Combination Skin: What is it and What Causes it?

Posted by in Skin Care

Those of you who have combination skin will know that it is a confusing and frustrating skin type to have where it can feel as if parts of your face are constantly battling with each other - dry versus oily. In fact many of us are actually making matters worse because we do not know what has caused our skin to be this way and what we can do about it. So what is combination skin and do we know what causes it?

What is Combination Skin?

Combination skin occurs when the skin on your face experiences two different skin types at the same time. Most often this will consist of dry patches of skin, usually on your cheeks and an oily T-zone (forehead, nose and often chin too). Dry skin occurs where the skin is dehydrated and often appears flaky, red and can be itchy. Oily skin on the other hand occurs in areas where the sebaceous glands produce excess sebum (the medical term for skin oils).


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What Causes Combination Skin?

There are a number of different causes of combination skin, some of which are uncontrollable and others which can be controlled. Those that are out of your control include genetics, hormone levels, natural aging and the weather. Seasonal changes are often associated with combination skin, where an increase in heat and humidity during the summer can increase oil levels in the skin and drier, colder air in the winter can dehydrate the skin and cause excess oils to be produced to compensate. Fortunately, many of the causes of combination skin are controllable, meaning there are steps you can take to manage this problematic skin type

Your Skin Care Routine:

It is possible that your very skin care routine itself is causing you to have combination skin. Products that contain irritating or inflammatory ingredients can stimulate oil production in already oily areas as well as contributing to more dry skin and redness elsewhere! Also moisturisers that are too ‘emollient’ (or soothing) can make the skin oilier and clog the pores, whereas products such as exfoliators or cleansers that are too harsh, dry out the skin worsening existing redness and dry patches.

Using the incorrect product for your skin type can also cause combination skin to occur. For example, if you have combination skin but use a cleanser designed for oily skin and use it all over your face, it will strip your skin off of its natural oils and cause the sebaceous glands to overcompensate once more. Knowing your skin type is crucial not only when it comes to your skin care routine but for makeup too. You should also be wary of cloths, cleansing brushes and strips which if overused can also irritate the skin, drying it out and causing the sebaceous glands to overcompensate and produce too much sebum.

Medication and Hormone Levels:

Nearly any medicine can dehydrate the skin and cause excess oils to be produced to make up for this. In particular, birth control and hormone replacement medication can lead to increased oil production. Fluctuating hormone levels in general also play a part here, where during pregnancy or menopause our sebaceous glands produce more oil than usual.

Sun Exposure:

Whilst it may seem that tanning is good for oily skin as it dries out the skin and temporarily reduces excess oil production, tanning actually triggers an injury response in the body, which once again causes the sebaceous glands to overproduce oil!


Finally, stress is sometimes associated with combination skin. This is because when we are stressed our bodies produce more androgen hormones (linked to acne) which leads to excess oil production.

Now that we have covered what causes combination skin you can find the right products for you by taking our beauty quiz which will give you personal recommendations.