What is combination skin? How can you tell if you have it?

What is combination skin? How can you tell if you have it?

First, what is combination skin? How can you tell if you have it? I think some people have trouble figuring this out.

Combination skin is a broad term used to describe skin with areas of the face that behave differently. Some places might be oily, while other areas dry. Often, but not always, you'll see oiliness appear on the forehead, nose, and chin (T-zone oiliness) with accompanying dry cheeks and eyelid skin.

The truth of the matter is EVERYONE has combination skin because we all have different oil gland sizes on our faces. Our most prominent oil glands are located where the skin is thicker, like the forehead, nose, and chin. It's important to note that oil gland size is unique to each person depending on skin composition. For example, I have dry skin everywhere. But my T-zone is LESS dry than my eyelid skin and cheeks, where my oil glands are smaller.

What are some of the skincare concerns people with combination skin have?

People often worry that they need to treat these areas differently, so they buy specific products to target dry areas and other products to target oily areas. This is completely unnecessary! If you strip your oily skin with a drying toner, it often overcompensates by producing more oil to replace it, which has the opposite effect you want. 

How can you take care of combination skin?

Focus on the drier, more sensitive skin. Ensure these areas get enough hydration and not too much of the treatment products (like antioxidant serums and retinols). For your oilier areas that are more resilient, use a bit more of the treatment and even a bit less of the moisturizer if needed. Don't overcomplicate things! Use all the same products just in varying amounts depending on your skin's unique needs.

What are the basics or essential skincare products people with combination skin need? (cleansers? moisturizers? toners?)


FIRST, Splash your face with water. If you have very oily skin, you can wash it but still use a gentle cleanser.

SECOND, Apply an antioxidant-rich serum with vitamin C for a layer of pollution protection.

THIRD, Moisturize based on what your drier skin areas need. The drier your skin, the heavier the moisturizer, and just use less on the oiler areas of the face.

FINALLY, Apply a zinc-based sunscreen. This is the essential step if you really want to prevent premature aging. Don't skip it!


FIRST, Cleanse skin to remove the day's buildup from pollution, sweat, dirt, oil, and makeup.

SECOND, Incorporate a treatment product, like AHA/BHA or retinoids that work most effectively without the sun and during the sleep cycle when the body is most responsive to repair. Apply to oily areas of your face first and use the leftovers or even skip some nights in the dry areas.

THIRD, Apply your moisturizer starting in your drier areas and use the leftovers in your oiler areas.

What ingredients should you look for if you have combination skin?

Look for ingredients that are universally good and/or included in most clean ingredient lists: Squalane, niacinamide, glycerin, zinc oxide, vitamin C.

What ingredients should you avoid?

Avoid any ingredient that causes inflammation or has been proven harmful to skin and/or the environment, including fragrance, essential oils, PEGs, parabens, and chemical sunscreens. Basically, any of the 1400 ingredients banned in the EU! The EU has the strictest cosmetic ingredient regulations in the world. Give your body good ingredients, and it will give you good skin!

What are your favorite products for combination skin? Can you explain why?

I love my RESTORE Face Wash and Face Lotion. They are tried-and-true favorites and the foundation for skin care. Plus, they are safe, effective, made with premium clean, biodegradable ingredients that calm and soothe your skin.

Other brand products that I like are Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum. It's excellent for combination skin and packed with 15% Vitamin C, antioxidants, and fruit enzymes to gently exfoliate and brighten skin while protecting it from free radical damage.

Some sunscreen favorites include ILIA's Super Serum Skin Tint, Supergoop! 's Mineral Sheer Screen and Zincscreen, and KINSHIP's Self Reflect Probiotic Sunscreen.

Please contact us if you have any questions by filling out this form or emailing us at hello@doctorrogers.com.

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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.

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