Combination skin is a common skin type characterised by an oily t-zone, which includes the forehead, nose, and chin, and dryness in other areas of the face.
How to know if you have
Combination skin occurs when the t-zone has a higher concentration of sebaceous glands, which produce oil, while other areas of the face have fewer sebaceous glands. This can result in a challenging skincare experience, as finding products that effectively manage both oily and dry areas can be difficult.
To determine if you have combination skin, you can observe the oiliness and dryness of different areas of your face. Combination skin typically has an oily t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and dryness in other areas of the face, such as the cheek and jawline.
However, it’s important to note that combination skin can be confused with dehydrated skin, which can also present with oily patches and dry, flakey skin. One way to differentiate between the two is to pay attention to whether the dryness is caused by a lack of oil or a lack of moisture (which is the case with dehydrated skin).
If you have always had combination skin, you will likely notice the oily and dry areas consistently. However, if combination skin has suddenly appeared, it may be a sign of dehydration. In this case, visit our Dry & Dehydrated skin page.
What can cause or worsen combination skin
and how can you manage it?
What can cause or worsen combination skin?
Our genes determine our skin type and combination skin can be inherited from our parents.
Unbalanced sebum production
Combination skin occurs when the t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) produces excess sebum, which leads to pore dilation, clogged pores, shiny skin, and can lead to blackheads and breakouts. Other areas of the face may lack sebaceous glands, resulting in dryness.
Hormones have significant impact on our skin’s sebaceous glands and the amount of oil they produce. Fluctuations in hormone levels can cause increased sebum production, leading to oily skin in the t-zone and dryness in other areas of the face. This is why combination skin is commonly experienced during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
Combination skin can be exacerbated by environmental factors such as seasonal climate changes. During colder weather, when there is less moisture in the air and indoor heating is driven up, the skin is stripped of essential moisture, exacerbating drier areas with a buildup of excess dry skin. Exposure to UV rays from the sun can also worsen the condition of combination skin by causing further dryness and oiliness.
Incorrect skincare products
Using skincare products that don’t suitably balance drier and oilier areas of the skin can exacerbate combination skin. It’s essential to use products that effectively hydrate the skin without overloading it with excess oils or drying it out further. Products that contain harsh ingredients, such as alcohol or fragrances, can further irritate the skin and exacerbate combination skin.
Certain lifestyle habits, such as a poor diet, lack of sleep, and stress, can worsen combination skin. Eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods can cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to skin issues such as acne and oily skin. Lack of sleep can also cause imbalances in hormone levels, leading to increased sebum production and oiliness in the t-zone. Stress can cause the body to produce more cortisol, which can lead to acne breakouts and exacerbate combination skin.
How can you manage combination skin?
Find the correct skincare balance
It’s essential to find a skincare routine that softens dry areas and combats excess oils. You can mix and match different serums for the different areas of your face or select products that are suitable for all the different behaviours of your skin. Look for products that are non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores, and contain ingredients that balance the skin’s oil production, such as niacinamide and salicylic acid.
Hydrate your skin
Even though you have oilier areas, you shouldn’t skip hydration. Hydrating ingredients deliver water to the skin and promote skin hydration. These are known as humectants, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, polyglutamic acid, lactic acid, sodium PCA, and more. Look for products that contain these ingredients and apply them to both oily and dry areas of your skin.
Using a suitable moisturiser
Your skin’s drier areas may benefit from added moisture. Pick a formula containing emollients or even occlusives for excessive dryness to help protect and strengthen these patches to retain moisture. Emollients help to rebuild the skin barrier, and occlusives create a physical support barrier on the skin. Emollients include ceramides, fatty alcohols, and squalane. Occlusives include petrolatum and silicones.
Gentle exfoliation, regularly
Dry and oily areas can benefit from exfoliation to slough away dead skin cells and excess oils. Be sure to use a formula that is either gentle for all areas of the skin or spot-treat with different formulas that can be tailored to suit your combination skin. Chemical exfoliants like lactic acid, which is also an emollient, can help to remove excess oils and buff away dry, dead skin cells whilst maintaining skin hydration. Use exfoliants no more than twice a week to avoid over-exfoliation which can cause further irritation and dryness.