The Best (& Worst) Ingredients For Every Skin Type

Not to totally oversimplify a very involved topic, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that some ingredients simply work better for certain skin types. Take oils, for example: Dry skin tends to drink that stuff up, whereas those with oily skin might find them too heavy. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

But let's be honest — trying to decipher an ingredients label can be overwhelming. In an effort to lock down our ideal skin-care regimens, we decided to pick the brains of dermatologist Julia Tzu, MD, and Mary Schook, aesthetician and founder of M.S. Apothecary. They told us which ingredients we should seek out and which ones we should avoid.

So whether your skin's combination, dry, oily, acne-prone, or sensitive, we hope this story will make your beauty-shopping a little bit easier. Check out the list and a few of the pros' favorite products, ahead.

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Dry Skin

Look for: Super-hydrating ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and shea butter.

Try: Dr. Tzu recommends this hydrating moisturizer for anyone with dry skin. It's full of glycerin to keep flakiness at bay and it soothes wind-whipped skin on contact, making it essential for the coldest months of the year.

Alcohols or sulfates, both of which can suck the moisture from your skin, says Schook.
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Oily Skin

Look for: Witch hazel, a natural astringent that balances oily skin, according to Schook, and retinols, which can help control oil, says Dr. Tzu.

Try: Schook loves Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner, which is alcohol-free. "I really have to emphasize the 'alcohol-free' part," says Schook. "The more people try to dry out the oil, the oilier they will get."

Retinols, which can help with acne, oil, and, of course, anti-aging, are also great for controlling oil production. Dr. Tzu recommends Avène's Retrinal 0.1 Intensive Cream if you're looking for an over-the-counter solution, although she suggests getting a prescription for retinol if you want a larger dose.

Avoid: Petrolatum, "which only adds to the problem," says Dr. Tzu, and drying ingredients like alcohols and peroxides.

Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera Alcohol-Free Toner, $7.96, available at Vitacost.
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Combination Skin

Look for: Dr. Tzu recommends using a technique similar to "multi-masking," which involves using specific products for different parts of the skin. "For the T-zone, look for ingredients that help with oily or acne-prone skin," she says. "For the cheek area, which tends to be drier, look for ingredients that suit drier skin types."

Try: We love spreading a layer of the Boots Botanics Shine Away Clay Mask on our oily areas, and then smoothing on some of Laneige's Water Sleeping Mask on the drier parts of our faces.

If that sounds like a little too much work, Schook loves cleansing milks for those with combo skin due to their ability to effectively cleanse without stripping the skin. We love this one from Éminence because it feels (and smells) luxurious, but leaves zero residue.

Avoid: Like with both dry and oily skin, the worst thing you can do is dry out combo skin even more, so stay away from alcohol and harsh cleansers that contain sulfates.

Éminence Rice Milk Cleansing Water, $42, available at Buy Natural Skincare.

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Acne-Prone Skin

Look for: Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

Try: We love Neutrogena's cheap, but extremely effective cleansers. Our favorite (and Dr. Tzu's) is the Oil-Free Acne Wash, which contains salicylic acid to help clear breakouts. Although we love the original formula, this time of year we like to switch it out for the cream version, which is a little more hydrating.

Avoid: Heavy, oil-based products, which can clog pores, according to Dr. Tzu. Silicones, adds Schook, can also be "major cloggers."

Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser, $7.99, available at
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Sensitive Skin

Look for: Hypoallergenic formulas or products containing niacinamide (which can help reduce some of the redness that sensitive-skin types often experience).

Try: Dr. Tzu recommends the entire line of Vanicream products for easily irritated skin. "[They] are made for people with sensitive, allergy-prone skin," she says.

If you're looking for a quicker redness fix, reach for green-tinted makeup. Dr. Tzu loves Clinique's Redness Solutions line, which contains green pigments as well as probiotics to calm inflamed skin and neutralize redness.

Avoid: Fragrances, dyes, and preservatives like parabens or formaldehyde derivatives, says Dr. Tzu.

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, $10.59, available at
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