As a combination skin type, I’m told something slightly different every time I get skincare advice from an esthetician or dermatologist. If I’m having a clogged pore day, I’m told to lay off the oil-based products and focus on exfoliation. If I’m having a flaky dry day, I’m told not to scrub too harshly and to load up on hydrating ingredients. For years I’ve experimented with different products and formulas to strike a healthy balance between hydration and clear pores; but through it all, moisturizer is the one step that’s always remained constant. After all, skin health experts agree that moisturizer is a good idea not only for hydrating the skin but also for protecting its moisture barrier. For some time, I was under the impression that a lightweight gel moisturizer was the best I could do for my skin type.
Recently, however, I found myself chatting with a Japanese esthetician, Koh Gen Do Senior Managing Director Megumi Setoguchi, who taught me about a duo of products that renders face moisturizer totally unnecessary for combination and oily skin types, all the while keeping your complexion super hydrated, glowy, and breakout-free. The products are a hydrating lotion and a skin-balancing oil, and applied strategically, the two have kept my sometimes clogged, sometimes flaky skin in perfect balance for weeks—sans moisturizer. Want to see how replacing my face cream with these two simple products has changed my skin for the better? Just keep scrolling.
In the world of Japanese skincare, a lotion is not the same as moisturizer: Instead, it’s a product with a liquid texture, like water, that you apply after your cleanser, toner, or essence. It’s different from a toner, which is dedicated to balancing the pH of your skin, or an essence, whose job is to deliver nutrients to treat different concerns. By contrast, a lotion’s purpose is to provide intense moisture, but because it’s so light and refreshing, it doesn’t clog your pores.
Koh Gen Do’s lotion, which is vegan, cruelty-free, and made without parabens or artificial fragrances (so it smells like nothing), is formulated with ingredients like Gono Extract, a blend of plant-derived goodies that improve skin smoothness and elasticity, as well as time-released moisturizers like sodium PCA and sodium lactate, which leave dehydrated skin super soft hours later.
Other top-quality lotions to try include Shiseido Waso Fresh Jelly Lotion, which has a refreshing gel-to-water consistency, and Hado Labo Gokujyun Lotion, which is apparently all the rage in Japan.
Step One: Lotion Pack
There are two ways to apply a lotion: You can either pour a bit in your palms and press it into your face and neck, or, if you need deeper hydration, you can create a “lotion pack.” Think of this as a DIY hydrating sheet mask: You saturate a few sheets of pure cotton with lotion and place them around your face. Leave them on for six to 10 minutes (you’ll want to lie down so they don’t fall off). Listen to a couple songs, do some deep breathing maybe, and then remove them without rinsing. You’ll notice plumper, softer skin right away.
Historically, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with face oils. On days when my pores are congested, oils are the first thing I blame, but whenever my complexion looks especially glowy, they’re the first thing I credit. But of course, not all face oils work the same. After investigating more than a dozen formulas, I’ve nailed down that for my combination skin, my best match is a lightweight oil that absorbs lightning fast, leaves no greasiness, and has ingredients that restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier instead of weighing it down.
Koh Gen Do’s vegan and cruelty-free T3 Oil was designed for skin exactly like mine: It’s formulated with hydrating ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural sebum, including featherlight olive squalane, jojoba oil, and shea butter. The combination of these antioxidant-rich ingredients works to prevent both dryness and breakouts, and when layered on top of that hydrating lotion (I only use a drop or two), they create the pitch-perfect balance of hydration and clear pores that I searched for so long to find. And moisturizer doesn’t fit anywhere in the equation.
Other oils I’ve found success with include Herbivore Lapis Oil, which balances the skin’s moisture levels while actively combatting blemishes, and Caudalie Vine[activ] Overnight Detox Oil, which reverses dullness and uneven skin tone.
Step 2: Skin-Balancing Oil
If you try this lotion-oil combo, let us know how you like it by DM’ing us on Instagram @byrdiebeauty!