(Last Updated On: February 27, 2018)

You’ve got a T-Zone like an oil well surrounded by dry areas?

Whichever type of cleanser you use – whether for normal skin, dry skin or oily skin – it doesn’t quite do it?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone and your issue is one you can easily deal with.

First things first; the condition you have is known as Combination Skin.

So…how do you deal with it?

Well, you need to devise a skin regimen that I’ll guide you through later.

But right now, we’re going to tackle the subject of cleansers – which ones you can use for combination skin.

A combination skin cleanser is very much part of the routine…and it will also suffice when you just want a quick clean.

If you use cleansers that concentrate on cleansing – in plain English that means they include harsher ingredients that focus on getting rid of dirt – you may be worsening, or worse, causing your combination.

To help you select a good cleanser for your combination skin, I reviewed over a dozen cleansers to select the top 5 cleansers for combination skin.

At A Glance: My Choices For The Best Cleansers For Combination Skin

Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser For Face is a good non-abrasive option.

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser is good for not only combination skin but also for oily and normal skin.

Garnier SkinActive The Gentle Sulfate-Free Face Wash is a sulfate-free cleanser with a mild lather.

TATCHA Classic Rice Enzyme Powder for Combination Skin will clean and refresh your face and is a good choice for someone with dehydrated skin.

Skinceuticals Simply Clean Pore-refining Gel Cleanser has such mild cleansers as Cocamidopropyl Betaine making it a good option for combination skin.

01. Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser For Face Review

Clean & Clear’s Deep Action Cream Cleanser is a good option for cleansing your face without excessively stripping it of its oils.

One of the points of cleansing is that the more abrasive a cleanser is the more it can cleanse. More abrasive = less mild.

This cream strikes a balance between being mild and cleansing.

You may feel a slight remnant residue but the cleanser is mild on your skin and that is very important in a case of combination skin.

Another advantage of this cleanser is the presence of Salicylic Acid, the exfoliant extraordinaire. If you’re prone to breaking out, go for this one. Ten to one your breakouts will go away.

In addition to being an excellent exfoliant Salicylic Acid is known to be soothing to your skin which is important for cleansing combination skin.

While on the whole the product is definitely good for combination skin I would look out for the added fragrance and menthol when first applying it.

Menthol can be sensitizing to the skin and that may put off some users. The same holds true for the added fragrance.

So, be careful for the first 2or 3 times. If you don’t face any issues, feel free to adopt it as your go-to combination skin cleanser.

The list of ingredients follows.

EmollientCetyl Alcohol, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether
EmulsifierCetyl Alcohol, Polysorbate-60
ThickenerCetyl Alcohol, Gelatin
CleanserSteareth-21, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate
ExfoliatingSalicylic Acid
ChelatingDisodium EDTA

  • Wet your face.
  • Take a dime sized amount of the cleanser on your palm and massage it onto your face.
  • Concentrate on the oily areas.
  • Rinse off with water and pat yourself dry.

What I Liked

Mild on the skin.

Does not strip oils excessively off of your skin.

Nice tingling sensation on the skin.

Provided you can bear it, menthol cools and refreshes your skin.

Will help reduce and even stop breakouts.

What I Didn’t Like

There may be a remnant residue left.

Includes added fragrance.

Includes menthol which may irritate some users.

If you stop using it breakouts may recur.

02. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser Review

This one is a good choice almost across the board – whether you have combination, oily or just normal skin.

It mentions on the package and the directions that it can remove makeup. However if you have heavier makeup it may not go completely.

In such a case please do not start rubbing roughly to clean the makeup. Heavy scrubbing may create problems in the drier areas of your face.

Remember, this is meant to be for combination, oily and normal skin. Naturally it’s a mild concoction and may not suffice for everything.

Its main cleanser is Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate. Derived from coconut oil, it tries to get dirt and oils to mix with water so they will just flow away.

Thus the problem of abrasion is side-stepped to an extent.

It includes a mild lathering agent so you can enjoy a refreshing lather but avoid the irritation typical to many foaming and lathering agents.

Phenoxyethanol is a good preservative that does not release formaldehyde.

According to various sources phenoxyethanol may be irritating to the skin but my review reveals little chance of the cleanser irritating you.

One thing which puzzled me is that it has a pH of 6.2-6.3 which is quite higher than our skin pH of 4.5-5.5.

The list of ingredients follows.

