The Difference Between Combination and Oily Skin You Need to Know

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If you find your T-zone calls for midday touchups and blotting sheets are a beauty staple, you may immediately assume that your skin type is oily. But did you know your skin may fall under the “combination” umbrella? Because knowing your skin type is crucial to choosing the proper products to treat it, we reached out top dermatologists to find out the difference between these similar types to more easily determine which camp our fickle skin belongs to.

New York dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, says that most people fall into one of the following skin types: normal, oily, dry or combination. “Combination skin is by far the most common, and is usually the case when patients come in with oily T-zone areas (nose, eyebrows and chin), but dryness on the outside areas,” he explains, adding that normal skin types are actually very rare.

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“Combination skin simply means there are two or more skin issues occurring at the same time,” explains Hollywood, FL, dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, MD.“Signs that you have combination skin would be large-looking pores, shiny skin and blackheads,” he says, adding that areas other than the forehead, nose and chin are usually dry and/or flaky if your skin is combination.

“There are more oil producing glands in the central facial zone, so most people are more oily in this location,” says New York dermatologist Amy Perlmutter, MD. “But, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have oily skin. Those with true oily skin are oily all over their face, although they may also notice a prominence along their T-zone where they may be more prone to acne.” Another surefire way to tell is if your face appears shiny or greasy shortly after cleansing and if your pores are more visible around your T-zone. Further, if you’re skin is prone to acne, chances are you have oily skin.

Your skin care regimen should be tailored to your skin type and its needs. Here’s how to treat it:

Combinatin Skin
Dr. Goldfaden says that the most important step in a combination skin regimen is exfoliation. “Exfoliation helps fight off the buildup of dead skin cells and bacteria while helping ward off breakouts, excessive oil and large pores,” he says, adding that both physical and chemical exfoliants are good options that will help maintain a clear and smooth complexion. Also recommended are antioxidant serums to spot-treat different problem areas of the face. However, Dr. Goldfaden warns to stay clear of products that contain artificial fragrances and ingredients, as these can cause combination skin to flare up.

Oily Skin
According to Dr. Bhanusali, cleansing oily skin two or three times per week with an exfoliating cleanser—you should be looking for ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid—is super helpful. “Utilizing a cleansing brush like a Clarisonic can provide synergistic benefits, but be careful not to overdo it,” he says, explaining that over-exfoliating can lead to “compensatory oil hyper secretion,” meaning that you may actually become even more oily than when you started. While it seems like the last thing you should do, Dr. Bhanusali says that he has his oily-skinned patients apply argan oil to their face weekly before bed. “While it may sound counterintuitive to apply more oil to an oily face, argan oil actually decreases sebum production, which can lead to less breakouts and healthier skin.”

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