Not everyone has the same skin type. From oily to dry, your skin’s characteristics and needs can differ from others and may even change over time. The different types of skin are determined by a few factors, including its sensitivity, how oily and soft it is, as well as the amount of water in the skin, which can impact its elasticity.
Finding out your skin type is an important step to ensuring you use the best products for your skin care goals. Read on to discover what the different skin types are and how you can best care for yours.
In this guide:
- How to know your skin type
- Characteristics of dry skin
- Characteristics of oily skin
- Characteristics of combination skin
- Characteristics of a sensitive skin type
- What is normal skin?
- Skin types FAQs
How to know your skin type
Knowing your skin type can help you understand exactly which type of products are best suited to you. Tailoring a skincare routine for your specific skin type and needs will help you reap the biggest benefits.
There are several common skin types, including:
- Oily skin – can appear shiny, greasy soon after it’s been cleaned, and may have larger pores and blemishes.
- Combination skin - is dry in some areas (such as the cheeks) and oily in others (forehead, nose, and chin).
- Dry skin – could be flaky, scaly, or rough.
- Sensitive skin - may sting, burn, or itch with or without the use of makeup or other products.
- Normal skin - is balanced, clear, and not sensitive.
You may experience several skin types over the course of your life, and your skin type characteristics may be more noticeable during certain times of the year.
Characteristics of dry skin
Dry skin has a lower amount of sebum – the natural oil produced by the body to keep it moisturised and protected. Skin can also become more dry as you age. All skin types can experience dryness. The difference is that while other skin types might feel dry due to seasonal changes, low humidity, or certain products, those with a dry skin type deal with it all the time.
People with a dry skin type might have:
- Red patches
- Dull or rough skin
- Small, almost invisible pores
- Cracked or peeling skin
- Areas of rough, scaly skin
- And ultimately can develop itchiness, irritation, and inflammation.
Other characteristics of this skin type include:
- No sensitivity
- A complexion that is bright and radiant
- Mostly free of blemishes
- Pores that are barely visible.
You may also find that your dry skin is worsened by factors such as the weather, indoor heating, long baths or showers, and some skincare products.
If you've been piling on the moisturiser to no avail, try taking a closer look at the ingredients in your routine as a whole. Avoid drying ingredients or harsh formulations that strip the skin of oil, as they run the risk of further drying out already parched skin. You may also prefer richer-textured formulations, which are rich in oils.
You can also try formulations designed for sensitive and dry skin, such as a milk cleanser, so you don't need to rinse it. The formula helps to protect the skin barrier, to leave your skin feeling clean, soft, and comfortable.
Characteristics of oily skin
This skin type tends to look shiny, and you might see more breakouts of blackheads and blemishes than those with dry skin. You may also experience enlarged and clogged pores.
Weather, genetics, age, and diet may all increase the oil content of skin. For example, you may experience more oiliness at hot and humid times of the year, or notice that your skin is oilier during times where you are stressed or experiencing a hormonal fluctuation. Overall though, oily skin type in particular struggles to stay matte.
One common mistake many make when dealing with oily skin is attempting to strip the skin of its natural oils. This causes the skin to ramp up oil production in response — resulting in even oilier skin and more opportunities for breakouts to form.
It’s important to remember that oily skin can still become dehydrated (which can impact its elasticity). To care for your oily skin, use a light, non-comedogenic moisturiser. This means it won’t clog up pores delivering much needed hydration.
A facial cleanser that contains salicylic acid may also help to cut oiliness and address breakouts. As well as cleaning away excess sebum (the natural oil produced by the body), salicylic acid can also help clear out debris that can collect in pores, which could lead to breakouts.
Characteristics of combination skin
Combination skin can be a bit trickier, as this skin type is a patchwork of both dry and oily areas. Usually, combination skin is oily in the T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin) and driest on the cheeks. This common skin type can also experience shininess, blackheads, and enlarged pores.
Try using different skincare products on different areas of the face — such as a richer, more moisturising cream on the cheeks and a lighter moisturiser in the T-zone. Skincare for combination skin should also start with a nourishing cleanser that exfoliates the skin while still leaving it feeling comfortable. Look for product formulations that balance pH to condition the skin.
Characteristics of a sensitive skin type
A sensitive skin type can easily react to triggers, such as certain skincare products, the weather, or other external factors. This can result in the skin reacting with dryness, redness, an itching or burning sensation, or breaking out in hives or bumps. Skin conditions, such as eczema and contact dermatitis, can also contribute to a sensitive skin type.
It’s important to note that sensitive skin is different to sensitised skin. Whereas sensitive skin is a skin type, sensitised skin is a condition that can be rectified with treatment.
To care for your sensitive skin type, choose a gentle cleanser that is labelled as ‘for sensitive skin’ or ‘gentle on skin’. You should also avoid certain ingredients, such as fragrances, alcohol, or dyes, as well as exfoliating products that buff the skin with physical or chemical exfoliants. Try doing patch tests with any new products you use and make sure you still moisturise with a thick but gentle product to prevent dry skin.
What is normal skin?
A normal skin type is one that is neither too dry nor too oily. It’s more common in younger people.
Having a normal skin type doesn’t mean you can slack on your skincare regime, though. To keep your skin happy, you’ll still need to care for it properly with a regular skincare regime. As with other skin types, be sure to keep your skin hydrated, moisturised, and protected from the sun with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. You’ll also need to wash your skin daily and remove any makeup, dirt, or debris by cleansing before bed.
Skin types FAQs
What is my skin type?
There are a few different skin types, including oily, dry, combination (which is a mixture of oily and dry), normal, and sensitive. Look out for symptoms of dryness, oiliness, or sensitivity on your face to help you determine your skin type and the type of skincare products that are best for you.
What determines the different types of skin?
Your skin type is determined by factors like your skin’s water content, oiliness, and sensitivity. However, your skin type can change as you age and may even be exacerbated by factors such as your hormones, the skincare products you use, and the weather
Should you tailor skin care to different types of skin?
Absolutely. To get your skin looking healthy and happy, you should tailor your skincare regime to your skin type by choosing products that suit its needs. It’s a good idea to also consider other factors that can affect your skin, such as your complexion, skincare goals, you might have when determining your skincare regime.
What does the skin do?
Your skin is the largest organ in the body, consisting of three layers: the outer epidermis, the dermis, and the deeper subcutaneous tissue which is made up of connective tissue and fat. It has a variety of functions, including:
- Helping to regulate body temperature
- Protecting against microbes, infections, and other potentially harmful things in the environment
- Allowing us to sense touch, temperature, and pressure.
Your skin is always changing, renewing in cycles of around a month. This means a good and consistent skincare regime is crucial to keep it healthy.
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