A simple guide to understanding your skin type

A simple guide to understanding your skin type

How often have we experienced a great skin product recommendation only to discover it is not working for us? Time for an honest answer to a direct question: have you tested your skin to determine its type? Or is it an inferred understanding, based on a friend’s well-meaning comment or an opinion shared by someone who seems to know better? Each of us has a distinct skin type. Unless we recognize that… Well, chances are there will be more misses than hits.  

Here’s a test

Your skin type is your natural state of skin when you don’t do anything to it - no creamy layers or oil serums. The most accurate way to determine your skin type is by testing sebum production (that natural, oily substance you find on your face). It’s pretty simple. 

Option 1: Press a tissue or a blotting paper against your skin the first thing in the morning. (This assumes that you haven’t slept with makeup on, or heavy emollients and sleeping masks.)

Option 2: 

  1. Wash your face and dry it by gentle patting. 
  2. Give yourself around 30 minutes. 
  3. Press oil blotting paper or tissue on your face - gently. Cover your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. 

After a few minutes, peel off the paper and check the paper against a light. Your diagnosis is in front of you.

If it’s soaked through - you’ve got some cool oily skin. If you see oil patches only onsome areas or only on the T-zone area, you’re in for a combination skin type. If the blotting paper has little oil or is evenly distributed in all areas, you are blessed with normal skin.And if you don’t see any oil spots, just flakes or tight skin, your skin is dry. 

There is one more measure and skin type we could add to this barometer: sensitive skin. This measure will not follow the sebum tracking system. Instead, sensitive skin depends on your skin’s reaction to a product, the likelihood of skin allergies, or even the tendency to turn red when eating spicy food.  

The causes for different skin types

Your skin could also behave differently with age, season, and changing health dynamics. Here are some causes for your skin type and the changes you see in it: 

  • Genetics: Your genes and your family’s medical history could make you more prone to certain skin types. If your parents have overactive sebaceous glands or if eczema runs in your family, chances are that you will have these conditions too.  
  • Seasons and location: The place you stay in and the places you travel to affect your skin type. For instance, if you’re staying in a humid climate, you might have oily skin. Your skin could become oily in certain places though you have a dry skin type. Hard water or an increase in heat and dry air could make your skin drier than it actually is. Your skin might feel too oily in the summer while winters could give you a stretched, dry feeling. 
  • Age: Oil glands tend to slow down with age as does collagen production, leading to dry skin. Your skin in your 30s will behave differently in your mid-40s. You might find yourself moving from an oily skin type to a dry or combination one. 
  • Hormonal changes: A sudden change in your hormone levels could change the texture of your skin, leading to breakouts or a drier feel. 
  • Your routine: Certain aspects of your routine like taking a long hot water shower could dry out the moisture in your skin. Exfoliating too often and with pressure could do the same too. Prolonged sun exposure without sunscreen will also affect your skin. 
  • Skincare products: Certain products with strong ingredients or using the wrong product for your skin type can lead to excess sebum production, clog your pores or even cause a change in skin type. It’s important to understand how to use a product correctly. For example, retinoids or salicylic acid are great to treat acne but will dry your skin unless you regularly moisturize and wear sunscreen. 

Here’s what you need to know 

Oily skin: 

You have: 

* Acne & frequent breakouts

* Shiny, greasy face 

* Large pores

What your skin needs: Cleanse your face twice a day - it’s a critical step to remove excess oil and prevent acne but don’t over-cleanse. That will remove the necessary oils from your skin, and could lead to sensitive skin. Oily skin also needs hydration and regular moisturization to help control the sebum production in your skin.  Water-based or gel-based products would best suit this skin type. 

Dry skin: 

You have: 

* Flaky patches 

* A constant tight feeling 

* Cracked skin

What your skin needs: Moisturizers with hyaluronic acids and face oils for layering are usually good for this skin type. Remember to apply the moisturizer to damp skin. Hydrate well and avoid those long showers. Embrace a humidifier and sunscreen in your skincare routine. The former will retain your skin’s natural moisture while the sunscreen will help prevent your skin from getting dehydrated. 

Normal skin:

* Balanced pH levels and sebum production

* Not too oily or dry 

* Blessed with only the occasional pimple 

What your skin needs: Take care of this blessing by staying hydrated, healthy and maintain a simple basic skincare regime of cleansing, toning and moisturizing (CTM). 

Combination skin: 

You have: 

* Mix of dry & oily characteristics

* Recurring acne 

* Oily T-Zone (forehead, nose, chin) 

What your skin needs: Oil-free products will suit you the best as this will avoid the pores getting clogged. Use gentle cleansers and go easy on the T-zone while exfoliating. It’s best not to exfoliate every day as this could damage the skin. You might benefit from following separate skin routines for your skin types with different products for your T-zone. 

Sensitive skin: 

You have: 

* Uneven textures with itchy and tight skin

* Reacts to skincare products 

* Turns red when eating spicy food or after a hot bath 

* Super oily in summers and dry during the winter spells 

The causes: Sensitive skin and allergies are different. If you’re allergic to dust does not mean you have sensitive skin. While sensitive skin is more likely to react to harsh chemicals and skin products it does not follow that allergy to one ingredient translates into sensitive skin. 

What your skin needs: Your skin will react to any harsh chemicals in your products.   A simple and minimal routine will work best for you. Always conduct a patch test before trying out a new product, even if the label says hypoallergenic. 

This is your foundation

Knowing your skin type is your foundation for setting up an effective skincare routine and great skin. Just remember to choose your products based on your skin type and skin concern. The latter refers to any areas troubling you. For instance, if your skin is excessively oily and has open pores, then Niacinamide is a good option for you. You could have great skin that needs a boost. Vitamin C is a safe bet that works for all skin types.

Always check in to see how your skin is responding to products and be open to changing your routine and products. Your skin will tell you your story. Just listen in.