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As far as skin types go, combination skin can be one of the trickiest to deal with. Rather than falling squarely into one category (aka oily or dry), you get a little bit of both worlds. That means your cheeks may be dry and flaky, while your T-zone is oily or acne-prone—at the same time. Happily, the solution to all your skincare woes is simple, and no, doesn’t involve purchasing two different moisturizers to use on different areas of your face. All you need is a good moisturizer that’s specifically made for combination skin.
These formulas magically meet all of your needs; they’re hydrating enough to knock out those dry spots, yet lightweight enough to not feel greasy or clog pores on the slick spots. And if that weren’t exciting enough, there’s a laundry list of great, affordable formulas to be found at the drugstore, so you won’t have to shell out the big bucks to get your complexion in check.
What to Look For in a Moisturizer for Combination Skin
The word of the day: Humectants. According to cosmetic chemist Shuting Hu, B.Sc, Ph.D, humectants are ingredients that draw moisture to the surface of your skin, helping your complexion better attract and retain water without the heavy, greasy texture of a rich cream. Common humectants include hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and glycerin. Thanks to their lightweight texture, they play well with combination skin, working to hydrate the dry areas without overloading the oily areas.
A Non-Comedogenic Formula
Non-comedogenic formulas, in short, are moisturizers that won't clog your pores. The ingredients used in the formulation are lighter, less oily, and less likely to sit in your pores and cause blockages—especially important properties for keeping breakouts in oily areas at bay.
The Right Texture
Sure, a rich cream could work to soothe any dry spots, but the texture could be too heavy in areas where you tend to get oily. Opt for a for a more featherweight moisturizer to avoid weighing down oily skin—gel-based formulas tend to wear on the lighter side, while still giving the dry areas the extra moisture they need.
Ahead, the best drugstore moisturizers for combination skin.
Best Overall: Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture for Combination Skin
The name says it all. This lightweight lotion works in two different ways, hydrating dry areas while simultaneously tamping down shine and absorbing excess oil in slick areas. Plus, it’s not only oil-free and non-comedogenic, but it’s also fragrance-free and hypoallergenic, a great option if you have both combination and sensitive skin.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light
Despite the fact that this delivers long-lasting hydration (the brand claims 24 hours worth), it still feels completely featherweight on the skin, absorbing instantly without any greasy residue, even in oily spots. Credit hyaluronic acid, a go-to moisturizing ingredient for combination complexions thanks to its ability to impart intense moisture without ever feeling heavy or overly rich.
Best for Sensitive Skin: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
A fan favorite among dermatologists, this is essentially a universal fail-safe for any and all skin types, combination and/or sensitive included. Ceramides and hyaluronic acid both hydrate and strengthen the skin barrier, yet because it’s oil-free, it’s still a good pick for combination skin. The formula is fragrance-free and crazy gentle, safe enough even if you have eczema, and pulls double duty as a body lotion, too.
Best Brightening: SheaMoisture Papaya & Vitamin C Brighter Days Ahead Moisturizer
If you’re looking for a moisturizer that will also help leave your complexion a little glowier (and really, who doesn’t want more radiant skin?), reach for this guy. The namesake ingredients plus lactic acid work to ever-so-slightly exfoliate, all in a formula that delivers the perfect amount of non-greasy moisture.
Best Gel: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Water Gel Face Moisturizer
As a general rule, gel moisturizers are a great pick for anyone with combination skin. They hydrate well, but because they rely on water (rather than heavier butter or oils) they never feel greasy. There are plenty of options out there, but you can’t go wrong with this one, a favorite of Byrdie senior editor Hallie Gould. The oil-free formula is another one that touts hyaluronic acid, leaving your complexion feeling hydrated yet velvety. Also nice: The texture makes it the perfect makeup prep step.
Best with SPF: Olay Regenerist Whip Facial Moisturizer SPF 25
The texture of this pick is unlike that of any other face cream we’ve ever used; whipped and airy, it truly feels more like a mousse than a moisturizer. And that means it’s not only utterly enjoyable to apply, it also sinks into skin lightning fast, so much so that it’s hard to believe just how creamy it is. Fun-to-use texture aside, it’s also packed with anti-aging peptides and that oh-so-important SPF, a perfect everyday staple.
Best Mattifying: L’Oréal Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care Normal/Oily
We know, it sounds totally contradictory and oxymoronic, but this innovative lotion claims to offer 72 hours of moisture while still mattifying the skin—essentially pretty much anything and everything you could want if you have a combination complexion. Credit a water-based formula that relies on aloe water and hyaluronic acid so that you get the best of both worlds.
Best for Breakouts: Aveeno Clear Complexion Acne-Fighting Moisturizer
For those dealing with not only partially oily skin, but partially oily skin that’s prone to pimples, this is a great pick. The lightweight, oil-free formula is infused with salicylic acid, a superstar ingredient that works to dissolve excess oil while keeping pores clear and breakouts at bay. Bonus points for the addition of a soy complex that helps to brighten and even your skin tone.
Best Anti-Aging: Bliss Vitamin C + Tri Peptide Collagen Moisturizer
Those seeking some youth-boosting benefits from their moisturizer will appreciate this multi-tasker. The trio of namesake anti-aging ingredients help to brighten, plump, and smooth out skin, all while delivering the perfect amount of hydration. Happy reviewers repeatedly comment on the non-greasy feel and also call out the pleasant citrusy scent.
Best Budget: Garnier Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream
Any drugstore product is going to be wallet-friendly (obviously), but this one really takes the money-saving cake, ringing in at less than seven dollars. The formula claims to lock in moisture for 24 hours, but is another oil-free gel that won’t clog pores or exacerbate unwanted oiliness. The addition of protective antioxidants is just the icing on the cake.
Best Vegan: e.l.f. Daily Hydration Moisturizer
One of team Byrdie’s favorite drugstore moisturizers, this is a simple and straightforward pick that relies on tried-and-true, good-for-your-skin ingredients. Yes, it does contain jojoba oil, but don’t worry; jojoba is actually one of the best oils out there for oily skin. It mimics our skin’s natural sebum and is great at balancing out moisture levels—AKA giving combination skin exactly what it needs. There are also soothing aloe and cucumber in the mix, all in a vegan and cruelty-free formula.
Best Night Cream: Pond’s Rejuveness Advanced Hydrating Night Cream
Load up on this newbie come bedtime. It touts a unique retinol complex, which not only helps fight wrinkles, but also helps keep pores clear—a major plus for oily spots. It’s coupled with niacinamide, a soothing ingredient that has the added benefit of strengthening the skin barrier, a win for dry spots.
When should I apply my moisturizer?
Unless your moisturizer contains ingredients that should only be used at night (like retinol), you can use it twice a day—ideally after cleansing and toning your skin, and before your sunscreen during the day. At night, you can apply your moisturizer to lock in any serums or thinner formulas you may have layered on beforehand.
How much moisturizer should I apply?
The hard and fast amount may vary depending on your skin's specific needs, but a general rule of thumb is to start out with a small amount, then add more if needed.
Do I need to apply moisturizer to areas of my face that are already oily?
Yes! While you should steer clear of anything too heavy or creamy, the oily areas of your skin shouldn't be overlooked when applying your moisturizer. Make sure to use a formula that doesn't have a high concentration of oil, and seek out lighter ingredients like ceramides, dimethicone, glycerin, or hyaluronic acid, Dr. Shari Marchbein advises.