10 Golden Beauty Rules for Combination Skin

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021

People with combination skin tend to experience a bit of both worlds–oily in some areas and dry in others. Follow these beauty rules to maintain a beautiful balance.

Man washing face with soap scrubbing exfoliation mask facial treatment looking in the mirror. Men taking care of skin, morning face wash routine for cleaning acne pimples.

Treat different areas differently

If you have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, it’s nearly impossible to find one product that works for your entire face. When it comes to moisturizers, your best bet is to use an anti-acne cream for acne-prone areas and an oil-free moisturizer everywhere else. Many beauty companies will make dual products specifically designed for combination skin; these packs include a mattifying moisturizer for the T-zone and a hydrating moisturizer for the cheek area. These are the best facial moisturizers for different skin types.

Man washing face with facial cleanser face wash soap in bathroom sink at home.

Wash with a gentle cleanser

When you have acne, any acne, you may be tempted to reach for the most powerful cleanser on the shelf. But that’s a mistake for two reasons when you have combination skin: Potent formulas can actually irritate dry cheeks while simultaneously stimulating the oily T-zone to produce more oil. When in doubt, stick to a gentle, water-soluble cleanser; this can be gel or cream as long as it’s effective in removing away all the bad stuff (makeup, dirt, and debris) without making the skin feel greasy or dry afterward. Make sure you’re not making these 13 common face-washing mistakes.

Man washing hands in bathroom sink at home checking temperature touching running water with hand. Closeup on fingers under hot water out of a faucet of a sink.

Wash with lukewarm water

Hot water makes the skin’s essential oils soften like butter and strip away when soap is added into the mix, and without those oils, every bit of moisture in your pores will disintegrate, leading to potentially painfully tight and itchy skin. After cleansing, slather on a serum to lock in moisture. “All skin types can benefit from a hydrating serum, because they help lower oil overproduction so combination skin isn’t so noticeable,” says Eliss Halina, certified aesthetician. It’s important to note that she recommends hydrating serums, not those for dry skin. “Hydrating products help boost water retention within the skin, whereas products for dry skin are usually helping to supplement oil production.”

Unrecognizable african woman applying cream . Skincare concept
Milles Studio/Shutterstock

Don’t skimp on the toner

Because oily and dry skin holds different pH balances, equalizing them is essential for maintaining healthy skin, and using a face toner after you wash is a great way to do exactly that, says Kachiu Lee, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University. Just make sure your toner is alcohol-free so it doesn’t dry out your skin or overstimulate oil glands.

Body scrub with exfoliating particles. Selective focus. Closeup.
Tatevosian Yana/Shutterstock

Use a mild exfoliant at least twice a week

You may be cleansing and moisturizing properly, but if you’re not exfoliating, your skin isn’t in prime condition. “This step is especially important for those with combination skin because the cheeks can often appear dry and flaky, but many combination skin types still experience congestion and breakouts,” says Mel Adams of Gene Juarez Salons & Spas with locations in Washington state. “Regular exfoliation helps keep your complexion looking smooth and even, and helps prevent and clear congestion and clogged pores.” The general rule of thumb for exfoliation is two to four times a week to help remove the sebum, dead skin, and pollution from your skin. And whatever you do, don’t make these exfoliating mistakes.

closeup of a young caucasian man wearing a T-shirt applying sunscreen to his arm

Slather on the SPF

Yep, this skincare rule applies to you, even if your combo skin leans towards oily. Adams recommends looking for a non-comedogenic sunscreen so that your T-zone doesn’t break out. If you’re not a fan of traditional sunscreen or think it makes your skin feel greasy, try a mineral-based sunscreen or sunscreen powder, she suggests. Find out the sunscreens top dermatologists love so much they use them on themselves.

Fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, nuts on black chalk board background. Cauliflower, avocado, apples, tomatoes, salmon, beef, spinach, herbs. Diet/healthy/paleo food. Ingredients for cooking

Eat right

Beautiful skin starts from the inside out. “Make sure you are drinking enough water (at least eight glasses a day), eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of antioxidant-rich food, and getting regular exercise to keep your skin looking its best,” suggests Adams. Add these foods to your diet for radiant skin.

Cosmetics texture mask clay for face and body. Selective focus.
Tatevosian Yana/Shutterstock

Indulge in clay masks

Whether bentonite, which is made up of minerals such as iron, sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, or French green clay, a sea clay composed of magnesium and other minerals from decomposed plant matter, clays masks are effective at cleansing pores and absorbing excess oil from your skin without irritation. Find out all the beauty benefits of bentonite clay.

Women's hands using wash hand sanitizer gel pump dispenser.
Alexei Zatevakhin/Shutterstock

Avoid products containing alcohol

While you might be tempted to use alcohol-based toners or astringents on the oilier parts of your skin, your face will not thank you, because these dry out your skin. Worse, they can trigger the oily areas to overproduce oil in an attempt to balance your skin. Always read the label on your facial cleansers, toners, and other products to make sure they are alcohol-free. Find out the signs that your skincare products are secretly damaging your complexion.

A female hand holds a jar of cream, for hands and face and puts it on the arm. women's beauty and skin-care products
Alexei Zatevakhin/Shutterstock

Tame skin with vitamin A

Because Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that helps combat free radicals, it makes it harder for P. acnes bacteria to thrive and become blemishes. It also helps speed up your skin cell turnover, removing dead skin cells and revealing more glowing skin. You’ll see it called retinol or tretinoin on ingredient labels. Find out what your acne might be saying about your health.