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Knowing your skin type is the essential step in caring for your skin since not all skincare products are suitable for every skin type.
Typically, you've likely inherited your skin type from your parents or grandparents. However, it can sometimes be influenced by other factors, like your diet, age, hormones, or environment.
Nonetheless, there are five different skin types – normal, combination, dry, oily, and sensitive – and although your skin is unique, you'll likely fall into one of these five main categories.
So, let's find out more about each of them and how you can determine which one you have.
Five Different Skin Types and Their Most Common Characteristics
Unless you're born under a lucky star and have a normal skin type, your skin will be either oily, dry, combination, or sensitive.
Here are some of the main characteristics of each:
Normal, or eudermic, skin is a well-balanced skin type – with balanced sebum production and PH levels. It's not too oily nor too dry. The pores are barely visible, and it doesn't have acne or other impurities. Normal skin type tends to be velvety in texture with an even skin tone.
Although this skin type doesn't require special care, it shouldn't be neglected either. It's vital to stay healthy, maintain a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and follow a proper skin care regimen.
Oily skin is characterized by excessive sebum production, which is called seborrhea. The sebum, or skin's natural oils, usually accumulates around the nose, chin, and forehead – the so-called T-zone.
The increased sebum secretion can be mild or significant. People with a critical over-production of oils are usually prone to acne, constantly have a shiny face as well as a greasy scalp and hair. Oily skin has large pores and blackheads and is often quite thick.
All in all, it produces more oils than it needs, and the causes for this vary – from genetics and hormonal imbalance to improper diet, stress, or medications.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have dry skin – not producing enough natural oils or sebum. Because of this, it's unable to form a protective layer from outside influences and water loss, resulting in it often being sensitive as well.
In addition, people with this skin type usually have extremely dry elbows and heels. Dry skin feels tight, rough, and scaly and can appear dull. It has similar symptoms to dehydrated skin, but dry and dehydrated skin aren't the same. Dry skin lacks lipids and elasticity and is, therefore, more prone to the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.
Typically, the main cause of dry skin is genetics. However, an unhealthy diet, diabetes, as well as extremely dry or cold weather can also be the root of the problem.
As the name suggests, combination skin is a mixture of oily and dry or normal skin types. In combination skin types, the T-zone is usually oily due to the larger number of sebaceous glands in this region. The rest of the face, like the cheeks, is either dry or normal.
If you have a combination skin type, you may sometimes feel skin tightening. But at the same time, you might have pronounced pores and blackheads in the T-zone.
It's not uncommon for people with combination skin to experience changes with different seasons. So you might notice that you're predominantly oily during the summer months but mostly dry during the winter months.
Sensitive skin is perhaps the most challenging skin type. Although sensitive skin is classified as a separate skin type, you can have oily or dry and sensitive skin at the same time.
Regardless of your predominant skin type, if your skin is sensitive in addition, it will be prone to irritation, inflammation, and redness. These symptoms are often triggered by environmental factors or other external irritants, such as certain skincare ingredients – most commonly fragrances and dyes.
Generally, if you have sensitive skin, you need to be extra careful. Once you've determined what causes your sensitivity, try to avoid those triggering agents and minimize your exposure to them as much as possible.
How to Determine Your Skin Type
The surest way to determine your skin type would certainly be to visit a dermatologist or an esthetician. They have the knowledge and tools to do this safely and accurately and prescribe you special treatments and medication if needed.
However, you can do several simple tests at home by yourself, using one or all three of the following methods:
The Bare-Face Method
Observing your bare face, studying your pores and your overall skin condition, is the easiest way to get a better picture of your skin type. After removing your makeup and cleansing your face, try to refrain from applying a moisturizer or other skincare products.
Wait about half an hour to an hour, and then observe your skin carefully. It would help if you had a magnifying mirror and good lighting. Take a good look at your pores and study their size.
Are your pores wide and easily visible? Does your skin look shiny on your T-zone and cheeks?
