Home - T Singapore

How To Tackle Combination Skin

By Joie Goh

Fragmentary Face of King Khafre
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fragmentary Face of King Khafre

Ever since puberty struck its cruel blow upon my physiology, I have struggled with the extremes of combination skin. My forehead, nose and chin were permanently glossy with sebum and pitted with blackheads, while my cheeks and the area around my nostrils were constantly flaky, itchy and dry to the point of cracking. Growing older did alleviate the severity of my skin’s vacillating condition somewhat, but my T-zone remains markedly greasier than my cheeks, which still get uncomfortably taut without a requisite layer of moisturiser.

Although I am one of many sufferers of combination skin, this skin type appears to be the latest “trend” in the world of skincare. “30 years ago, the main concern for most people was dry skin,” says Suzanne Santos, chief customer officer of Aesop. “Then, perhaps due to climate change, everybody claimed to have obsessively sensitive skin and all the brands followed suit by creating products to strengthen the skin.”

“Over the past decade we have observed an increasing prevalence of combination skin among our customers, particularly in warmer climates,” says Dr Rebecca Watkinson, the brand’s innovation and research manager. “They were finding it increasingly difficult to manage this challenging and often reactive skin type.”

Perhaps it’s because most people, after having sufficiently strengthened their sensitised skin and feeling less vulnerable, that they are starting to re-assess their skin type, surmises Santos. The brand’s very first employee, she has been with Aesop since it was founded by hairstylist Dennis Paphitis in 1987 and is now in her 60s. In any case, she had found it necessary to offer a new method of tackling this issue, focusing primarily on bringing balance to the two extremes, rather than the traditional way of treating each area of oiliness and dryness separately.

The resulting formulation is a three-piece series dubbed “In Two Minds”, which is also Aesop’s first launch of a full range at one go. Consisting of a cleanser, toner and moisturiser, all three are designed to complement each other with ingredients that work in synergy to restore the skin to a state of calm equilibrium.


“We have to find a balance by not disrupting the skin,” says Santos, who stresses that the goal of treating combination skin is not to strip it entirely of sebum or get rid of its production. That’s why the cleanser is perhaps the most important step and was the most significant focus of the line’s three-year development in Aesop’s laboratory in Melbourne. Smelling faintly of sage, the gentle gel-based cleanser contains salicylic acid, a mild chemical exfoliant, to remove excess sebum without aggravating the more delicate, dryer areas of the face.

However, according to Santos, no matter how gentle cleansing might be, it’s still disruptive to the balance of the skin. That’s where the toner comes in. Formulated with niacinamide and panthenol, the toner calms and soothes the skin of any inflammation. “It adds greater value to the health of the skin,” says Santos, who also suggests that if one is much too lazy to cleanse the skin, one can use a cotton pad liberally soaked with the toner to wipe the face in lieu of washing – although, she emphasises, it’s not recommended to completely replace cleansing.

Finally, to form a protective barrier over the skin and replenish moisture without overburdening the oilier zones, the In Two Minds Facial Hydrator is a matte-finish lightweight moisturiser made with coco-caprylate rather than traditional vegetable oils. An emollient ester derived from coconut oil, coco-caprylate offers a much lighter feel without compromising hydration. A blend of oils from acai, andiroba and copaiba, South American plants known for their supposed anti-inflammatory and healing benefits, give added nourishment (good for the dry areas), while sandalwood offers anti-bacterial properties (good for the oily parts).

Still, the line isn’t meant to be a miracle solution that automatically transforms combination skin into perfectly balanced, normal skin, and Santos is very clear on Aesop’s stance on “miracle cures”. Rather, it is consistent, regular use and creating better skin habits, such as twice daily cleansing, toning and moisturising that trumps anything that promises “good” skin that appears aesthetically flawless.

“I think good skin is skin that the individual looks in the mirror and feels good in,” adds the supremely poised Santos, who unabashedly rocks a naturally grey pixie and wears no foundation to mask her glowing complexion, laugh lines and all. “To me, that should be the expectation.”