Wondering how to know what type of skin you have? I’m here to help. When you know your skin type — combination, dry, oily or normal (if you’re lucky) — then you can have a much better idea of how to look after your skin.
To perfect your morning and evening skincare routines and address any concerns, such as fine lines or hyperpigmentation, it is important to understand the products or ingredients that suit your skin type and, perhaps more importantly, the ones that don’t.
How many skin types are there?
There are four types of skin: dry, oily, combination and normal. However, only a few lucky people will have normal skin where moisture and oil levels appear balanced. This is common in children and rare in adults.
Are skin types genetic?
Yes. Your skin type is determined by the amount of oil your skin produces and this is controlled by sex hormones. However, there are some external factors that can impact your skin and dry it out, such as aggressive or acidic skincare products, or poor nutrition.
Can skin type change over time?
Yes! A major factor in skin type is oil production — too much gives you oily skin, too little results in dry skin. Our sebaceous glands, that produce oil, are controlled by hormones. Male hormones trigger the production of oil and while they increase in both sexes during puberty, the larger increase in boys is why they are more likely to have teenage acne. However, hormones stabilise in adult cis-men, so they are less likely to have adult acne.
Female hormones, on the other hand, continue to fluctuate through periods, pregnancy and menopause. Adult acne is more common in women (or those who were born female), and skin type can change repeatedly over their life. In days 14-28 of the menstrual cycle, for instance, progesterone levels rise and increase oil production which is can cause hormonal acne.
How can I identify my skin type?
The simple way to know what type of skin you have is to wash your face and then leave it untouched for one hour. When you then look in a mirror you should be able to see if it is dry, or shiny from oils — or dry in some areas and oily in others. After leaving your face for an hour, look out for the characteristics detailed below…
What skin type do I have?
Signs you have dry skin: An hour after washing your face, dry skin may still feel tight — there won’t be any shiny areas on your face from oil. If your skin is very dry, you may have patches of flaky skin or it might feel a little rough. Generally, dry skin is rarely oily, pores are usually quite small in appearance, and this skin type is more prone to sensitivity and redness.
Dry skincare tips: Oil cleansing morning and evening will help replenish the oils and moisture missing from your skin. Also using a few drops of facial oil in your cream, or applying it separately at night, will be a huge help. Look out for products that list Vitamin B5, E and hyaluronic acid in the ingredients.
Signs you have oily skin: An hour after washing your face and oily skin will already look shiny, with nowhere on your face feeling dry or tight. Pores are usually very visible as they are usually larger in this skin type, as a result you will be more prone to blackheads and spots. People with oily skin will usually notice it worsen in the afternoon, this is due to the body’s natural cycle.
Oily skincare tips: A lot of people, especially teenagers, don’t know how to deal with oily skin. For most people, the first step to making your skin less oily is to stop cleansing so much. People with oily skin, large pores and blackheads or spots often think it is because their skin is dirty, but this is not the case. Most of the time oil production is out of balance, and cleaning your skin too much, or trying to dry it out, will only trigger the production of more oil. This might come as a surprise but incorporating oil into your evening skincare routine can help balance it out and reduce the amount of oil your skin produces. This is because oil attracts oil, oil can break down other oils.
Try an oil cleanse before your face wash in the evenings and try skipping moisturiser at night and using an oil instead. Also avoid manual exfoliation (i.e. scrubs) and go for BHAs (beta-hydroxy acid), these exfoliate deep into the pores so will help with oil as well as preventing the formation of blackheads and spots — salicylic acid is a great and very popular choice.
Signs you have combination skin: The most common appearance of combination skin is to have an oily T-zone (across the forehead and down the nose to the chin) but have dry cheeks. But anyone who experiences a mixture of dry and oily skin on different parts of their face has combination skin. Unfortunately, this skin type is the most difficult to look after.
Combination skincare tips: Use a gentle face wash and mid-range acid exfoliator such as an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids). Try glycolic acid, the smallest form of AHA, and if that causes any sensitivity, go for a larger molecule that won’t go so deep into the skin like lactic acid.
Mask blocking once a week will also be helpful, such as using a clay mask on the T-zone and a moisture mask on the cheeks (or wherever your different skin concerns are). You may find using different moisturiser on different areas if the face helps too, but this can be difficult to apply correctly.
Signs you have normal skin: If you’ve read all of the above and you don’t identify with any of the skin types, you might be one of the lucky ones. If you don’t deal with dryness or oily/shiny skin, and on the whole find your skin to be pretty unproblematic, then you probably have normal skin. You still might have spots from time-to-time, especially if you menstruate because of the hormonal changes you go through.
Normal skincare tips: The world is kind of your oyster… But just because you have normal skin, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look after it. All good skincare routines will include antioxidants, moisturising products, and sun protection. Choose serums and creams according to different concerns, such as hydration, anti-ageing, hyperpigmentation, etc.
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