If the answer to these questions is Yes, you likely have oily skin;
If your pores are completely invisible and your skin feels tight, especially when you smile or frown, and appears flaky in some areas, it means you have dry skin;
In combination skin type, the pore size will vary depending on the area of your face. You might notice larger pores and blackheads around the nose, while those on the cheeks will be almost invisible. You might also see an unbalanced combination of dryness and oiliness;
If you don't feel any discomfort and your skin appears clean, with no shine or large pores, you likely have a normal skin type;
And lastly, if your skin type is sensitive, it might show different symptoms, like redness, itchiness, or others.
The Blotting Paper Method
Blotting papers or sheets are highly absorbent, soaking up all the excess oil from your face. While ladies with oily skin probably know about this trick all too well, you can also use blotting papers to test your skin type.
Again, for this test to work, your face needs to be clean. So, cleanse it first with a gentle face wash and pat dry with a soft towel. Try not to apply any skincare products and wait for about an hour.
After one hour has passed, press a clean blotting paper on different areas of your face. Then, hold the paper closer to a light source, and see how much oil it has absorbed:
If you can't see any oil markings, you likely have dry skin;
If you see a considerable amount of oil from every spot on your face, it means you have oily skin;
If the blotting paper shows a minimal amount of oil from your nose and forehead but little to no oil from other face areas, your skin type is combination;
And finally, you likely have a normal skin type if the blotting papers reveal only a tiny amount of oil from every area of your face.
The Moisturizer Method
If you're still unsure, you can test your skin by observing how it will react after applying a moisturizer:
- If your skin absorbs it quickly after application, and you feel like you have to apply your moisturizing cream often throughout the day to keep the skin soft and smooth, your skin type is probably dry. Dry skin will absorb a moisturizer the quickest in the morning and after face cleansing;
- On the other hand, combination and oily skin will require less hydration. In particular, oily skin will likely need only one application per day. While for the combination type, it's slightly different - some parts of your face may require more hydration than others;
- For sensitive skin types, the most crucial step is to find a moisturizer that won't cause any irritation. The frequency of application will depend from person to person.
As you can see, determining your skin type is not that hard after all. Choosing the right skincare routine and products might be a bit trickier. That's why we're going to take a quick look into some of the basics and share some tips on how to take care of different skin types, hoping to make the whole process a bit simpler for you.
How to Care for Different Skin Types
So, now that you established your skin type, you might ask – What's the next step?
The next step would be finding proper care for your skin type.
We'll share some tips to get you started. These should also help you check if you have made any mistakes so far and adjust your routine if needed.
Tips for Dry Skin
Although dry skin can be pretty challenging at times, its care isn't particularly complicated. The key is – always keep it hydrated. This way, you'll prevent the loss of elasticity, flakiness, and premature aging.
If you have dry skin on your face, try following these tips in your everyday skincare routine:
Tip #1: Use gentle cleansers for both face and body;
Tip #2: Avoid spending too much time in the shower, and wash your face with lukewarm water instead of hot;
Tip #3: Apply a rich moisturizer or lotion immediately after showering or cleansing the face; that way, you'll prevent transepidermal water loss, something your dry skin already lacks;
Tip #4: Don't rub your face too hard with a towel but rather use gentle tapping motions;
Tip #5: Avoid alcohol-based skin care products;
Tip #6: Use a humidifier inside and sunscreen outside every day to prevent your skin from getting dehydrated;
Tip #7: Drink lots of water.
When deciding which skincare products to use, you might notice you'll need more occlusive and heavier products during winter. While in summer, you might do just fine with slightly lighter formulas.
Tips for Oily Skin
Before everything else, it's important to know that oily and hydrated skin are not the same – some people have oily and dehydrated skin. Just because the skin is oily doesn't mean it needs no additional hydration.
Here are some basic tips for oily skin care:
Tip #1: Having oily skin means a constant battle with excessive shine and a greasy appearance. Perhaps, in order to solve the problem, you cleanse your face too often. If that's the case, our first tip would be – Don't overwash! It can only make the problem worse – drying out the surface of your skin will make sebaceous glands produce even more oil;
Tip #2: Cleanse your face twice a day – once in the morning and once before going to bed;
Tip #3: Use gentle cleansers and avoid alcohol-based products;
Tip #4: Moisturize regularly and find a moisturizer that suits your skin type. It should be effective in compensating for water loss while not making your skin even oilier;
Tip #5: Use sunscreen every day. Try finding fluids or gel-based products;
Tip #6: Drink enough water.
