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When you have combination skin, a serum that works great for half of your face may cause problems for the other half of your face. The good news is finding serums for combination skin is actually not that difficult. The not-so-good news is that you might need to do some trial and error until you find the best serum for your unique combination skin.
Combination skin is defined as having both oily and dry areas on the face. Usually, you have oily skin on the T-zone -forehead, nose, and chin, but dry skin on the cheeks.
And the oily parts of the face are more prone to breakouts because of excess oil. And you may also be dealing with enlarged and even clogged pores.
On the flip side, the dry parts of the face can be dry to the point that the skin looks flaky. And it doesn’t end there. You may also be dealing with sensitivity on both oily and dry parts of the face.
All this makes it seem difficult to find skincare products that work for your unique skin. However unlikely it sounds, there are serums that hydrate combination skin without clogging your pores.
There are amazing serums that help you manage excess oil on combination skin without further drying it. And there are gentle serums that reduce acne on combination skin without causing sensitivity.
That’s what’s great about face serums. They are targeted and you only need a few drops. Their lightweight but potent formulations make them incredibly effective in managing combination skin.
Whether you have combination/oily or combination/dry skin, fear not. These serums will balance the complexion, reduce excess oil, and boost hydration. You’ll learn more about ingredients that work better for combination skin too.
The Best Serums For Combination Skin
Below are the best serums for people with combination skin.
This is the best serum to balance combination skin. It hydrates, mattifies, and improves the complexion. The face serum has a blend of hydrators; hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, and vitamin B5, which is also super soothing for the skin. It also has vitamin B3, aka niacinamide. Niacinamide serums improve the skin barrier to help retain moisture.
In addition, niacinamide controls excess oil and reduces acne, and enlarged pores. Plus, the potent serum has ferulic acid, an antioxidant that guards the skin against free radicals. The formula is non-comedogenic and lightly scented. It’s an overall balancing serum you can use to manage combination skin to reduce shine on the T-zone and to get rid of flakiness on the dry parts of the face.
Key Ingredients: 5% niacinamide, vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid
Key Benefits: Improves skin barrier, reduces excess oil, minimizes pores
Size: 0.85 oz/25 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free, vegan
Not surprisingly, salicylic acid (BHA) is your best friend when it comes to exfoliating oily parts of your face. Salicylic acid unclogs pores, reduces blackheads, and prevents acne. So it’s the one thing that you’d want to slather all over the oily parts of your combination skin. This minimal serum contains 2% salicylic topped with 1% zinc PCA.
Both are incredibly effective in controlling oil and acne. Because of salicylic acid’s ability to treat and prevent blemishes, this is the best serum for combination skin that’s prone to acne. Apply it on the T-zone to control blemishes and excess oil. The budget-friendly serum also has hyaluronic acid to provide just enough hydration to replenish dehydrated skin.
Key Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, 1% zinc, 1% hyaluronic acid
Key Benefits: Exfoliates, treats and prevents acne, hydrates
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free
The fact that vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that treats and prevents free radical damage remains constant. Whether you have dry-combination or oily-combination skin, vitamin C will improve your complexion regardless. But just in case you have sensitivity, this serum delivers vitamin C in microcapsules. It releases slowly so that your skin isn’t irritated. It targets uneven skin tone from acne and dark spots.
And it brightens the skin in a non-irritating manner. The serum also packs antioxidant-rich Centella Asiatica and skin-brightening arbutin. It also has hydrating hyaluronic acid, and soothing vitamin B5, making it the best vitamin C serum for combination skin. You can use the serum to brighten the complexion, reduce acne and hyperpigmentation, and stimulate collagen production. If you’re on a budget, check out our round-up of the best drugstore vitamin C serums to glow on a budget.
Key Ingredients: 15% vitamin C, arbutin, Centella Asiatica
Key Benefits: Repairs free radical damage, brightens, reduces dark spots
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
If you’re going to rely on one active ingredient to wipe the slate clean on combination skin, make it retinol. It’s majorly anti-acne and anti-aging. But retinol can be drying, and irritating. And it may come as counterintuitive to use it on dry parts of the face. However, this one contains encapsulated retinol to avoid irritation. The serum regulates cell turnover and improves skin texture. So you can tackle both wrinkles and blemishes on combination skin.
It also has lactic acid, which is the gentlest alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that also plumps the skin. Additional antioxidants like vitamin E, green tea, and apple extract help diminish signs of aging. The serum is non-comedogenic, so it’s not going to clog your pores. It’ll decongest your skin, exfoliate it for a smoother complexion, and even out your skin tone, making it the best retinol serum for combination skin.
Key Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, lactic acid, niacinamide
Key Benefits: Encourages skin turnover, evens skin tone and texture
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free
Retinol isn’t the only way to soften wrinkles. If you’re worried about aging skin and dullness but are dealing with sensitivity, join the natural club. Bakuchiol, a botanical extract, is the safest alternative to retinol. It targets wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage just like retinol. But it’s not as irritating as retinol. So people with combination skin that’s prone to sensitivity, redness, or even rosacea can try bakuchiol serums to deal with signs of aging.
