If you have combination skin, then you know what the term “T-zone” means. In fact, you may sometimes feel like your skin has a split personality—oily with large pores on the forehead, nose, and chin, and dry and sometimes even flaky on the cheeks and under the eyes.
You don’t have to feel badly, though—combination skin is thought to be the most common type of skin out there. That probably doesn’t help you when you’re trying to figure out how to take care of the dryness on your cheeks without breaking out on your nose, though, right?
If you’re someone who is constantly frustrated at trying to make both parts of your skin happy, here are some tips and solutions for you.
What is Combination Skin?
Combination skin is just what the name implies—skin that is a combination of both dry and oily types. If you drew a big “T” on your face, all the skin under that T would likely be oily, while the areas left outside the T are dry and potentially flaky. That’s why we use the term “T-zone” when referring to those with combination skin.
Combination skin also means that you may have fine lines and wrinkles and shininess and clogged pores at the same time. You may also experience uneven skin tone or large pores on your nose.
Of course this combination of characteristics and problems can make combination skin particularly difficult to deal with.
What Causes Combination Skin?
No matter what kind of skin you have (dry, oily, combination, or sensitive), it’s most likely because of genetics. Just like you inherit your eye color, hair color, and body type from your parents and grandparents, you also inherit your skin type.
In general, the nose, chin, and forehead of those with combination skin have more active oil glands, which is why these areas may be prone to clogged pores. The cheeks, on the other hand, may have less active oil glands, which is why they may appear dry and flaky.
In some cases, however, if you’re using harsh products or products with drying ingredients like sulfates and alcohol, you can actually encourage the skin to produce more oil in the T-zone area, which can also create the symptoms of combination skin.
Specific Problems in Combination Skin Types
Not sure whether you have combination skin? Try washing it with a gentle cleanser, pat dry, then wait for about 10-15 minutes. (Don’t apply any other products.) Most likely, your cheeks, temples, and other areas will feel dry and tight, while your nose, chin, and forehead will look oily and shiny — or perhaps have clogged pores.
Another clue that may mean you have combination skin is that you have a hard time finding skin care products that work. Some make you breakout, while others leave you too dry and dull.
If you have combination skin, you probably already know what the problems are, but here are the main ones you may experience:
- Clogged pores in the T-zone area
- Large pores in the T-zone area
- Shininess and oily skin in the T-zone area
- Dry, flaky and dull cheeks
- Cheeks and neck that are more sensitive to cleansers
Lifestyle Factors to Help Combination Skin
Combination skin types can benefit from some lifestyle changes that may help balance your skin. These include:
- Moisturize from the inside out: A challenge with combination skin is to get enough moisturizer into it without clogging pores. You can moisturize from the inside out with essential fatty acids. Eat more salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed, and consider taking a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement.
- Avoid harsh cleansers: Things like sulfates, alcohol and soap can strip your skin of its natural oils. You may think that will help your T-zone, but in truth, it will actually encourage it to produce more oil. Stay away from harsh, chemical ingredients.
- Exercise: This gets the blood pumping, which delivers key nutrients to your skin.
- Practice stress relief: Stress can make your skin more reactive, both the oily and dry areas. Try meditation, yoga, tai chi, journaling, music, whatever works for you.
- Avoid pore-clogging products: In your skin care and makeup products, always choose those that are made for oily or combination skin. Avoid petroleum-based moisturizers like mineral oil in all your products, particularly moisturizers and foundations.
- Choose fragrance-free: Your cheeks are likely to be prone to dryness, dullness, and flaking, and may also be more prone to irritation. Avoid products with chemical fragrances and other irritating ingredients.
- Protect: Like all skin types, your skin needs protection from the environment, particularly from damaging UV rays. Hats and shade are best, but also choose a safe sunscreen to keep your fragile cheeks looking lively and youthful. (Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list for the safest sunscreens.)
Daily Routine for Combination Skin
With combination skin, the key is balance. You have to find a way to balance what your skin needs in the dry areas with what it needs in the oily areas. Not an easy task, but here are some tips.
