To put it simply, if you're not shopping for your skincare products based on your skin type, you're not doing your skin any favors. That's because each skin type has different needs, and some products are not formulated for every type. You probably know that if you have dry skin, you want to gravitate toward formulas that are hydrating and that don't strip the skin of natural oils. And if you have oily, acne-prone skin, you want ingredients that won't clog pores and that can reduce excess oil and shine.
And as for combination skin, you need to find a balance. "Combination skin is often characterized by a mix of dryness and oiliness to the skin," says Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, FAAD, FACMS, co-founder and partner at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta (DESSNA). "Commonly, you find an excess of oil production on the T-zone, nose, chin, etc., and dryness on the periphery of the face."
Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, FAAD, founder and CEO of Vibrant Dermatology and Skin Bar MD, explains what can be tricky with this skin type: "The challenge with combination skin is that oily areas may be more acne-prone (think increased whitehead and blackheads) because of increased sebaceous glands in the T-zone area. However, other areas of the skin may be more sensitive." So you need to be able to find products that manage both the dryness and the oiliness, without heightening either issue.
One thing that you should prioritize is moisturizing and cleansing, recommends Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, FAAD, FACMS, medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology. She recommends a lighter moisturizer and a foaming face wash. "Cleansing with a foaming face wash can help to remove the outer layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, while keeping your skin relatively hydrated," she says.
How to Choose a Moisturizer for Combination Skin
When it comes to shopping for a moisturizer, Imahiyerobo-Ip says you want a balance between using exfoliating products that help with oil production and clogged pores and hydrating products that prevent excessive irritation in those dry areas. "I generally recommend a hydrating moisturizing lotion. Creams may be too heavy for those with combination skin. The key is to provide moisture to the skin without increasing shine/oil production," she says.
You'll want to look for skincare terms and ingredients like noncomedogenic formulas (to avoid clogged pores) and hyaluronic acid (to hydrate). "Hyaluronic acid effectively moisturizes without causing an increase in oil production and oily residue," Viscusi says.
As for ingredients you may want to avoid, you'll want to stay away from anything that's abrasive, like alcohols, fragrances, retinoids, etc., Viscusi adds, since these can strip the skin of its natural oils, cause more dryness, and offset the skin's balance.
You can shop some good options for combination skin below.
The Best Moisturizers for Combination Skin
1. Melé Dew the Most Sheer Moisturizer SPF 30
"When it comes to combination skin, I like to opt for lightweight lotions that contain a blend of humectants to keep the skin moisturized," Imahiyerobo-Ip says. "Right now, one of my new favorites is Melé's Dew the Most Sheer Moisturizer. Specifically formulated for those with skin of color, it is free of mineral oil, alcohol, parabens, and phthalates. It delivers 24-hour hydration and guards against the harmful effects of blue light and UV light."
2. Clarins Multi-Active Night Cream
For a night-cream option, Evans recommends this one from Clarins. It's formulated for oily, combination, and normal skin types and dryness, dullness, and uneven texture.
3. Isdin Hydralift Serum
"It's a great moisturizing option that contains plant-based stem cell extracts, hyaluronic acid, and more to effectively moisturize skin—all while being noncomedogenic," Viscusi says.
4. Avène Hydrance Aqua-Gel
"I also like Avène's Hydrance Aqua-Gel. It's formulated as a weightless, water-based gel that fortifies the skin's moisture barrier, providing intense hydration while being very lightweight. It can be used in all skin types," says Imahiyerobo-Ip says.
5. Neocutis Bio Cream Firm
Another rec from Evans, this anti-aging cream is formulated with growth factors and peptides to support collagen production and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains hydrating and moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, wheat-germ oil, and borage-seed oil.
6. EltaMD PM Therapy Moisturizer
This nighttime moisturizer strengthens the skin barrier, boosts color and tone, and promotes cell growth, collagen production, and elasticity. It's another recommendation from Evans.
7. Skinbetter Science Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment
"It's a great option for those with combination skin. It provides significant hydration without feeling heavy or leaving an oily residue," Viscusi says.
8. Alastin Skincare Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer
Evans also suggests trying this lightweight moisturizer, which calms and hydrates the skin while also defending against environmental damage. It works to clear out damaged elastin and collagen while supporting the new production of both.
9. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturizer
This moisturizer from Neutrogena has a lightweight, gel consistency that's noncomedogenic and fragrance-free. The key ingredient in this one is hyaluronic acid, which locks in moisture.
10. Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer
Formulated for combination skin, Cetaphil's daily moisturizer hydrates, nourishes, and protects. It won't clog pores and is oil-, fragrance-, and paraben-free. And as an added bonus, you also get SPF 35 protection with this one.
11. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer
With 30% hyaluronic acid, this cream can lock in hydration for up to 72 hours. It will make your skin feel so soft and look so dewy, and it's also free of oil, alcohol, and fragrance so you won't experience any irritation.
12. Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer
This popular moisturizer from Drunk Elephant is enriched with signal peptides to plump and firm the skin, pygmy water lily stem cell extract to calm and soothe, and soybean folic acid ferment extract to promote elasticity.
13. Tatcha The Water Cream Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer
You get hydration and oil control with Tatcha's moisturizer. Botanicals in this formula work to clarify and refine the skin—Japanese wild rose tightens pores and smooths texture and Japanese leopard lily controls excess oil.
14. Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb
You'll literally get a "burst" of hydration when you apply this gel-cream formula—it's designed to really quench your skin. The fast-absorbing formula works well on combination, normal, dry, and oily skin types.
15. Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer
Glow Recipe's brightening moisturizer is formulated with watermelon extract to soothe irritation, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, and antioxidants to protect against environmental stressors. If you want glowy skin, you definitely want to try this product.
16. Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
In addition to hydrating and soothing the skin, Biossance's weightless gel moisturizer also targets redness and oiliness. The probiotics in this formula balance the complexion and promote skin clarity.
17. Clinique Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Custom-Repair Moisturizer for Dry to Combination Skin
Made specifically for dry to combination skin types, this product from Clinique plumps and firms the skin and reduces the signs of aging. It also has SPF 15 for UVA/UVB protection.