I’ve been meaning to get back on the subject of different skin types! Understanding your skin type is incredibly important. If you are using the wrong products on your skin, it can end up doing more harm to your skin than good.
In that respect, combination type skin is perhaps the trickiest type to treat. Almost everyone at some point or another can develop combination type skin. Typically, this means that some parts of your face are dry (usually the cheeks) while some parts tend to be oily (usually along the forehead, nose and chin, an area called the “T-zone”).
Characteristics of Combination Skin
As the name implies, combination type skin has characteristics of both dry and oily skin. With combination skin, certain areas of the face tend to be especially oily while other areas may feel especially dry. The dry areas on the face tend to look flaky and dull, while the oily parts tend to look shiny and feel greasy. The oily areas also tend to have larger pores and are prone to pimples and blackheads. If some parts of your face feel tight after washing, this may be an indication that you have combination type skin. Otherwise, you can try the “tissue test” to help you determine whether or not you have combination skin.
Causes of Combination Skin
Many internal and external factors can contribute to the development of combination skin, including:
- Genetic Predisposition. Sometimes people just naturally tend to have a certain type of skin.
- Hormonal changes. This can come about because of puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, etc. and can lead to fluctuations in the skin’s oil production, making some parts of the face oilier than others. Hormonal fluctuations can also be brought on by the medications that you take, or even prolonged stress.
- Uneven Lipid Distribution. Lipids are fatty or waxy organic compounds that determine the structure of cell membranes and play a role in combination skin. Genetic and hormonal factors can cause an imbalance in how much and where lipids are produced. When lipids are not evenly distributed throughout the skin, certain areas can become soft and oily while other areas can become dry and rough. (Read this article on protecting the Lipid Barrier of the skin.)
- Climatic changes. Changes in climate can aggravate combination skin. Hot and humid weather can make the skin oily, while dry and cold weather can cause the skin to lose moisture in some areas.
- Improper Skin Care. The products that you use on your skin can actually influence your skin type! This is why it’s so important to know your skin type and avoid using products which can cause your skin to break out or become dry and irritated.
- Imbalance. Oriental and Ayurvedic medicine link all the different facial areas to specific organs in the body. According to this line of thought, an area of the face that is particularly dry or oily can indicate some imbalance in the corresponding internal organ. Balance can be restored by making lifestyle changes, such as choosing to quite smoking, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, exercising regularly and avoiding the wrong skin care products.
Taking Care of Combination Skin
When it comes to combination skin, there really isn’t one perfect routine or set of products that will work for everyone. Although there are many products that are designed specifically for dealing with combination skin, finding the right products for your skin type may take a lot of trial and error. Some people prefer to tackle combination skin by treating their face as if it were two different skin types. They may apply different products that are suited to each area on the face. For example, they may apply dry skin products to dry areas, while using oil-free products on oily areas. The main thing to remember is to avoid products that will make problem areas worse!
Regular cleansing is important for any skin type. For combination skin, it’s important to find cleansers that will gently do the job without causing further irritation or dryness. Gel-based or mild foaming cleansers work best for oily and dry combination skin.
Try Melvita’s Apicosma Cleansing Jelly, which is a gentle foaming cleansing jelly recommended for normal and combination skin types to purify and tone the skin. It uses verbana and lemon balm floral waters, orange extract, calcium and manganese, as well as honey to help gently remove impurities and excess sebum.
Whatever cleanser you choose, bar soaps and bar cleansers must be avoided because they dry out and irritate the skin.
There are two opposing camps that have clashed over the usefulness/uselessness of toners. Those who are pro-toners use it for many reasons: to refresh, rejuvenate, tone (shrink pores) and help restore the skin’s natural pH balance. If you have combination skin, it’s important to pick a toner that is alcohol free, since alcohol can dry the skin and cause the oily areas to produce even more oil.
Floral waters can make for marvelous facial toners! For example, rose floral or lavender floral waters are naturally cleansing and can help to gently refresh the skin and leave it hydrated. Try Naturado’s Lavender Floral Water which is great to use at any time of the day. It’s gentle and suitable for all skin types. I tend to use it in the afternoons to help give my skin a quick pick-me-up without having to wash it with water.
Moisturizing is important not only for the dry areas of the face, but also for the oily parts. A good moisturizer for combination skin ideally is lightweight and hydrating and goes well even over the oily parts of your skin. Some experts suggest using separate moisturizers that are suitable for the different parts of your skin, moisturizing dry areas twice a day and moisturizing oily areas only once a day. Try Weleda Iris Hydrating lotion or Lavera’s Organic Calendula Balancing Cream, both of which are designed to help balance combination skin through the soothing and hydrating properties of the calendula plant.
No matter your skin type, you will still need protection from the sun. Prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun accelerates the skin’s aging process, leading to the early onset of wrinkles, discolorations as well as the development of dry/dull skin and worsening blemishes caused by acne. It’s important to use a sunblock that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, but one that does not leave your skin feeling too greasy and looking too shiny.
Cream based sunblocks may be too heavy for combination skin. Try and find a sunblock lotion or gel that offers enough skin protection without overwhelming your oilier T-zone. Both La Roche Posays’ Anthelios SPF 30 AC Fluid and their 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid have received many positive reviews from people with combination/oily skin. Another one that has been raved about by those with combination/oily is Eucerin Daily Protection Moisturizing Face Lotion with SPF 30 which can easily be found at a nearby drugstore like Walgreen’s.
Exfoliation is an important part of any skin care routine to help remove dry, dead, rough skin cells and allow better penetration of treatments and products. For combination skin, the exfoliation should be done once or twice a week with special attention to areas especially prone to acne and blackheads.
Look for products that contain salicylic acids, glycolic acids or fruit enzymes to help promote skin cell turnover. Try Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant, which is a gentle exfoliant containing papaya enzymes and salicylic acid to help remove dead skin cells, keep the skin smooth, and accelerate skin cell renewal. If your skin tends to be too sensitive, exfoliation should only be done occasionally–no more than once a week.
Masks and Clays
Masks are another important skincare step that can help balance combination skin. Some people prefer to use hydrating/moisturizing masks on dry areas and a deep-cleaning clay mask on oily areas.
One product that I’ve personally tried and liked is Cattier’s pink clay mask which is designed for sensitive skin, but can also be suitable if your combination skin tends to be sensitive. You can read about my review of Cattier’s pink clay mask here. Otherwise, if your combination skin tends to be rather oily, you can try a combination of Cattier’s green clay mask (green clay is very good at drawing out oil and impurities) and their pink clay mask.
When taking care of combination skin, it’s important to resist the urge to over-treat the oily areas and dry patches. The key is always to be gentle and avoid aggressive measures which can make problem areas even worse. Another important point to remember is that the term “Combination Skin” is a good, basic way to categorize a skin type which shows characteristics of both dry and oily skin.
Everyone’s skin is unique and can have other features which require special treatment beyond dry and oily skin, such as eczema, rosacea, sun-damage or sensitivities to certain ingredients in products. Remember that skin types can change and are influenced by internal and external factors. The skin can develop sensitivities to random things throughout your life. It’s very important to pay attention to any changes in your skin as well as any reactions that might be caused by the use of different products.