When choosing your skincare products, avoid comedogenic ingredients that can clog your pores and induce breakouts. The most common comedogenic ingredients are coconut oil, lanolin, mineral oil, beeswax, palm oil, and others.
Tips for Combination Skin
This skin type is probably the most common and often requires special care. Since it's usually a combination of oily and dry skin, the key is keeping your skin well-balanced.
Here are some simple tips you might want to follow if you have combination skin:
Tip #1: Use gentle cleansers;
Tip #2: Exfoliate once or twice a week – gentle exfoliation can help balance out the oilier T-zone and drier cheeks;
Tip #3: Wear sunscreen every day and choose oil-free products;
Tip #4: In the case your T-zone is much oilier than the rest of your face, you might want to consider having two separate skincare regimens – one for the T-zone and oily parts, and another for the other areas of your face that tend to be dry.
To simplify your skincare routine, look for products and formulas that are designed for all skin types. But, generally, you should avoid oil-based products, whether it's your skincare or makeup.
Tips for Normal Skin
As we already mentioned, normal skin type is well-balanced – neither too dry nor too oily. It's not too demanding and, therefore, easy to care for. However, you shouldn't neglect it either and risk it becoming combination or predominantly oily – the most common change in normal skin.
However, since you're already in this group, you're probably doing everything right. Just continue doing so and don't forget to:
Tip #1: Regularly hydrate your skin to keep it healthy and elastic;
Tip #2: Cleanse your face and remove your makeup before sleeping;
Tip #3: Wear sunscreen daily whenever you spend time outside;
Tip #4: And drink enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
All in all, you don't have much to worry about if you have a normal skin type. You are the lucky one and can have fun experimenting with different products and formulas.
Tips for Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin can be caused by various conditions, such as allergies, rosacea, eczema, contact dermatitis, etc. When exposed to certain triggers, your skin condition can worsen. That's why your skincare should revolve around finding what causes your skin's sensitivity and treating that cause, not the symptoms.
Tips for sensitive skin care:
Tip #1: Find products that won't irritate your skin;
Tip #2: Keep your skincare simple, with a minimum amount of products;
Tip #3: If you wish to try a new product, do a patch test first on your arm;
Tip #4: Avoid prolonged sun exposure, and wearing sunscreen is a must.
If you have sensitive skin, finding the proper skincare routine might require some experimenting. Keeping a diary can make this process easier for you. Keep track of products you've tried to find the connection between some ingredients and the worsening of your symptoms.
Additionally, keep in mind that ingredients that might irritate your skin aren't only found in your skincare products but also in laundry detergents and softeners, deodorants, and household cleaners.
No matter your skin type, you should maintain a healthy diet, ditch bad lifestyle habits, such as smoking and not sleeping enough, and avoid going outside without adequate UV protection. And remember, our skin type changes as we age. As a result, we need to follow how it develops and shifts and adjust our skincare to its current needs.
What are the 4 skin types?
The four main skin types are normal skin type, oily skin type, dry skin type, and combination skin type. In addition, there's another subcategory which is sensitive skin, and which can be predominantly oily or dry in addition.
How can I identify my skin type?
You likely have an oily skin type if your skin gets shiny and greasy shortly after cleansing or applying moisturizer. On the other hand, if your skin is constantly tight, itchy, and flakey, your skin is dry. And lastly, if you tend to get oily only on your T-zone, you likely have a combination skin type.
How can I check my skin type at home?
To test your skin type, you can try a blotting paper method. First, cleanse your face and wait one hour without applying any skincare. Then press the paper against different areas of your face and observe; if it soaks up a lot of oil on all parts of your face, you have oily skin; if it doesn't have any oil reside, you have dry skin; and if it only picks up oil when you press against your T-zone, you probably have combination skin.
Does oily skin age better?
Most experts believe that people with oily skin types don't tend to get wrinkles easily. This is because oily skin is better at retaining moisture and is thicker due to having more sebaceous glands or oil-producing glands.
Can dry skin have acne?
Yes, even if you have dry skin, you can experience acne, even though it's not as common as with people with oily skin. However, when choosing how to treat it, you should be extra careful as most skincare products meant for acne are even more drying to the skin.