One more thing to think about—most people with combination skin have one type that’s more dominant. In other words, if you’re struggling with clogged pores, oily skin is your biggest concern. If it’s only your nose that is clogged and the rest of your skin is more dry, dryness is your main concern. Just something to keep in mind as you go about finding your best daily skin care routine.
- Wash naturally. We recommend natural cleansers for everyone, because they provide more benefits without the drawbacks, but for people with combination skin, this is even more important. Chemical-based cleansers will never get you the skin you want because they’ll dry out the dry areas and make your oily areas oilier. Try our Citrus Mint Facial Cleanser. It removes dirt, oils, and impurities, but it doesn’t have any harsh detergents or cleansers, and it helps to balance skin oils, so it will deep-clean your T-zone without over-drying your cheeks.
- Avoid irritating toners. Most toners you find in the store have alcohol, menthol, fragrance, and the like. All terrible things for combination skin. Toss all these out and use a toner that has natural ingredients that will help restore pH after cleansing while nourishing your skin. Try our Rosemary Toning Mist to refresh and balance while controlling oily skin.
- Moisturize with a split personality. Most moisturizers are made for either oily skin or dry skin. (Those made for normal skin are usually angled more toward dry types.) Some experts will recommend that you use one of each—heavier moisturizer on your cheek area, and lighter moisturizers on your T-zone. This could work, but the problem is it’s expensive, time-consuming, and prone to error. After all, it’s not like your skin has a chart on it to show you exactly where to apply what. You can overlap and then presto, you have clogged pores the next morning. Our solution—use Herbal Facial Oil. Now, we have two of them. Which one will work for you? Consider what we noted above—whether you have more trouble with oily skin or dryness. If you’re a more mature person, the dryness may be taking over. (Choose Herbal Facial Oil for Normal and Combination Skin.) Younger folks may be more concerned about clogged pores. (Choose Herbal Facial Oil for Oily Skin.) Either one will hydrate without clogging pores, and will infuse your skin with repairing nutrients.
In addition to your daily routine, take these steps every week for more glowing, hydrated skin:
- Exfoliate. All skin needs exfoliation, and combination skin is no different. The oily areas need it to open up the pores and dry areas and allow moisturizers to penetrate. The key with your type of skin is to be gentle on the cheek areas, and scrub a bit more on the T-zone. We would suggest the Dead Sea Facial Scrub, which will exfoliate without over drying your cheeks, and will also help absorb extra oil and reduce clogged pores.
- Nourishing mask. Choosing a mask can be difficult for combination types, as you’re not sure if you should get one that absorbs the oils or imparts more hydration. Endless confusion, right? Not anymore. Just use the Purifying Mud Mask. The dead sea clay has a way of naturally purifying your pores without drying. In fact, we’ve included blue-green algae which is high in natural fatty acids that replenish and hydrate. The perfect combination!
- Treat. You may wonder about alpha-hydroxy acids with combination skin. Have you experienced irritation on your cheeks in the past with these products? The key is to use the gentle ones. Here we would go conservative and use the same acids as those recommended for dry skin. Choose those that come from natural sources like fruits (malic), milk (lactic), and sugar cane (glycolic). (TIP: Our Coconut Honey Mask provides malic and lactic acids—you can alternate uses with the Purifying Mud Mask if you like, using each once a week, or you can actually use the Coconut Honey Mask right after you finish with the Purifying Mud Mask. Adjust depending on how dry or oily your skin is acting.) Apply these products as needed, typically 2-3 times a week.
- Rejevenate. Because all skin types need protection from environmental stressors, we recommend you use an anti-aging product that contains natural ingredients that nourish. Again, you want natural ingredients (not chemical or synthetic), and non-clogging products. Try a light application of our new Citrus Stem Cell Serum, which uses citrus stem cells and powerful antioxidants. Use more on cheeks and dry areas, less on the T-zone. Apply the Anti-Aging Eye Cream to repair skin around the eyes, and reduce the appearance of fine lines.
Do you struggle with combination skin? How do you cope? Please share any tips you may have.