That’s why this natural bakuchiol serum is one of the best gentle anti-aging serums for combination skin. It’s fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and won’t aggravate either condition on the face. It also contains gluconolactone, a polyhydroxy acid (PHA). It’s a gentle exfoliant that also has hydrating and antioxidant benefits. The antioxidant-rich formula is a great one for combination skin to use on the whole face.
Key Ingredients: Bakuchiol, gluconolactone
Key Benefits: Minimizes wrinkles, softens skin texture
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, cruelty-free, vegan
Speaking of using a serum on both parts of the face, all skin types need exfoliation. That’s how you increase skin turnover, reduce hyperpigmentation, soften wrinkles, and fade acne. This is a polyhydroxy acid serum to exfoliate combination skin in the gentlest way possible. Unlike AHAs or BHAs, PHAs work on the surface of the skin. That’s why they’re so gentle. They also work like humectants to hydrate and plump skin, which is great for both oily and dry parts of the skin.
So if you can’t tolerate salicylic acid to get rid of acne or can’t tolerate retinol to get rid of wrinkles, PHAs will help. You can use this one to get rid of dead skin cells that are clogging your pores. You’ll be able to eliminate dry patches and flaky skin, reduce enlarged pores, and reverse free radical damage. The gentle formula is also fragrance-free and the best exfoliating serum for combination/sensitive skin.
Key Ingredients: 10% lactobionic acid, vitamin C, vitamin A
Key Benefits: Gently resurfaces to refine skin texture, softens fine lines
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free
The need for hydration is probably the only common ground your dry and oily parts have in common. The lack of hydration is not dryness; it’s dehydration. Otherwise, your oily parts would calm down when you don’t moisturize those areas. Without proper hydration, the dry parts will become flakier and the oily parts become oilier. Sometimes, a simple hydrating serum like this can reduce excess oil significantly without the need for further intervention.
The super-affordable serum contains different molecular weight hyaluronic acids. This ensures hyaluronic acid is more penetrative and your skin is more hydrated. It also has vitamin B5 to enhance hydration as well as to provide soothing benefits. Additional algae extract supercharges the serum, making it the best hydrating serum for combination skin types.
Key Ingredients: 2% hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5
Key Benefits: Hydrates without clogging pores, soothes
Size: 1 oz/3o ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free
This is a multi-tasking face serum combination skin can utilize to address several skin issues. Acne, excess oil, dull skin, flaky skin, wrinkles -everything! The oil-free serum targets acne-causing bacteria with dioic acid, which reduces excess oil and dark spots. Plus, it has salicylic acid, which is incredibly helpful in unclogging pores and preventing acne by exfoliating skin.
And last but not least, it contains glycolic acid to smooth out combination skin, soften the look of wrinkles, and brighten the complexion. Whatever skin concern you’re dealing with, this serum is an all-in-one formula to manage combination skin. Use it daily to improve your skin’s overall health. Or use it in your evening routine as a nighttime treatment to get glowing skin.
Key Ingredients: 3.5% glycolic acid, 1.5% salicylic acid
Key Benefits: Exfoliates, unclogs pores, clears up blemishes, brightens
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free
Vitamin C is not the only way to get bright, glowing skin. There are other antioxidants that can even out the skin tone, and reduce hyperpigmentation but without the irritation that’s usually associated with vitamin C. This natural serum is oil-free and has the lightest texture that disappears into the skin.
It’s made with viniferine, a derivative of resveratrol. Resveratrol is both effective in neutralizing free radicals and fading hyperpigmentation. So if you have stubborn scars, dullness, uneven skin tone, and dark spots, you can try this oil-free serum to brighten combination skin.
Key Ingredients: Resveratrol, squalane
Key Benefits: Brightens, hydrates, evens skin tone
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, vegan
This completes our round-up of the best face serums for combination skin. Remember, it’s all about keeping the balance. If you need more guidance, keep reading to learn how to properly use a serum on combination skin.
How to Use a Serum on Combination Skin
The right way to use a face serum on combination skin is all about keeping the balance. Your end goal should be balancing your complexion where your skin is neither dry nor oily.
And there are two ways to ensure that. You can either use different serums for different parts of the face or focus on one area with one treatment.
For example, if you’re using treatment serums like a salicylic acid serum to reduce acne, there’s no need to apply the product all over your face. You simply use it on your problem areas and just go on with your regular moisturizer.
But if you’re using a hydrating serum or a vitamin C serum, you can use it all over the skin. The key here is to pay attention to the formula.
If you’re going to use one product for both parts of the face, it needs to be non-comedogenic. Otherwise, the oily areas will be unhappy.
Read Next: The Best Vitamin C Cleansers