Oily and combination skin: what makes it different from other skin types

Oily and combination skin is the result of sebum production varying in different areas of the face.

How to recognise oily and combination skin

The term combination describes skin with a mixture of characteristics: it has some dry or normal areas as well as oily or greasy areas with impurities.
Therefore, it has the characteristics of dry skin and oily skin at the same time:

  • the cheeks, cheekbones and the area around the lips may be normal or slightly dry;
  • the so-called T-zone, which encompasses the centre of the forehead, nose and chin, appears shiny and oily with an uneven skin texture.

Oily skin, on the other hand, appears oily and thick all over, featuring large pores and sometimes comedones (blackheads and/or whiteheads).
If these imperfections are particularly acute, it may indicate a potential tendency towards acne

Combination skin: what makes it different from other skin types?

Combination skin

The essential difference between combination and other types of skin is that it can display almost completely opposite characteristics at the same time. Specifically, it is determined by levels of sebum production in different parts of the face.

The sebaceous glands in the T-zone produce excess sebum, causing build-ups and often blocked pores, possibly leading to the formation of comedones (blackheads and/or whiteheads).

In other parts of the face, instead, the hydrolipidic film is depleted and the skin’s barrier function is altered. This causes greater water loss, and thus skin dryness.

Oily skin

With oily skin, there is plentiful sebum production in all areas of the face, making it appear shiny and oily all over.
If the sebum has a denser, more wax-like consistency, the skin no longer looks shiny but rather has a matte appearance, with a dull and lacklustre complexion. 

What are the causes of oily and combination skin?

The causes are mainly genetic, which is to say that skin type is largely determined by an individual’s genetic make-up. However, it should also be noted that sebum production is heavily influenced by sexual hormones.
It’s no coincidence that male skin tends to be more oily (as well as being thicker), while female skin may vary in oiliness at different stages of the menstrual cycle.
In fact, it is androgenic hormones that stimulate the activity of the sebaceous glands: greater sebum production will take place in the areas most affected by this stimulation (the face, shoulders and torso).

However, excessive cleansing and the use of unsuitable cosmetics can alter the hydrolipidic film of delicate areas, while at the same time exacerbating the hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands.

Therefore, any treatment of oily and combination skin must take these different factors into account. Tackle the underlying problem of hyperseborrhea using specific sebum-normalising and purifying products, without cleansing excessively in order to avoid exacerbating skin dryness in other areas.


For useful tips on the best way to treat oily and combination skin, read the article: Oily and combination skin, how to treat it.