by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

I Asked A Derm to Rate My Combination Skin Routine — Here’s What She Said

I first understood the importance of a skincare routine when I started getting stress breakouts from studying for national exams. Back then, I was using the same cleanser and moisturiser both morning and night, and — gasp! — no sunscreen.

Now, I can proudly say I have a full skincare routine I am committed to. I make sure to remove my makeup, double-cleanse each night and exfoliate regularly. By my account, my skincare routine has the perfect products that will work for my combination, acne-prone skin. But at the end of the day, I am an editor, not a dermatologist — so I decided to speak to UK-based dermatologist Dr Cristina Psomadakis a.k.a. Dr Soma, to see what she thinks of my current routine. She gave me her honest critique and spoiler alert: I didn’t get a perfect score.

“The first thing to say is that very rarely is there an objectively “good” or “bad” skincare routine,” Dr Soma tells BEAUBIT. Not every product or routine is going to be right for every person; there’s a lot of variation based on skin type. According to Dr Soma, the most important question to ask is whether the routine works for you.

“When it comes to combination skin, finding the right products can be tricky. My main advice is that you may have to divide your skin into zones (oily vs dry) and use targeted products for each zone,” she recommends. “For example, you may need to use a salicylic acid toner just on the oily zones and that may be enough to balance out the rest of the routine.”

Here’s what Dr Soma had to say about my skincare regimen, and her tips for how to build the skincare routine that works best for you.


#1: Cleanser

What I do: The first thing I do in the morning is to wash my face with water — but no cleanser. I know this is a hot topic of debate, but I’m firmly on my-pillow-isn’t-dirty-I-cleansed-my-face-last-night camp.

What Dr Soma says: “Some people feel very passionately that you need to wash your face in the morning; I am not one of them,” she says. “However, I do think it is a good idea if you’ve had a complicated night routine. Cleansing helps ensure you have removed leftover ingredients and exfoliating cells from the night before.” Cleansing in the morning is also a good step for those with oily, acne-prone or heavily combination skin.

Try Cerave’s SA Smoothing Cleanser (SGD29), the Krave Beauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser (SGD38) or Sam Bunting’s Flawless Cleanser (GBP16).

#2: Toner

What I do: Since I skip cleansing, I use the PURITO Centella Unscented Toner (SGD35) on a cotton pad to get rid of any impurities.

What Dr Soma says: The toner is derm-approved, so score for me! “This is a great toner that has hyaluronic acid for skin hydration and plumping, Centella Asiatica and panthenol for soothing and strengthening the skin barrier,” says Dr Soma. “It is a lightweight toner and is not astringent, so it is very versatile for a variety of skin types.”

#3: Serum

What I do: I have always had a habit of alternating between different serums, especially since they are basically supercharged cocktails that target specific concerns. For mornings, I switch around between Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution (SGD74) or La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo Corrective Unclogging Care (SGD44.90). 

What Dr Soma says: I got this one mostly right, but learned a valuable lesson from Dr Soma’s notes. “The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo is specially formulated for oilier acne-prone skin, so it may be better for targeted use on the oilier zones only.” I’m definitely going to make a point of not slathering it all over my face now.

#4: Most importantly, sunscreen!

What I do: Since my skin is on the oilier skin, I skip moisturiser and go staright for sunscreen. I’m currently a fan of Supergoop’s Mineral Sheer Screen SPF30 (SGD51) and Drunk Elephant Umbra Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 (SGD48). I switched over to mineral sunscreens once I learnt that they tend to be gentler on the skin (more on that here).

What Dr Soma says: Sunscreen is the most important part of the morning skincare routine, but finding ones that work for combination skin can be rather challenging. “For many people with oilier skin types, you can consider skipping moisturiser and just use a sunscreen. If some parts of your face remain dry, layer some moisturiser on those areas only, beneath the sunscreen,” says Dr Soma.


#1: Remove makeup and cleanse

What I do: The first thing I do when I get home is to use the Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water (SGD29) on a cotton pad to remove my makeup, and then putter around the house doing chores, eating dinner, scrolling through my phone, before heading for a shower. I never noticed it but I have actually been triple-cleansing. In the shower, I double cleanse with The Inkey List’s Oat Cleansing Balm (SGD19) and their Salicylic Acid Cleanser (SGD18).

What Dr Soma says: This is where the big no-no occurs. “Double-cleansing is great and I love the Bioderma Sensibio as the first step of makeup removal. However, following up with a cleansing balm isn’t really necessary if you’re not wearing a lot of makeup. There’s always a risk of stripping the skin with over-cleansing.”

If the drier areas of your face feel clean enough, Dr Soma recommends skipping the double cleanse and go in with a regular water-based cleanser.

#3: Toner

What I do: For toner, I go in with the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (SGD45), which is honestly my holy-grail. It really clears out any gunk in my pores and diminishes the breakouts I get, especially during that time of the month.

What Dr Soma says: The Paula’s Choice is a classic holy grail product for pores, blackheads and oily skin. Its main ingredient is salicylic acid, a BHA which loves travelling deep into pores. And if you’re concerned about using chemical exfoliants daily, this is what Dr Soma had to say: “Any skin type has a spectrum and it depends where you fall on the scale. I know people who use BHA products daily and it works wonderfully for them; but skin changes throughout the seasons and as we age so what works for you for one period in your life may change. So always be aware that you have to adapt your skincare to suit you.”

#4: Serum

What I do: Since mask-wearing became mandatory, I’ve found myself struggling with breakouts on the cheeks and chin. So along with acne treatments, I’ve also recently started using the Krave Beauty Great Barrier Relief Serum (USD28). It has 10% Tamanu oil and niacinamide and claims to soothe and even out the complexion. So far, I’m really liking how it calms down the redness on my cheeks.

What Dr Soma says: “The serum helps with the skin barrier but since it contains a few oils, it doesn’t make sense to apply right after salicylic acid,” she advises. In this case, it would be better if I stuck to using it only when I’m taking a night off from using salicylic acid.

#5: Moisturise!

What I do: I like to mix up the consistency of moisturisers, depending on what my skin is feeling. At the moment, I’m alternating between Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Face Cream Light (SGD210) and the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Sensitive (SGD47).

What Dr Soma says: Expensive products do not guarantee results! Which is why Dr Soma believes an expensive face cream can be more about the experience than necessarily the quality. She also recommends using one gel-based and one cream-based moisturiser for the oily and dry zones respectively.

#6: Masks and treatments

What I do: Once a week, I’ll put on a clay mask or chemical peel before following up with a sheet mask. It’s that time of the week where I sit myself on the couch, pamper my skin a little and catch up on a Netflix show.

What Dr Soma says: Taking time for self-care is a wonderful ritual, and a weekly masking routine can serve that purpose. “You can also do zone-masking and apply a clay one in the oilier parts of your skin and a balancing or hydrating one on the drier parts,” recommends Dr Soma.

The takeaway

Your skincare routine doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should work well for your skin! That said, with Dr Soma’s advice, I’m shopping for a gentle cleanser to use in the morning and swapping my Krave Beauty serum for a niacinamide one to use post-chemically exfoliating.

Word to the wise: Consult a dermatologist for the most personalised advice for your skincare routine. I’m sure glad I did. 

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