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Combination Skin 101: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Got a shine on? Many people mistake their skin type for oily when their skin type is actually combination. Take a good look at your skin and unless it is oily all over, you’re likely to have a combination too. And you’d be in good company – combination skin is the most common skin type.

How do you know you have combination skin?

Dry in places, a little bit oily in others. If you identify with an occasional feeling of tightness but you’re blotting off excess oil mid-afternoon, then that’s an obvious sign.

Usually, the dry areas are the cheeks and the oily areas are on what we call the ‘T-zone’ (made up from the strip across your forehead and the line down the nose and chin, making a T-shape). Your pores are usually more prominent in these oily areas too. 

Combination skin can be pretty variable and indecisive, sometimes you’ll be dealing with acne breakouts, or dry skin patches or both. 

How to care for combination skin

Combination skin can be a challenge to manage. If part of your face decides to be oily and breakout the other half does the exact opposite, by feeling dry and sometimes even scaly it can be an uphill battle to keep things balanced. 

If you’re in a spot of bother, often the first resort is to start using active acne products. This might combat the spots on your T-zone but can result in red, irritated cheeks and a whole lot of frustration.

The good news is there’s a gentle way to manage combination skin – and it involves customisation of active ingredients and well-informed skincare choices. 

The good news is there’s a gentle way to manage combination skin – and it involves customisation of active ingredients and well-informed skincare choices. 

Best cleanser for combination skin

There’s a tendency to use products that target the oily T-zone but likely this will be too irritant for the more sensitive cheek area. Stick to gentle, non-foaming cleansers for the entire face and use a more targeted approach on the T-zone only. 

If you are wearing makeup (whatever your skin type) we recommend taking that makeup off first using an additional cleansing step. The most gentle, effective approach here is to use a cotton pad dipped in micellar water followed by using your favourite gentle non-foaming cleanser. 

The combination skin cleanser we recommend: Skin + Me Purify + Prep Hydrating Cleanser. It nurtures your skin barrier and contains hero ingredients, glycerin (to keep skin cells healthy and protect against irritation) and Isoamyl Cocoate (a light, plant-based emollient to hydrate the skin).

Best moisturiser for combination skin

Your skin is unique so customise your moisturising approach to suit what works best for you. If your T-zone is generally oily, then apply moisturiser to your cheeks and dry areas only. Leave your t-zone clear.

If you feel more comfortable applying a moisturiser to your entire face, go for it but choose a lighter version that isn’t pore-clogging on your T-zone. Swap for a slightly richer (but still non-clogging) version and apply this to your cheek area only.

Your skin is unique so customise your moisturising approach to suit what works best for you.

Another tip that can work for dry cheeks? Apply a little hydrating serum containing hyaluronic acid (which draws moisture into the skin) to your cheeks only. Then apply your moisturiser over the top.

The combination skin moisturiser we recommend: Soothe + Smooth Light Moisturiser to boost skin barrier function without clogging your pores.

Sunscreen for combination skin

Daily sunscreen is crucial for every skin type. You may be tempted to skip or scrimp on it because you’re worried about how it will affect your oily T-zone, but new innovations in sunscreen formulations have come a long way in recent years.

If you’re using prescription-strength anti-acne actives or ingredients to fight the signs of ageing (such as retinoids like tretinoin) as part of your regular routine, cell turnover may be accelerated and your skin can be more vulnerable to sun exposure.

Use either a light non-clogging moisturising sunscreen under your foundation or opt for a tinted moisturising version altogether, and avoid the need for any additional steps. 

The combination skin sunscreen we recommend: Heliocare and La Roche Posay are great brands to look for in this space. They both offer effective tinted and non-tinted sunscreens that can work for combination skin.

Your personalised solution for combination skin 

If you take a Skin + Me consultation and tell your prescriber that you have combination skin then the active ingredients will be customised to ensure that even your most dry and sensitive areas, like your cheeks, will be able to tolerate it. Your Daily Doser solution will still be effective even for the oiliest of T-zones. Using a gentler custom version every evening will ensure that your entire face is happy and reduce any irritation, which can often trigger more breakouts.  

Combination skin skincare tips

Blotting papers can be a really useful additional tool in the fight against excess oil. Carry them around with you so that your T-zone can be blotted whenever it feels shiny, whilst still keeping any makeup intact. 

Clay masks can be an effective way to purify oily breakout-prone skin. Apply yours to your T-zone once or twice a week for a targeted approach. 

Our Dermatologists suggest you avoid the recent trend of using an oil-based cleanser to deal with oily skin. It’s not necessary. Your T-zone is likely oily enough and adding an oil-based product can exacerbate issues by further clogging-up pores and leading to breakouts

Focus on targeted skincare that respects your most sensitive areas, supplement with gentle, supportive products and a consistent routine that’s targeted to your individual needs. 

Medical facts checked by Head of Medical, Dr Jason Thomson

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