How to Determine Your Skin Type
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
Understanding your skin type is the first step in finding your dream team skincare routine! (See what I did there?) Our skin types are determined by genetics and ethnicity. Everyone's skin can change over time and the type of skin you have is primarily based on how much oil is produced. This oil helps protect us from environmental damage and aging. As we age cellular metabolism and oil production begin to slow down, and this is where great skincare swoops in to save the day. Every skin type and person can benefit from the basics like a cleanser and moisturizer. However, which types of products you use will depend on your specific type of skin. Everyone's skin is unique BUT you will still fall under 1 of 5 categories. Let's jump right in!
To best determine your skin type start by washing your face with a gentle cleanser. Be sure to remove all remnants of any makeup or skincare. Refrain from applying any skincare for 2 hours. This will allow your skin to return to it's natural state. How does it look and feel? Any tightness? Oil? Redness? Keep reading to determine which category you fall into!
NORMAL: You have an equal balance of moisture. Your skin is not usually prone to breakouts or flakiness. The T-Zone (forehead, nose, chin) is balanced and pores are small. Skin will appear smooth. Normal skin can sometimes fluctuate to slightly dry or slightly oily.
TREATMENT: Normal skin is the easiest type to maintain but you will still need the basics. A good cleanser, moisturizer and SPF will get you through the day. You can replenish your skin at night with a facial oil. When searching for skincare look for lightweight formulas. Maintenance and preventative care are key for this skin type.
OILY: This type of skin will have excess oil (sebum) all over the face. It can feel slick to the touch, look shiny, and is prone to blemishes and breakouts.
TREATMENT: Exfoliating 2-3 times a week and cleansing with a gentle cleanser twice a day will help keep oil at bay without stripping the skin of its nutrients. Stick with gel and liquid formulas when purchasing skincare. Nothing too heavy or emollient. Be careful not to over cleanse this skin type as this will strip the natural acid mantle and cause irritation. Over cleansing will cause the body to produce additional oil in an attempt to protect the skin.
DRY: Dry skin will appear flaky and rough. It will feel tight and slightly uncomfortable or itchy. This skin type soaks up moisture and absorbs products. This can leave you feeling as though you didn't put anything on and a need to reapply. Dry skin does not produce enough oil and can feel sensitive due to its lack of lipids.
TREATMENT: Dry skin needs extra care because it lacks natural oils that protect against environmental damage and aging. The key to taking care of dry skin is keeping the skin barrier properly hydrated. Dry skin ages faster than other skin types and needs extra moisture to maintain a strong barrier. Nourish this skin type with lotions and creams. Occlusive or thick products that lay on top of the skin will help to hold in moisture and protect the skin's top barrier layer.
** Don't confuse dry skin with dehydrated skin. Dehydrated skin lacks water, dry skin lacks oil. Dehydrated skin appears thin or flaky and would be described as crepey or papery. Causes of this skin condition could be medications, coffee, alcohol, sun, over-exfoliation, and harsh products. To treat dehydration of the skin drink plenty of water and hydrate the skin with moisturizers and humectants such as glycerin, sodium PCA and aloe.
COMBINATION: This type of skin can be tricky to treat because it is made up of multiple skin types and requires more care. With combination skin, part of your face will be dry/normal and part will be oily. The most common cases being oily in the T-zone and dry/normal in the cheeks.
TREATMENT: The best products to use for this skin are those designed for all skin types as they are typically balancing. Target oily areas with gels and liquids and treat everywhere else with lightweight lotions and serums. Try multimasking once a week to balance your skin.
SENSITIVE: Technically, sensitive skin is a condition that is caused by environmental stimuli, stress, sun exposure, and other elements BUT it can also be genetically predisposed so we'll discuss it here as well. Sensitive skin is easily irritated, especially with new products and environments. It can be characterized by redness and dryness but may not always show signs of discomfort. This skin type can be described as fragile, thin and flushed.
TREATMENT: Avoid anything that irritates the skin. No excessive rubbing, heat, exfoliation, or extractions. Use nonirritating, calming products. The primary treatment for sensitive skin is to soothe, calm and protect.
Everyone is different and the severity of your skin type can fluctuate. Adjust your skincare routine accordingly. Keep in mind that any skin type can have breakouts. If you think you are breaking out from a product reintroduce your new routine one product at a time. Give yourself a week before adding another product to your routine. This will help you pin point the culprit. No matter the type of skin, the goal is always to balance the natural barrier function.