Ask a Beauty Editor: What Is the Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin?

·4 min read

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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.

best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin: woman applying moisturizer to skin
best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin: woman applying moisturizer to skin

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.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Dermatologists recommend this oil-free, non-comedogenic drugstore winner for almost every skincare concern, making it perfect for combination folks who need it all. The lightweight formula infused with hyaluronic acid absorbs like a gel, but has the long-lasting moisturizing power of a cream—an impressive skincare feat that's choice for combination complexions.

best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Rich Moisturizer

This is Dr. King's moisturizer of choice for combination skin patients. Enriched with pro-vitamin B5, bisabolol, and allantoin to hydrate and soothe the skin, it's also hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, making it ideal for sensitive skin too.

best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Rich Moisturizer
best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Rich Moisturizer

Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

Got patchy redness or irritation? Probiotics in this formula help promote a healthy skin barrier, while squalane oil mimics natural sebum to coddle irritated skin back to health. But don't worry—because of its fast-absorbing gel consistency, it won't trigger oily areas either.

best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Biossance Squalane Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Biossance Squalane Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer

This one-and-done moisturizer is great for both your daytime and nighttime routines. It has a pH level of 5.5 and the texture of a rich face cream, but is still lightweight enough to use during the day. It also contains ceramides to help reduce any inflammation caused by pH imbalances. However, it does contain an African oil blend, so proceed with caution if you're especially acne-prone.

best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer
best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion

Simple and straightforward, this cult formula uses ceramides and hyaluronic acid to provide all the hydration you'll need. Like the others, it's oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it's no surprise that it's constantly recommended by dermatologists. Bonus: It also has SPF, eliminating yet another step from your routine.

best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion
best-moisturizer-for-combination-skin-CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion
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