Combination Skin Overview

Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery If you have combination skin, different areas of your skin may need different types of care. See more getting beautiful skin pictures.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery If you have combination skin, different areas of your skin may need different types of care. See more getting beautiful skin pictures.
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Sometimes it can seem like different areas of your face are at war with each other. You try to moisturize so your skin will be soft and supple, and your nose and chin get too oily, causing an acne breakout. Then, when you use scrubs and toners to try to control the oil, your cheeks become so parched that you look 10 years older. If the skin on your face ever feels this conflicted, then you might have combination skin.

There are several skin types, including normal, dry, oily and sensitive, and it's possible to have different types at one time [source: WebMD]. People with combination skin often have certain areas that are extra oily, like the chin, nose and forehead -- also known as the T-zone. Additionally, they have areas that range from normal to dry, such as the cheek area [source: Scott].


If you're not sure what type of skin you have, you can do this simple test to find out: Wash your face, pat it dry and then go about your business for about an hour. Come back, take a good look at your skin, and then do a tissue test by blotting your nose, chin, cheeks and forehead with a tissue. If your face looks shiny and your tissue has oil on it, then you have oily skin. Skin that looks tight, dry or flaky, accompanied by a tissue with no oil, means dry skin. But if you blot one dry-looking area with your tissue and it comes up dry, and then you blot another area that looks shiny and the tissue comes up oily, you've probably got combination skin [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society].

Now that you know what combination skin is -- and how to figure out if you have it -- read on to find out what causes it.


Combination Skin Causes

Combination skin can be really frustrating: Part of your face looks dry, while the rest of it is shiny and greasy. Fortunately, you can treat combination skin. To understand how care for it properly, you have to look at what causes oily skin and what causes dry skin.

Your skin gets oily when your sebaceous glands produce excess sebum, causing it to build up on your skin. A number of factors -- like hormones or genetics -- can trigger this process, many of which you can't control. There are, however, some oil-inducing actions you can avoid, such as using heavy, pore-clogging products, including cleansers and moisturizers [source: Syrett].


Similarly, dry skin on your face can result from things that are out of your power -- like the weather, genetics and your age. However, you can also make your skin drier by washing too much or too harshly and by wearing hats and other accessories that chafe your face [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society].

So, while you can't change nature, you can adjust how you treat your combination skin and make your skin care routine more effective. Read on to learn how to nurture and balance out your combination skin.


Combination Skin Care

Once you've determined that you have combination skin, all you need is a plan for taking care of it. The name of the game is balance, because you want to keep your dry areas moisturized and your oily areas relatively dry. With a little bit of extra attention, you can do just that.

Here's one approach for treating combination skin:


  • Cleanse: The first rule of cleansing for all skin types is that you should be gentle. If not, you're just going to irritate your skin and cause yourself more problems, like breakouts [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. To effectively clean your face, try using a cleanser with salicylic acid, which helps control oil while it also hydrates your skin [source: WebMD].
  • Sunscreen: You absolutely want to make sure you're wearing sunscreen, even with combination skin. To get full coverage and still avoid breaking out in your oily zones, choose a sunscreen that's noncomedogenic and select lighter lotions and gels over thick, heavy creams [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society: Sunscreen].
  • Moisturize: Like sunscreen, moisturizer is important to your skin, even if you have oily patches [source: Cleveland Clinic]. If you choose wisely, your moisturizer can help even your skin out. Get creative with it, applying one type of moisturizer to your dry areas and another type to your oily areas [source: Scott]. As with your sunscreen, look for noncomedogenic lotions to avoid clogging your pores.

Keep in mind that you can always see a dermatologist if your combination skin becomes too much to handle on your own. Though having combination skin can require a little extra effort, there's a good chance you can find a way to make it work for you.

For more information on caring for your skin, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Acne." (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Cleveland Clinic. "An Overview of Your Skin." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. "Dry Skin." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. "Soaps & Cleansers." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. "Which Sunscreen, If Any, Should I Use?" (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • Scott, Jennifer Acosta. "What's My Skin Type?" Everyday Health. (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • Syrett, Marilynn. "Make-Up Tips for Oily Skin." Best Syndication. May 26, 2009. (Accessed 8/14/09)
  • WebMD. "Natural Skin Care Treatments." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • WebMD. "Skin Care Tips for Teens." (Accessed 9/24/09)
  • WebMD. "Skin Conditions: Assessing Your Skin Type." (Accessed 9/24/09)