The 12 Best Cleansers for Combination Skin, According to Dermatologists

These game-changing formulas soothe, hydrate, and brighten.

an editorial image of skincare products in front of a plain shelf
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nobody knows the importance of balance quite like a person with combination skin. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Divya Shokeen, this unique skin type is characterized by oily and dry areas existing side-by-side. Cheeks can run on the dry side; T-Zones tend to be oily; and skin all over the face can range from feeling dry and tight to shiny and breakout-prone.

It’s a lot for one person (or holy grail product) to manage, but the best cleansers for combination skin are up for the challenge. While washing your face, multitasking cleansers from Cetaphil, La Roche-Posay, and more effectively rid the face of excess, acne-causing sebum without stripping drier areas of crucial natural oils. Exfoliating versions slough off dull skin; cleansing oils gently nourish sensitive areas without increasing shine.

Ahead, Marie Claire consults Dr. Shokeen and hundreds of user reviews to narrow down the 12 best cleansers for combination skin. The final edit will soothe, brighten, and hydrate combination skin—all in perfect balance.

The Best Cleansers for Combination Skin

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What to Look for

All-Star Ingredients

Cleansers come in many forms, from cleansing oils to cleansing balms to gel cleansers to exfoliators. To treat combination skin, Dr. Shokeen recommends seeking out ingredients that are gentle, yet effective—and won't come with the risk of over-drying the skin.

"Ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid can help to balance the skin's oil production and maintain hydration," she says. Meanwhile, "Aloe vera, chamomile, and green tea extracts are also beneficial for soothing and balancing combination skin." Again, it's all about balance.

What to Avoid

If you're constantly battling breakouts, you may feel tempted to try harsher chemicals that are tough on acne. Dr. Shokeen says those ingredients can do more harm than good.

"Avoid cleansers that contain harsh sulfates, alcohol, and synthetic fragrances," she advises. "These ingredients can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to increased dryness and potential irritation." Steer clear of heavy oils and thick, creamy textures as well: Those may be too rich for combination skin with oily areas.

Ideal Consistency

The consistency of your cleanser is, for the most part, up to personal preference. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Shokeen recommends gels and lightweight foaming cleansers. "These formulas effectively remove excess oil and impurities without over-drying the skin," she explains. Another option is to try a cream-to-foam cleanser that combines a cream and foam consistency.

How to Cleanse Combination Skin

Treating combination skin starts with a consistent wash routine. Dr. Shokeen recommends double cleansing with both oil- and water-based cleansers, especially if you wear makeup or sunscreen.

"The first cleanse, typically done with a lightweight cleansing oil or micellar water, helps to remove makeup and sunscreen," she explains, "while the second cleanse with a gentle foaming or gel cleanser effectively cleanses the skin without over-stripping it."

The expert also recommends exfoliating once or twice a week, regardless of your skin type, to remove impurities.

Combination skin can be sensitive, and not all formulas work for every skin type. If you're prone to acne, Korean cleansing oils are effective at cleaning skin—makeup and all—without causing breakouts. (Thank the rigorous ingredients standards K-beauty products are held to, ensuring only the best formulas get into contact with your skin.)

Meet the Expert

Dr. Divya Shokeen
Dr. Divya Shokeen

Dr. Divya Shokeen is a board-certified dermatologist. She has published a number of peer-reviewed articles on dermatology and dermatologic surgery, and is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), and Women’s Dermatology Society (WDS). She is currently based in Southern California.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, fashion, culture, and politics both at Marie Claire and for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.