Ask a Beauty Editor: What Is the Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin?
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Reader question: What is the best type of moisturizer for combination skin? - @ebcookieco
Greetings from a fellow combination skin-sufferer! All skin comes with its own set of challenges, but combination skin is arguably the most difficult to manage.
When your skin is either dry or oily, taking care of it is a pretty straightforward process. But when you can't use a hydrating night mask or clarifying cleanser without offending a certain portion of your face, things get more complicated.
I know your initial instinct may be to overlap a bunch of products to try to satisfy your conflicting skincare needs, but take this from another combination skin sufferer: Simplicity is key when it comes to mixed skin. Layering a medley of various products all over your face to try and address the issue will most likely disrupt the balance on your skin, further exacerbating the problem.
First, to better explain the nature of moisturizers, I'm going to break down the three main components: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Humectants work by extracting water molecules from the air and pulling them into the skin's surface. Popular humectant ingredients you may see include ceramides, alpha-hydroxy acids (lactic acid), sorbitol, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid.
Occlusives are oils and waxes that serve as a physical barrier to help trap water in. Common occlusive agents include petrolatum, beeswax, silicones, lanolin, and zinc oxide.
Emollients smooth over the skin and increase the rate of skin barrier restoration. Classic examples are fatty acids, squalane, colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, and isopropyl palmitate.
You'll want to avoid excessive emollient and occlusive ointments on your oily areas because if your skin is already greasy, these ingredients can trap sebum and cause blemishes.
Instead, opt for gentle, non-comedogenic (emphasis on non-comedogenic) products with humectants that help maintain your skin's balance. Both probiotic skincare and pH-balanced products will help you do that since they focus on balancing the microbiome. I also recommend hybrid skincare products, i.e., a mix between two different products that allow you to get multiple benefits in one formulation. For example, a gel-cream is great for people who are prone to breakouts but still have patchy dry spots.
What you're not going to want to do is skip moisturizer entirely on your oily areas. The oily part of your face might cringe at the thought of applying any moisturizer at all, but avoiding the practice entirely actually might be the cause of your combination skin. Your skin will overcompensate with even more oils, causing an endless loop that keeps your greasy areas greasy.
Now for one of the most common questions for combination skin: Yes you can use different skincare products in different places. Specifically, your T-zone (the central part of your face, including your forehead, nose, and chin) is oilier since your skin's oil-producing glands are more concentrated there. "You can apply other specifics like retinol or BHAS to the oily areas and a thicker, emollient-rich moisturizer on the dry parts," says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
That being said, for anyone who'd prefer a less-is-more approach, it is possible to simultaneously treat patches of oily and dry skin without mixing and matching products. Dr. King says an all-in-one moisturizer may be a better choice for those who want to keep things simple.
Below are some moisturizers that are great options for all-over application. Apply sparingly to your oily parts and double up on drier areas that need more hydration.