How to Tell If You Have Combination Skin

Most women at some time in their lives have combination skin, do you?

combination skin type
combination skin type. Stone / Getty Images

Combination skin is actually the most common skin type. Many women think they have oily or dry skin, but, actually, have a combination of both. Most combination skin is oily in some spots and dry in others. 

Here are the tell-tale signs that you have combination skin. 

Combination Skin Characteristics

Most people's skin changes a lot over the course of the year. Skin is seasonally and hormonally affected.

Here are some signs you have combination skin:

  • Your t-zone (forehead, down the nose to the chin) is oily, while your cheeks are dry.
  • Your skin is oilier in summer and dry in winter. In spring and fall, your T-zone is oily while your cheeks are dry.
  • When you are on your period, your skin may experience breakouts causing you to think your skin is oily. But once your period is over, the breakouts clear right up and your skin can become flaky.  

Causes of Combination Skin

Oily skin is caused by overactive sebaceous (oil) glands. Heat and humidity will increase sebum production, which is why your t-zone may become super oily in the summer while your cheeks seem to normalize. In winter, when furnace heat kicks in and cold strips your skin of its natural oils, your oily spots may become more normal while your cheeks become dry and flaky.

Hormones can also cause your skin to over-produce oil in some areas while drying out in others.

You can thank your parents and your age for that. Once you hit menopause, however, your skin will produce much less oil and you'll be left with dry skin only. 

How to Take Basic Care of Your Skin

The secret to treating combination skin is to spot treat your problem areas. Cleanse with a cleanser formulated to cut down on sebum production and use a moisturizer on your dry spots.

Exfoliate your face with a warm washcloth. This helps break down oils and helps remove dead skin.

Try a basic skincare routine:

  • Wash with a cleanser formulated for oily skin in the summer and one formulated for normal to dry skin in the winter. Cleanse your skin at night and rinse off with warm water in the morning so you don't over-cleanse skin, again causing it to go into oil overproduction. See my list of See the Best Cleansers for Combination Skin.
  • Moisturize your dry spots with a light, oil-free moisturizer, skipping your more oily spots in the summer. In the winter, you can moisturize all over with a heavier moisturizer. There are great moisturizers in this list.
  • Exfoliate twice weekly with a gentle scrub. I list some great ones here.
  • If you suffer from breakouts, an astringent may help but be careful to use it only on your problem spots, avoiding your dry skin areas. You may also use toners, which can be too drying for other skin types. But don't apply toner to your dry areas. See my article on toners, "Is Toner Really Necessary?"

Best Makeup for Combination Skin

Choose cream blush for your dry cheeks, except in summer when you can use powders. Prep skin with a moisturizer before smoothing on an oil-free foundation or tinted moisturizer.

To keep your eyeshadow from melting into your crease, use an eyeshadow primer or base.

In your oilier moments, carry blotting papers in your purse to soak up oils in your t-zone. Blotting papers won't mess up your makeup and will keep you from powdering your face too often -- upping your chances of clogging pores.

Special Intensive Treatments You Can Try

Use a clay mask occasionally on your t-zone. Clay masks help discourage the formation of blackheads. You can try this clay mask recipe. Facial steams are also lovely in winter. Try How to Do a Teapot Facial.

More about skin:

  • How To Do The Basic At-Home Facial
  • 10 Dos & Don'ts to Help Slow the Aging Skin Process
  • 25 Homemade Face Masks & Scrubs