“Combo is the new normal,” says New York City plastic surgeon Adam Kolker, who points out that approximately 70 percent of adult women fall into this category. Increased stress levels coupled with worsening pollution and stronger UV rays (thanks, depleting ozone layer) may be factors in the reason that otherwise normal types are developing split-personality complexions, says Kolker. The usual combination-skin division: oilier in the T-zone (nose, chin, forehead) and normal to dry everywhere else. Your goal? To treat both skin types without compromising the condition of one for the other.
Your strategy is to find gentle products that work in both zones—then spot-treat as necessary for oiliness or dryness.
THE COMBINATION MINIMALIST
CLEANSE “Morning and night, use a gentle yet effective cleanser over your entire face so you don’t over-dry your cheeks,” says New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman, author of the new book Skin Rules. Then, to give the oily T-zone further attention, follow with a toner that contains some kind of exfoliating ingredient (glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid) on just your nose, forehead and chin. USE AM AND PM.
HYDRATE In terms of moisturizing, you should treat combination skin as if it were oily—in other words, choose something very light and non-comedogenic (that means it won’t clog pores) to use all over. Hydrating serums are a safe bet, says Kolker, because thanks to their quick penetration, they have an effect without leaving the oilier spots feeling sticky. If your cheeks need extra moisture,(a possibility in the winter, when skin is driest), you can also layer a richer moisturizer on just those spots. USE AM AND PM.
PROTECT During the day, you need to shield your skin from UV rays and pollution because the free radicals that result from exposure to the sun and dirty air are bad for both your skin types: They stimulate oil production and trigger breakouts in the T-zone while initiating the breakdown of collagen (the stuff that makes skin firm and spongy) in drier, more vulnerable areas like your cheeks and around your eyes. Because your skin is not as acne prone as truly oily skin, many MDs say you can layer a light, oil-free sunscreen on top of your daily moisturizer without making your face greasy. USE AM ONLY.
TREAT Your miracle do-it-all anti-aging acne fighter should be either a tretinoin cream (the form of vitamin A in Retin-A, Avita or Refissa, all of which are good Rx options for your skin type) or retinol, the over-the-counter version of this vitamin, says Gervaise Gerstner, MD, L’Oréal Paris’s consulting dermatologist. Both forms accelerate skin-cell turnover, prevent pore clogging and get rid of old cells clinging to the skin’s surface, which can make the complexion look dull. For best results, apply to clean skin, wait two minutes, then put on your moisturizer (because hydrating ingredients can dilute the potency of tretinoin or retinol). However, if you find your skin is intolerably irritated, try swapping the order: If you apply your moisturizer first, it will act as a gentle buffer. USE PM ONLY.
If you’re willing to pull out all the stops—and be re-warded with faster, more dramatic results—follow the Combo Minimalist regimen, then fold in as many of these extras as you like.
THE COMBINATION MAXIMALIST
FAKE FLAWLESSNESS An oil-free makeup primer is especially effective on combination skin because it evens out the skin’s dual texture during theday, mattifying the T-zone and smoothing the cheeks. Apply after sunscreen and before you put on any other makeup. USE AM ONLY.
PEEL “An at-home acid peel is perfect for combination skin because it works in a balanced fashion, decreasing oil inthe T-zone and helping shed dry, flaky skin in other areas,” says Kolker. Use one or two times a week in the evening, clearing the way for your end-of-day treatments. USE PM ONLY.