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.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture for Sensitive Skin
Lasts all day
Natural, matte finish
Can be drying to some
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.
Price at time of publish: $30
Active Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate | Skin Type: Combination | Size: 4.0 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Runner-Up, Best Overall
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Rosaliac AR Intense Visible Redness Reducing Serum
Strong, artificial fragrance to some
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.
Active Ingredients: Water, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 1.69 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Sensitive Skin
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
Rich, velvety texture
Continually releases moisturizing ingredients
Smell may be overwhelming to some
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.
Price at time of publish: $15
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 12.0 or 19.0 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
SheaMoisture Papaya and Vitamin C Brighter Days Ahead Night Cream
Full of natural ingredients
Infused glitter is too much to some
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.
Active Ingredients: Water, Capric Triglyceride, Coco-Caprylate | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.2 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Face Moisturizer
Attracts moisture and locks it in
Clinically proven to last for 48 hours
Creates a burning sensation for some
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.
Price at time of publish: $20
Active Ingredients: Water, Hyaluronic Acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Best with SPF
Olay Regenerist Whip Facial Moisturizer SPF 25
Gives good broad-spectrum protection
Breathable but potent
Not for sensitive skin
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.
Price at time of publish: $29
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3.0%, Homosalate 8.0%, Octisalate 4.0%, Octocrylene 5.0% | Skin Type: Oily, Combination, Normal | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | SPF: 25 | Cruelty-Free: No
L'Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care for Normal to Oily Skin
Encourages the look of fresh skin
Doesn't feel like it absorbs well
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.
Price at time of publish: $25
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid | Skin Type: Combination | Size: 3.04 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Breakouts
Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser
Visibly evens skin tone
Gentle for sensitive skin
A tad pricey for its size
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.
Price at time of publish: $16
Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 4.0% | Skin Type: All | Size: 4.0 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting Eye Cream
Plumps and smooths skin
Protects collagen and elasticity
Fights free radical damage
Results may not be drastic to some
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.
Price at time of publish: $26
Active Ingredients: Water, Glycerin | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Garnier SkinActive Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream Face Moisturizer
Contains an antioxidant complex
Effective for 24 hours
May feel sticky to some
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.
Price at time of publish: $9
Active Ingredients: Water, Glycerin | Skin Type: Normal, Combination | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
e.l.f. Daily Hydration Moisturizer
Infused with aloe vera and shea butter
Reveals a naturally radiant complexion
Can feel sticky
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.
Price at time of publish: $8
Active Ingredients: Water, Glycerin | Skin Type: All | Size: 2.53 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Night Cream
Pond’s Rejuveness Advanced Hydrating Night Cream
Promotes skin renewal with minimal irritation
Slows new signs of aging
Strengthens the skin barrier
Very thin, watery consistency
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.
Price at time of publish: $21
Active Ingredients: Water, Isopropyl Palmitate, Niacinamide | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.0 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
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.