SolventWater (Aqua)
CleanserSodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Stearic Acid
Lathering AgentSodium Lauroamphoacetate
EmulsifierStearic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Xanthan Gum
EmollientStearic Acid, Sunflower Seed Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol
Skin ConditioningGlycol Distearate, Aloe Barbdensis Leaf Juice
OpacifyingGlycol Distearate
Film FormingAcrylates Copolymer
AntioxidantAloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
pH AdjustingSodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide
ThickenerXanthan Gum
PreservativeCaprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol
ChelatingDisodium EDTA

  • Wet face.
  • Take a dime sized amount of cleanser in your palm and massage it into your skin.
  • Rinse off and pat dry.
  • If makeup has not gone completely, repeat the cleanse or use a makeup remover.

What I Liked

 No added fragrance.

 Mild cleanser.

 Refreshing non-irritating lather.

 Should help reduce acne.

 May help reduce pores also.

What I Didn’t Like

pH of 6.2 which is higher than normal skin pH.

May not remove all makeup.

03. Garnier SkinActive The Gentle Sulfate-Free Face Wash Review

First things first; what’s the virtue of a sulfate-free cleanser?

Sulfates are known for creating foam. Foam helps a cleanser penetrate deeper into skin and pores and wash out deep-seated dirt. It’s also refreshing on the skin.

However sulfates are quite drying on the skin. On that basis a sulfate-free cleanser is good for dry and combination skin.

Texture-wise it’s quite creamy with a mild lather. You may get a cool feeling on application.

As far as cleansing is concerned it does fairly well. It’s good at removing makeup. And while it may not remove all dirt at one wash it’s not harsh on the skin and leaves your face and hands feeling comfy and soft.

Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, used as a cleanser is a salt of coconut oil (fatty acid). Just like Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, it is a mild cleanser.

Moreover, it is used typically to get a foaming cleanse so you get a refreshing foam without irritating your skin.

In addition to being a good preservative Chlorphenesin is a good antimicrobial so it may come in handy reducing acne and breakouts.

That is because clogged pores create an environment favourable for bacterial growth which leads to further skin problems.

It does contain added fragrance which may not suit some users.

The list of ingredients follows.

SolventWater (Aqua), Propylene Glycol
HumectantGlycerin, Propylene Glycol
CleansingSodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Coco-Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, PEG-100 Stearate, Coconut Acid, PEG-55 Propylene Glycol Oleate, Hydrogenated Coconut Acid, Coco-Glucoside
Skin ConditioningCoco-Betaine, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Isethionate
pH AdjustingSodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Benzoic Acid, Citric Acid
PreservativePhenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Benzoic Acid, BHT
EmulsifierPPG-5-Ceteth-20, Glyceryl Stearate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylates Crosspolymer, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Trideceth-6
EmollientGlyceryl Stearate, Coconut Acid
Film FormingStyrene/Acrylates Copolymer
ExfoliatingSalicylic Acid
Hair ConditioningPolyquaternium-53
ChelatingDisodium EDTA

  • Wet face and massage into your face.
  • Rinse and pat dry.
  • This is quite mild; you can use twice daily.

What I Liked

 Nice creamy texture with a light lather.

 Mild cooling effect that should not bother users.

 Sulfate-free cleansers are always suitable for dry and combination skin.

 It may be useful at reducing acne.

What I Didn’t Like

 Contains added fragrance (Methyldihyrojasmonate).

May require more than one wash to remove all dirt.

Some users may find it a little drying.

04. TATCHA Classic Rice Enzyme Powder for Combination Skin Review

I’d say the best thing about this is that it can help considerably with pores. With daily use you should see results within a fortnight.

As far as makeup is concerned though, this is not the right cleanser for the job.

If you’re wearing makeup, use a makeup remover. On the other hand, it’s a good cleanser to clean and refresh your face so you can put makeup on.

Texture-wise it’s quite foam-y which should help the cleanser reach deep into your skin and pores to wash out dirt plus it’s refreshing on the skin.

It includes Potassium Myristate which is an abrasive cleanser. So as far as cleansing goes, it should be quite good.

Papain (Papaya Extract) is a good exfoliant which makes this cleanser a good option for prevents acne and breakouts.

Dextrin has excellent water binding properties which makes this cleanser a good option for those who feel they have dehydrated skin.

However Potassium Myristate and Papain are a trifle harsh on the skin which is a concern for sensitive skin types.

The list of ingredients follows.

Skin ConditioningRice (Oryza sativa) powder, Houttuyina cordata Extract
AbrasiveMicrocrystalline Cellulose, Rice (Oryza sativa) Bran
EmulsifierMicrocrystalline Cellulose, Potassium Myristate
CleanserPotassium Myristate
ExfoliantPapain (Papaya Extract)
HumectantGreen Tea Extract, Glycerin
AntioxidantGreen Tea Extract, Algae Extract
EmollientAlgae Extract
PreservativePotassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol


  • If you’re wearing makeup remove it separately using a makeup remover.
  • Wet your face and hands.
  • Take some powder and add some more water. Rub your hands together. You should get a nice foam.
  • Massage onto your face avoiding your eyes.
  • Rinse off.

