Perfect Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin

4 Steps to Crafting the Perfect Skin Care Routine for Combination Skin

Reference Lab

APRIL 30, 2023

Caring for combination skin can often feel complex and involve a lot of trial and error. If your skin is oily in some areas and dry in others, then you have combination skin, and you understand the struggle.

Caring for combination skin is a balancing act. Why? Because skin care products that cut through oil can easily cause dry skin, while those that hydrate skin often do so by introducing extra oils. With combination skin, you’re tasked with developing a skin routine that caters to two extremes. The good news is that crafting the best skin care routine for combination skin is totally possible. It just takes a little extra effort and patience.

01 What is Combination Skin?

Combination facial skin exhibits both dry and oily areas. For example, your T-zone is an oily area that might produce too much oil, while your chin and cheeks remain dry and flaky.

You can spot signs of combination skin if you exhibit some of the following traits:

Oily areas with
  • Larger than usual pores
  • Acne
  • Shiny, greasy skin
Dry areas with
  • Rough or irritated skin
  • Redness
  • Flaky patches
How combination skin manifests itself depends on a number of factors, like lifestyle, levels of stress, weather, and genetics. Therefore, one person’s combination skin might not be the same as the next person’s. This means that a skin routine that works for one person with combo skin might not work for another – ultimately making finding the right skin care products challenging.
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02 What Causes Combination Skin?

There’s one cause of combination skin that unfortunately can’t be changed: genetics. Other aspects, however, are modifiable. Stress, for example, releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol stimulates sebaceous glands, causing oily and acne-prone spots. Finding ways to manage stress may help even out the oily parts of combination skin.

The weather may also lead to combination skin. Windy, dry weather can lead to dryness in some areas, while the hot summer sun can trigger oil production. Adjusting your skin protection during extreme weather or climate changes can prevent combo skin flare-ups.

Curbing your stress and avoiding harsh weather can help to calm your skin, but at the heart of it all lies one cause.The unifying factor in most cases of combination skin is skin barrier health. The skin barrier plays a significant role in the hydration and protection of our skin. When the skin barrier is compromised through stress, weather, pollution, or harsh skin care products, moisture imbalance results. In most cases, addressing and knowing how to restore the skin barrier can help balance combination skin.

03 How can you create an effective combination skin care routine?

When the skin barrier is weakened, the skin becomes irritated, inflamed, and can exacerbate the two extremes of combination skin. Because the skin barrier (the topmost covering of skin) is the layer most exposed to skin products, developing an effective skin care routine can help fortify your skin barrier and may be the key to managing combination skin.

The basic framework of a skincare routine for combination skin follows the same process as that for most skin types:1
  1. Cleansing the skin
  2. Applying toner
  3. Massaging in a serum and moisturizer
  4. Using daily sun protection
The difference in a skin care routine for combination skin comes from the products that you choose in each step. Luckily, with the right topical skin care products, you can achieve and maintain balance for your combination skin. What are the most important products to include in your combination skin health routine?

When choosing products to include in your routine for combination skin, it’s best to opt for simple and soothing ingredients and forgo frills like fragrances and harsh chemicals like sulfates. Although flowery scents and pretty colors are enticing, they increase the risk for skin irritations and barrier degradation.

#1 Cleanser and Toner

Cleansing is an important step in any skincare routine, and it is especially important for combination skin. The goal of cleansing is to remove impurities and contaminants on the skin’s surface, which are usually not water-soluble. Therefore, cleansing the skin with pure water alone is inadequate. A gentle gel cleanser requires a surfactant, but one that’s free of harsh chemicals like sulfates, parabens, and fragrances.2

Toning, though totally optional, can be an important step for combination skin, as it helps to restore the skin's pH balance and preps it for the next steps in your routine. For combination skin, look for a toner that is alcohol-free and contains ingredients that can help to control excess oil production while maintaining hydration.

#2 Exfoliator

Exfoliating, when done properly, is another step that can help calm combination skin by removing dead skin cells, promoting cell turnover, unclogging pores, and improving skin texture. Furthermore, exfoliation enhances the absorption of skincare products and can boost their effectiveness.

For combination skin, look for an extra-gentle exfoliant. Harsh exfoliation methods may worsen dry areas and irritate your skin barrier. There are two types of skin exfoliation methods - mechanical and chemical. While mechanical exfoliation means the use of an “abrasive” tool like a sponge or a cloth, chemical exfoliation uses chemicals to remove layers of skin. The most common chemical exfoliants are beta and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid.

However, as with all things in life, moderation is key when it comes to exfoliation. The American Academy of Dermatology Association emphasizes exfoliating with caution, as over-exfoliating can lead to irritation and enhanced skin sensitivity, especially if you have combination or acne prone skin. 3

#3 Serum and Moisturizer

Serums are lightweight, highly concentrated skin care products, delivering potent ingredients that can target specific skin concerns. For combination skin, opt for a serum that’s lightweight, non-greasy, and contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, as well as antioxidants and vitamins.

