I Have Combination Skin, and These Are the 10 Drugstore Products I Use to Keep It Healthy

I'm a baller on a budget.

Cleanse, moisturize, sleep, repeat—or not. From the 18-product maximalists to the one-and-done movers and shakers, everybody’s skincare routine differs. In A.M. to P.M., we explore the morning and evening routines of people with different skincare concerns, from targeting acne to embracing vegan beauty.

Age: 27

Skin Type: Combination

Skin Concerns: Congestion, dryness, uneven skin tone

Growing up, I was never really aware of my skin. TBH, I was one of those girls who never wore foundation and rarely ever got a blemish. Back then, my skincare routine consisted of just splashing cold water on my face and using a random drugstore cleanser in the shower. But those days are long gone.

I developed hormonal acne, a picking habit, and hyperpigmentation in my early twenties. I tried dozens of skincare products, usually whatever made it onto Sephora’s bestseller list, but none of them worked long-term. My skin was still as dull, acne-prone, and riddled with dark spots as ever—and it cost me big bucks, too.

I was dropping some serious cash trying to make my skin healthy, and it wasn’t until a friend introduced me to The Ordinary that I started to see some real and lasting results. I always had a mix of high- and low-cost skincare, but once I discovered this affordable brand, I stuck to budget skin care for my combination skin. I stuck to the routine almost religiously, and now, a few months later, my skin has never looked this good.


In the morning, I start by splashing my skin with water and cleansing my skin with a non-stripping formula—the idea of a facial cleanser stripping away the little moisture I have in my skin gives me the heebie-jeebies. Then, I begin applying some of my favorite treatments and serums from The Ordinary. I start with the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution; this helps with evening out my skin texture, so I make sure to cover every inch of my face.

budget skincare routine combination skin the ordinary

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

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Then, I proceed with applying a few serums to brighten, hydrate, and clear my skin. I have a lot of congested pores in my T-zone, so I start by treating the area with The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum. Niacinamide has a ton of anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to helping to brighten the skin. To my surprise, this stuff kind of stings, so I make sure to avoid any cuts or open blemishes I may have at the moment. I follow up with the brand’s hyaluronic acid and alpha arbutin serums to hydrate and exfoliate my skin.

retinol alternatives niacinamide the ordinary

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

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Then, to wrap up my morning routine, I apply a moisturizer with SPF. Using highly active ingredients like alpha arbutin makes my skin super vulnerable to UV rays, so I make sure to use sunscreen every day, even if I’m not leaving my apartment. Every morning, I apply a generous layer of CeraVe’s Facial Moisturizing Lotion to my face and neck.


CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion

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If I can help it, I try going through my A.M. skincare routine at least 30 minutes before applying makeup, just to make sure it all soaks in and does its thang.


First, I take off my makeup with a Neutrogena Makeup Remover Face Wipe. I’m all about the double-cleansing life—I found out the hard way that just washing my face once doesn’t do the trick—so I follow up with a gentle cleanser. I like Clean & Clear’s Night Relaxing Face Wash as it’s gentle, doesn’t leave my skin feeling mask-tight after, and has a soothing scent that really gets me in the mood for sleep.

combination skin skincare routine

Clean & Clear Night Relaxing Face Wash

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After drying off from the shower, I apply The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution to a little reusable cotton round and sweep it over my face, avoiding the eye area. From here on, I apply the same serums from The Ordinary that I use in the morning and add its lactic acid serum that’s better for evening use.

I apply a few drops of The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA Serum all over my face to combat dullness and uneven texture. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates the skin and stimulates collagen production, which provides that lit-from-within glow. Then, I follow up with the brand’s niacinamide serum on my congested areas and apply its hyaluronic acid serum on the areas that are dry.

budget skincare routine combination skin the ordinary

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

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The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 serum combats flakiness and is a real lifesaver. If I use it consistently, my skin looks plumper and glowier than before, as if I’ve never been stressed or inconvenienced for a day in my life, ever. Radiant, like a newborn. 

I get dark spots pretty easily, whether from a hive that I scratched or from a popped pimple that took a while to heal. For this, I spot-treat with The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA serum and then scold myself for having succumbed to the wonders of skin picking. This serum uses a two percent alpha arbutin concentration versus the standard concentration of one percent, so it really speeds up the healing process.  

combination skin budget skincare routine

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Shop it Sephora

Then I seal it all in with a moisturizer. This is the one major step I change in my P.M. routine since I prefer to go to bed with a thick and creamy moisturizer to make sure my skin gets a heavy dose of hydration. Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion had always been my go-to, but I’ve found that The Ordinary’s Face Lotion does the same trick at a fifth of the cost.

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