photo of Shani in a black silk robe performing her skin care routine

What Is Combination Skin & 4 Signs

Do you ever feel like your skincare routine just isn’t working, but you don’t know why? If that’s you, then you may want to learn your skin type. Once you learn your skin type, you can upgrade your skincare routine according to your type. And once you upgrade your skincare routine, then your skin is set to be happy and healthy for life!

“Knowing your skin type is key to identifying the right products.”

  • Shani Darden, Celebrity Esthetician

Dry skin and oily skin are two skin types that you can have, but did you know that you can actually have a combination of both? Read on to learn more about combination skin — and some tips to see if you have it.

What Is Combination Skin?

Combination skin is when the same skin surface has both areas of oily skin and areas of dry skin. Both of these skin types are the product of excessive oil production. With dry skin, the sebaceous glands in your skin do not produce enough sebum, which is the oil that helps keep your skin hydrated. Without enough sebum, your skin is prone to flakiness and red discoloration. 

On the other hand, oily skin is caused by an overproduction of sebum, which clogs pores and stays on the surface of your face. When you have too much sebum, it’s common to see oil-related blemishes and a shine to your skin.

Many factors contribute to your skin type, but ultimately, your skin type comes down to genetics. Although your skin can be influenced by external factors like the weather, diet, and even your skincare routine, your skin type will stay the same for life. 

You may be surprised to learn that combination skin is one of the most common skin types. While it is possible to have purely oily or purely dry skin, chances are you have a combination of the two. 

Why Should You Know Your Skin Type?

Different skin types require different forms of care. 

You should take the time to learn your skin type because you must treat each type with different skincare products. If you use a product that absorbs excess oil on dry skin, the skin will likely get irritated. When dry skin is irritated, it gets more flaky and rough to the touch. 

Likewise, if you were to apply a heavy-duty moisturizer to oily skin, that skin could respond by breaking out in blemishes and creating even more oil. Since skin care aims to reveal healthy skin, this achieves the opposite effect.

If your goal is healthy, ageless skin, it’s imperative to know your skin type.

4 Signs You Have Combination Skin

Maybe you know how to identify oily or dry skin, but how can you know if you have combination skin? If you see any of these four signs, you may have combination skin.

1. Oily T-Zone

The most common way to identify combination skin is to check your T-zone. Your T-zone includes the area above your eyebrows and down your nose. If you were to trace it out, it would look just like the letter “T” – hence the name.

If your T-zone shows signs of oily skin but your cheeks show dry skin, then you probably have combination skin. Remember, signs of oily skin include shiny skin, blemishes, and even larger pores in different areas. Dry skin will generally have a rough and flaky texture with visible dead skin and red discoloration.

However, this isn’t a golden rule. It’s possible to have combination skin that follows a different pattern. If you don’t find anything out of the ordinary with your T-zone but still think you may have combination skin, it may be time to test for sign number two.

2. Dry Patches and Oily Patches

Before you touch your skin, you’ll want to make sure you wash your hands. This helps keep blemish-causing bacteria off your face and removes oil buildup from your fingertips. Once your hands are clean, try feeling different parts of your face. If you feel any roughness, bumpiness, or flakiness, you’ve found a patch of dry skin. 

Someone with combination skin may have dry cheeks but an oily forehead.

If your skin is oily to the touch and you feel textured blemishes and uneven skin texture caused by enlarged pores, then you’ve located oily skin. 

If you notice patches of both types on your face, then you may have combination skin. If you are new to skincare and still unsure what your skin type is, then you will want to move on to check for sign number three.

3. Glossy and Irritated Appearance

If you are a more visual person, then you may want to check your reflection to determine your skin type. While feeling your skin is the most effective way to tell your skin type, there are certain things about each type that may stand out better in the mirror.

Oily skin will manifest as almost glossy when you check the mirror. The shine should be easy to spot. You may also see some blemishes surrounded by redness. Keep in mind that you may not see all of these signs, but as long as one of them is present, it indicates an area of oily skin.

Dry skin, however, will have larger patches of redness due to irritation. You may see visible flakes of skin where the lack of hydration has caused a buildup of dead skin cells. Another sign of dry skin is dullness in the light.

As with the previous two signs, if you see areas of both dry skin and oily skin on your face, then you likely have combination skin. 

4. Both Dryness and Oiliness Appear After Washing

Another way to tell if you have combination skin is to conduct a test. For the test, you’ll start off by washing your face. You can use your normal cleanser, but make sure to use lukewarm water to avoid irritating your skin. Once your face is clean, you’ll want to let your skin dry without applying any product or moisturizer.

After your skin is dry, wait a few minutes and then check the mirror. If your skin feels tight and displays flakiness, you have dry skin. If your skin is immediately oily and looks shiny, you likely have oily skin. And as before, if you notice areas of both on your face (especially around your T-zone), then you have combination skin.

If you are still unsure about your skin type or would like a professional opinion, make an appointment to consult with your dermatologist. Dermatologists have high-powered devices that help them identify skin type, and can help you come up with a personalized care plan.

Skincare Tips for Combination Skin

If you have looked for the four signs of combination skin and feel like they best describe your skin type, then it is important for you to know how to care for your skin properly. Combination skin is tricky because you cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some of our tips for healthy combination skin:

Separate Your Skincare

Because having combination skin means that you have patches of oily and dry skin, you’ll need to separate your skincare routines. You should treat your oily skin separately from your dry skin since what helps one is likely to irritate the other. 

I recommend a lightweight moisturizer like my Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer for your oily areas. This vegan, cruelty-free formula is specifically designed to keep your skin hydrated and keep the oil at bay. 

For your dry areas, you’ll want something a little more heavy-duty. I recommend iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion. This moisturizer works by infusing your skin with deep hydration while also protecting it from the elements.

Stay Away From Irritants

To set your skin up for success, you should avoid products that may cause irritation. Products that are likely to irritate your combination skin include anything with alcohol or fragrance as main ingredients. 

While those are two main things to look for, you’ll want to stay away from any product that irritates your skin. To tell if a product irritates your skin, apply a small amount of the product and see if your skin reacts. If you feel any tingling or burning, or see any redness, place the product aside and contact your dermatologist.

Don’t Skip Your Sunblock

Sunscreen is an important step in your morning skincare routine. 

For oily skin, I recommend Control Corrective’s Oil-Free Sunscreen. This sunscreen has an SPF of 30 and is designed to protect your skin without causing an overproduction of oil.

For dry skin, you may want to try Supergoop!’s Play Everyday Sunscreen Lotion, which has an SPF of 50 and is formulated to provide deep hydration and broad-spectrum sun protection.

What Is the Takeaway?

Combination skin is one of the most common skin types and is identified as a combination of oily and dry patches of skin on the same surface. You can tell if you have combination skin by checking your T-zone, feeling for dryness or oiliness, or by looking to see if your skin is shiny or dull. 

To best care for your combination skin, you need two separate skincare routines for each area of skin, and you should avoid irritating your skin. If you think you have combination skin, you’re not alone – and I am here to help!



Skin Types | American Academy of Dermatology

How to Pick the Right Moisturizer for Your Skin | American Academy of Dermatology

Know Your Skin Type Before Choosing Skin Care Products | Cleveland Clinic


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