Moisturizing is another essential step in any skincare routine, as it helps to lock in moisture and protect the skin from environmental stressors. For combination skin, look for a lightweight, non-comedogenic peptide moisturizer that contains humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, which trap and hold water close to the skin barrier.

#4 Sun Protection

Sun protection is arguably the most crucial step in any skincare routine, as exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can degrade the skin barrier, and cause premature aging, sun damage, and even skin cancer. For combination skin, look for a lightweight, non-greasy sunscreen that is specifically formulated for the face.

Apply a small amount of sunscreen to your skin, focusing on the areas that are most prone to sun damage, such as the forehead, nose, and chin. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you are spending time outdoors.

04 How should you determine which products to incorporate into your routine?

When it comes to combination skin, a patch test is recommended before incorporating any new products into a skin care routine to see how your skin reacts. Look for products that contain these skin-friendly ingredients:
  • Arnica Montana (Arnica Flower) Extract: Arnica Montana is a natural extract that has been used for centuries to soothe skin inflammation, wound healing, hydration, and reduce skin discolorations like hyperpigmentations. This gentle extract also offers potent antioxidants benefits, which help to treat cellular damage and ensure glowing skin.4
  • Niacinamide: Niacinamide is present in a wide variety of skincare products because it’s gentle, yet ultimately effective. Widely known for its anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and antioxidant properties, niacinamide is a popular ingredient in many skincare products.5
  • Pracaxi Oil: Pracaxi oil is beneficial for wound healing and tissue healing, making it excellent for acne scarring, oily skin types, and even treating dry areas. Due to this property, pracaxi oil works well with all skin texture types, especially combination and normal skin. This natural oil also holds moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties, which help keep your skin barrier healthy.6
  • Andiroba Oil: Andiroba oil encourages collagen production and cellular turnover, helping keep skin cells as healthy as possible and improving skin texture. This healing oil also possesses anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing skin irritation and redness.7
  • Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid’s strength lies in its ability to permeate each layer of the skin, getting in deep to stimulate collagen synthesis. This process aids in skin regeneration and moisture retention. By retaining significant amounts of water, this ingredient keeps skin moisturized and plump.8
  • Oleic Pau Mulato Extract: The oleic plant extract is a powerful antioxidant that also boasts anti-inflammatory effects. And when it comes to cell life, oleic extract prolongs longevity by boosting your resistance to the effects of stress.9
  • Allantoin: Allantoin soothes inflamed and irritated skin. Its calming properties makes it an essential ingredient in skin products, reducing the appearance of itchy or dry patches.10
Other antioxidant ingredients or products, like a Vitamin C serum, can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which are issues that are not isolated to combo skin. Vitamin C counters the effects of photodamage, also known as sun damage, and helps in nutrient delivery to the skin.11

05 How should your AM vs PM routines compare?

Your morning skin care routine should differ from your evening skin care routine in some key ways. While your AM (morning) skin care routine for combination skin should focus on hydrating and protecting your skin from the environment with a fortifying peptide moisturizer and SPF, your PM (nighttime) skin care routine should target cleansing, repairing, and moisturizing. For example, a day cream may contain an SPF component, while a night cream does not. Furthermore, you may opt for a heavier night cream for your PM routine, but choose not to use the same cream during the day. While both routines are important, it's the consistency of your regimen and the quality of the products used that can make all the difference in managing combination skin.

06 Are OneSkin’s products good for combination skin?

Caring for your combination skin type can feel like walking an impossibly fine line. With the right products, however, an effective and simple skin routine is totally possible. OneSkin's products are designed to promote skin health and reduce the visible signs of aging for all skin types. OneSkin’s Topical Supplements are formulated with carefully selected and sourced non-comedogenic ingredients that work synergistically to enhance barrier function and increase epidermal thickness (shown in lab studies on ex vivo human skin samples). In a 12-week clinical study, OneSkin’s OS-01 FACE Topical Supplement improved participants’ skin barrier function by +15% on average.

OneSkin’s PREP is the perfect gentle daily cleanser for combination skin, as it contains prickly pear extract to lightly exfoliate skin and cut through oil, but is gentle enough to protect skin’s natural lipid barrier and microbiome.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creating a skincare routine for combination skin involves four simple steps and extra care when choosing the right products:
    • Cleansing the skin
    • Applying toner
    • Massaging in a serum and moisturizer
    • Using daily sun protection
  • Skin barrier health plays a significant role in managing combination skin. Therefore, maintaining a strong skin barrier may be the key to mitigating combination skin issues.
  • Harsh skincare products can worsen combination skin symptoms. Therefore, gentle high-quality products are recommended to balance the skin.
  • OneSkin’s products provide a simple and effective solution for all skin types, including combination skin. Shown to fortify the skin barrier, OneSkin’s Topical Supplements provide light moisture with non-comedogenic formulas. OneSkin’s gentle daily cleanser helps restore skin’s natural lipid balance without harsh ingredients.


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