What I Liked

Good for dealing with pores.

Generates foam which is good for a deep cleanse.

May be a good option for dehydrated skin.

What I Didn’t Like

Does not clear makeup.

May be too harsh for some users.

05. Skinceuticals Simply Clean Pore-refining Gel Cleanser Review

Coconut oil continues its dream run among mild cleansers: this Skinceuticals gel cleanser includes Sodium Laureth Sulfate as its main cleanser.

Unlike its infamous cousin Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a mild cleanser suitable for combination skin. It’s derived from coconut oil.

Cleansing-wise it’s good. It washes off dirt without stripping your skin of oils.

It’s mild on your skin which is critical if you have combination skin.

If your dry regions ae particularly bothersome you should enjoy applying a gel cleanser.

It should also suffice for removing makeup.

On the other hand Orange Fruit and Lemon extracts are a bit sensitizing to some users which makes them an iffy contribution to a combination skin cleanser. However if its moisturizing property outweighs the irritation, it’s a net positive!

The list of ingredients follows.

SolventWater (Aqua)
CleanserSodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine
EmulsifierSodium Laureth Sulfate
FoamingCocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide DEA
Skin ConditioningCocamidopropyl Betaine, Aloe Barbdensis Extract, Bilberry Extract, Sugar Cane Extract, Orange Fruit Extract
AntioxidantAloe Barbdensis Extract
AstringentBilberry Extract
ExfoliatingSugar Maple Extract
EmollientLemon Extract
FragranceOrange Fruit Extract , Lemon Extract
PreservativeMatricaria Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben
pH AdjustingSodium Chloride
ThickeningSodium Chloride


  • Wet your face and hands.
  • Massage a small amount of cleanser into your face.
  • Rinse off with warm water and pat yourself dry.

What I Liked

 The cleansers are mild.

 It doesn’t strip your face of oils.

 It can remove makeup.

 It may also help with acne.

What I Didn’t Like

 It may sensitize some users.

What should you look for when you select a cleanser for combination skin?

Primarily, you would look for mild ingredients because remember what’s good for one part of your face (the oily part) isn’t good for the other (the dry part).

You should also avoid cleansers that foam too much. While foaming does give a deep cleanse, most foam-generating ingredients are harsh on the skin and you shouldn’t take the chance.

Another thing you should watch out for is whether there is an astringent ingredient. If there is, and it’s listed within the first 5 to 6 ingredients, you should be careful or consider avoiding it.

The reason is that astringents are good at soaking up oil. That may backfire if you have dry or combination (partly dry) skin.

If you absolutely MUST use such a cleanser, please remember to apply moisturizer immediately after cleansing.

Now let me explain some of the properties of the various ingredients I listed out.

A solvent is used to dissolve other substances and usually keep the product in a liquid form.
There are many substances that may not easily go into a solution. Emulsifiers make such substances exist as small droplets inside a solution.
Cleansers refer to the ingredients that are responsible for actually cleansing your face (as opposed to others which generate foam, form solutions and so on).
Skin Conditioning, Humectant and Emollient ingredients all help maintain moisture content and keep skin soft and supple.
Exfoliants remove dead skin cells from your skin surface. If dead skin cells are not removed they accumulate and clog your pores.
Astringents help you deal with large pores.
Oxidation has some side effects, like encouraging skin wrinkling. Antioxidants resist oxidation.
A pH Adjuster aka a buffer stops the product from becoming too acidic or alkaline.


I’ve told you what the top 5 cleansers for combination skin are.

I’ve told you what to look for.

But I can go one more than that.

I’ll now tell you which among the 5 best combination skin cleansers is the absolute best cleanser for your combination skin.

And that is

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser

It’s quite good as a cleanser.

It’s mild on the skin.

It forms a mild lather. This to an extent gives you the advantages that a foam gives – deep cleansing and refreshing – but lacks the drying or irritating effect.

It also helps reduce you reduce acne breakouts and with large pores.

Yes, it doesn’t clear away makeup but there are effective makeup removers that can help you deal with that.

Finally, I’m going to outline a general regimen that should help you take care of combination skin.
Start with your choice of a cleanser.
Then apply a toner. It will complete the cleanse, flushing out anything the cleanser may have missed, hydrate your skin and reduce redness.
If you suffer from acne, you can consider applying an exfoliant. If you do, consider using a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) based one because those can deal with inflammation and other breakout problems.
Finally if you feel your skin is losing its suppleness or becoming dry apply a moisturizer.

That’s it.
If you feel there’s a combination skin cleanser that I’ve missed, tell me in the comments. Good suggestions may get a shout-out on Twitter and/or Facebook!

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