash your face using your usual facial cleanser. Then wait. Don’t apply any moisturisers, serums or makeup, have a completely naked face.

After 20 minutes, look for traces of shine. You can do this in the mirror, or use one ply of a facial tissue and press it gently onto your whole face. The chances are, if you have combination skin, the area of the tissue that was pressed against your T zone will be oily, and the rest won’t be.

Causes of combination skin

Like most skin types, combination skin is largely caused by our genes. If we have parents with combination skin, we’re more likely to also have this skin type.

Our hormones also play a role in our skin type. As we go through puberty, we tend to have a surge in the male hormones, in particular testosterone (whether we’re male or female). These male hormones, or androgens, cause the skin to become oilier (and more prone to acne). This may happen all over the face or in certain areas.

In women, hormonal imbalances during menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and the menopause can also lead to oilier skin, either all over or in areas such as the T zone.

Also using products designed for the wrong skin type can cause our skin to become dry or oily in certain patches.

How to treat and get rid of combination skin

Getting rid of combination skin is perhaps an ask too far. Of all the problem skin types to have, combination skin is perhaps one of the least troublesome anyway.

The trick instead, is to use the best combination skincare products to control it as best you can. Taking the following aspects into account will help you on your journey:

  • Exercise, this gets the blood flowing an increases nutrients being delivered to the skin
  • Meditate, stress can cause increased oil production so meditation can help ease this
  • Drink plenty of water as this will help keep the skin hydrated. Oily skin can get dehydrated.
  • Have a balanced diet that avoids simple carbohydrates like white bread, refined sugar and fizzy drinks.
  • Use oil-control paper to blot away excess oil

Skincare for combination skin

Treating combination skin is all about the right products. Always use products designed for combination skin as they’ll help with how to look after dry skin along with being the best products for oily skin management without upsetting your skin.

Our article on skincare for combination skin goes into much more detail and is full of tips on how to deal with combination skin and useful information on what’s best to use in a skincare regime for combination skin. But in a nutshell:

  • Cleanse your face twice a day using a micellar lotion or foaming face wash to remove dirt, makeup, sweat, oil and dead skin cells
  • Use a non astringent toner to help remove excess oil without stripping your dry areas
  • Apply a lightweight oil free serum, especially to your T zone
  • Use an oil free moisturiser all over, paying particular attention to your cheeks and other dry areas
  • Only ever use oil free makeup, which is the best makeup for oily skin and look for foundations for combination skin that contain hyaluronic acid
  • Use a mix of hydrating and oil absorbing face masks on the relevant areas of your skin at least once a week
  • Exfoliate using a product containing salicylic acid once or twice a week

What to use for combination skin will depend on how much time you have to spend on skincare. Aside from the basics of cleansers and moisturisers, if you have spare time, you can also use a combination of exfoliants, masks, primers, toners and serums.

How to take care of combination skin in the winter

During the colder months, our thoughts turn to cosy jumpers and thick, woolly scarves. The same can be said for our skin – we tend to switch to heavier products such as moisturisers and foundations to smother our skin in a thick layer of cosiness. Both to protect us from the cold, wind and rain but for some of us, also to hide the fact our skin hasn’t seen sun for months.

However, coating combination skin in heavy duty products can cause excess oil production and shine.

So the trick is to still use products designed for combination skin, but you may be able to go slightly heavier. For example, you could use a heavier night cream to help nourish your dry areas overnight, and a full coverage, oil free foundation during the day.

See our article on the best makeup for combination skin for more makeup tips for your skin type.

How to treat combination skin naturally

Combination skin, particularly in those with sensitive skin too, is best treated using products that contain natural, gentle products.

Harsh astringent ingredients such as alcohol based ingredients may be good at stripping away excess oil, but they’re very drying and won’t do your dry areas any favours. Likewise, oil based moisturisers and makeup may help to nourish dry skin, but won’t help you combat oil and shine in your T zone.

Instead, look for products that contain gentle hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is an ideal ingredient for combination skin as it helps the skin to retain moisture, leaving it hydrated and plump, without stripping away or adding oil to the skin.

Having combination skin doesn’t have to mean being a slave to dryness and oiliness in equal measures. Get your skincare and if you wear it, makeup, right, and you can be confident in your own skin.

At Sönd we fully understand what it is to have problem skin, as we have first-hand experience. We developed our range of alkalising skincare with skin like yours, and ours, in mind and we have countless happy customers who have transformed their skin. So why not give us a try!

Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

Follow Hannah using her profile below:
Eco & Beyond
For the Ageless