5 Tips that Made My Combination Skin the Softest It's Ever Been

It looks so much better than it did when I used to dehydrate it with super-harsh products.

In the seventh grade, when I hit puberty and started breaking out like crazy (thanks, Mother Nature and genes), I made it my goal to try every drugstore acne product I could to clear up my skin. I was already self-conscious about my appearance before this, so having zits unpredictably pop up just made everything worse in my 12-year-old mind.

Finding a routine that would take care of my pimple situation was my way of regaining control of my appearance, and it was also exciting. I felt like a beauty detective; it would only be a matter of time before I landed upon the set of products that would improve my skin for good. And when I eventually did land upon those products, you can bet I was super-proud of myself. (I still get hormonal acne on my chin, though, but that’s a different story.)

Although preventing pimples has been a priority of mine for a while (I never skip putting on pimple cream at night), moisturizing my skin is a fairly recent one. Like many people who have shiny skin, I used to think that because my face produced so much oil, I didn’t need to moisturize. Now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that it’s important for everyone to moisturize, so I’ve gotten into the habit of looking for ways to hydrate my skin.

And let me tell you: I am hooked.

Even now, in the winter, when the weather can really take a toll on my skin, it looks better than it did years ago when I intentionally tried to dehydrate it with super-harsh products. I’ve been using this combination of tips to get my skin hydrated.

Pay attention to ingredients

I have learned to stay away from any facial cleansers with sulfates during the winter since they dry out my face like there’s no tomorrow. Instead, I use a gentle cleanser, like First Aid Beauty’s Face Cleanser. It does a good job of removing my eye makeup — even waterproof formulas, if I have the patience to scrub my eyelids a little — and it never leaves my skin feeling tight.

Also, when I am feeling really lazy about cleansing, micellar waters are the way to go. I have used both the Simple version and the original Bioderma version, and they’re both wonderfully non-drying and effective at removing makeup.

Never use hot water on your skin

I still have one of those old-school sinks with separate spouts for hot and for cold, so you can’t mix them. In the winter, I used to only use the hot side on my face and hands, and I can’t stress this enough: IT WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA.

Hot water can be very drying and make your skin turn red temporarily. Warm is the way to go (and much less painful), though I like to top off my face-cleansing sessions with a splash of cold water at the end. When I'm at my sink, I cup some cold water into my hand before holding it under the hot water spout so it becomes warm water very quickly.


Exfoliating is recommended for people with dry skin, but my combination skin also benefits from some exfoliation, since the sides of my nose can get flaky.

I am obsessed with using a konjac sponge because it always leaves my skin feeling really smooth afterward, and it’s gentle enough for me to use every day. There’s a moisturizing benefit, as well. Since it gently buffs away gunk from my face, my skincare products have an easier time penetrating. (You can also just a washcloth. Whatever works for you!)

Layer your skincare

I talk about this all the time, but ever since I started layering my skincare — aka using more than one moisturizing product — my skin has never felt better. Alone, a regular emulsion feels nice on my face, but when I use either a serum or a balancing water that contains glycerin beforehand, the rest of my products just absorb better.

I love my Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water as the first product I apply to my face after cleansing, but since I ran out, I’ve been using Eve Lom Intense Hydration Serum, which is also glycerin-based. They both absorb into my skin extremely fast and prep my skin for my final moisturizer, Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Emulsion. When I feel like my skin needs extra care, I occasionally put on Eve Lom Brightening Cream, which is richer than the emulsion I use.

As for my under-eye area, which is dryer than the rest of my skin, I always put on eye cream in the mornings. I’m a fan of Clinique All About Eyes right now, since it helps me avoid getting a cakey look when I’m wearing concealer.

When I combine all these tips, my skin behaves, and I even get a nice, dewy glow.