We all want glowing, healthy, beautiful skin.
And while some of us are naturally blessed and blemish-free, the majority of us have to work a little harder to maintain that youthful glow.
But what if the reason you’re struggling isn’t because you're genetically cursed… but rather because you aren’t using the right products for your skin type?
Unless you sit really obviously on one end of the scale… super oily or super dry, you might have no idea what’s really going on with your skin in its natural state. In which case, it’s likely that you’re using products that are hurting and not helping your skin.
Everyone’s skin is different, and skin types are generally categorised by: normal, dry, oily, combination, sensitive, acne-prone, or mature. By knowing your skin type, you are better able to determine what products are best for you. Using the wrong products can lead to irritated skin, breakouts and premature aging.
How to determine your skin type
Determining your skin type is easy. Just follow the three simple steps below and refer to the table.
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove all makeup, oil and dirt.
Pat your face dry with a soft towel and leave skin bare. Don’t apply any moisturizers or serums. Let your skin act naturally.
Wait one hour. During this time resist the temptation to touch your face! After an hour, look closely and note the quality of your skin.
Types of skin types: Indicators, triggers and what to avoid
INDICATORS OF NORMAL SKIN:
Your skin is pretty even. Only occasionally you might experience oil, dryness or breakouts, but they go away quickly. You rarely experience negative reactions to products, and your complexion appears balanced.
WHAT TO AVOID IF YOU HAVE NORMAL SKIN:
While normal skin is one of the easiest skin types to care for, it’s also one of the first skin types to show signs of ageing. If you have normal skin, you should include anti-aging and hydrating products early on in your skincare routine. Also, make sure you stop using any products that cause your skin to become oily or dry.
INDICATORS OF DRY SKIN:
If your skin feels tight or itchy throughout the year, especially after cleansing, you have dry skin.
You might also experience some flakiness or scaling, or feel like you can never get enough moisture. Other signs of dry skin include small pores, scaly skin, irritation, dull complexion and red patches. Your skin is also likely to be less elastic.
*It’s important to note that there’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin. Dry skin is a skin type caused by a lack of oil production in the skin. Dehydrated skin is caused by a lack of water and is a temporary skin condition due to climate, environmental factors or not drinking enough water.
- Genetic predisposition to produce less oil (or sebum)
- Hormone imbalance
- Dry climate
- Heaters during cold weather
- Hot showers/baths
Age (metabolic changes can cause our skin to get drier and thinner as we get older).
WHAT TO AVOID:
If you have dry skin, you should steer clear of Alcohol and sulfate-based products, which can strip your skin’s natural oils. Also, try not to use super hot water when showering or bathing since it wicks moisture from your skin. If you use a heater or live in a dry climate, consider getting a humidifier for your home or bedroom. Use moisture-rich skin products and follow a regular skin routine.
If your skin is often shiny or you notice a lot of excess oil on your face and neck, you probably have oily skin. You might find that you feel like washing your face again, or using blotting paper throughout the day, when oil production is at its peak.
Your pores appear larger or get clogged easily. This often leads to blackheads, whiteheads, pimples or cystic acne. You likely have a shiny, thick complexion.
Oily skin is caused by an overproduction of sebum (the ‘oil’ that causes congestion). The body then tries to fix by producing even more sebum to compensate. It’s a vicious cycle.
- Humid weather
- The wrong cosmetics and the skincare - which can trap oil and exacerbate oily skin.
WHAT TO AVOID
If you have oily skin, put away the oil-based skincare and makeup. Make sure to also read the labels carefully… many products formulated for oily skin strip it of its natural oils which it needs for moisture and protection.
Your skin is oily, has larger pores, or breaks out in your T-zone (forehead, nose, chin), but is dry or normal on your cheeks and jawline.
- An overproduction of oil in the T-zone due to hormone levels
- Genetic factors
- Inappropriate skincare products (if you’re attempting to treat the oily areas, you could wind up drying out the dry areas and vice versa).
WHAT TO AVOID
Avoid alcohol-based products, which dry out the skin, and any products formulated for oil control or ultra hydration. Either use separate products to target the oily T-zone and dry areas, or look for something that is specifically formulated for oily skin and can restore your skin’s balance.
If your skin is easily irritated or inflamed, or is itchy, dry or gets red easily, then you have sensitive skin. If this is you, you may find that your skin reacts when using a new product, you flush easily with heat or you always get those pesky razor bumps when you shave. People with sensitive skin might also sunburn easily or experience conditions such as eczema or rosacea.
- Hormone fluctuations
- Weather (heat and cold)
- Dry climates
- Hard water
- Certain medications
- Products that contain fragrances or harsh chemicals which can aggravate skin sensitivities or allergies (including makeup, lotions, soap and laundry detergent)
WHAT TO AVOID
Products with lots of synthetic fragrance, heavy dyes or harsh chemicals. Always read the labels and steer clear of anything that contains ingredients that might inflame potential allergies or irritations. It’s best to stick to basic, natural ingredients, and look for products that are targeted for those with sensitive skin.
Pores tend to clog easily making you more susceptible to white heads, blackheads or pustules, and big (and sometimes painful) cysts.
NOTE: While many people link acne to oily skin, even those with dry skin can experience acne, typically as a result of environmental factors or a poor skin care routine that irritates the skin and clogs pores.
WHAT TO AVOID
This depends on whether your acne is inflammatory or noninflammatory (which is much milder and easier to treat.) Typically, dermatologists recommend a thorough skincare routine, which includes cleansing, regular exfoliation, moisturising, and spot treating as needed. It might also be wise to use a product like retinol in the evening and SPF every day.
You may be experiencing increased dryness, or notice fine lines, even when your face is resting. You may also notice red/brown discoloration (Poikiloderma, also known as sun spots), or broken blood vessels (another sign of sun damage).
- Sun exposure. Exposure to sunlight is the single biggest culprit in aging skin. Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light damages certain fibers in the skin called elastin.
WHAT TO AVOID
As your skin ages, you need to stop using products that dry out your skin. You may want to start using moisture rich skincare products, makeup that contains oils and start exfoliating more regularly. It might also be wise to consider a more intense exfoliation methods, like microdermabrasion. As you age, you will also want to take extra care to stay out of the sun and use SPF 50+ to slow down the ageing process.
Outside factors that can contribute to skin type
As you’ll see, there are a number of factors which contribute to your skin type. Mostly:
- Simple Genetics
- Climate & Sun Exposure – Skin tends to get oilier during the summer months and dryer in the winter. Sun exposure can also increase sensitivity
- Hormones – Our hormones fluctuate at different times in our lives – including puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
- Medications – Many medications cause your skin to become drier or more sensitive
- Lifestyle -- Lifestyle factors, including drinking, smoking and sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation, premature wrinkling, and other visible signs of ageing.
- Diet/Allergies – Your daily nutritional intake, as well as your overall gut health affect your skin. Food allergies can also cause specific issues.
- Skin Care – The wrong formula can throw off your skin’s balance.
- Age -- While it’s not a hard and fast rule, skin types can commonly fall into different age groups. Teens and those in their early 20’s typically experience more oily skin as this is when sebaceous glands are most active. Mid to late 20’s and early 30’s usually have combination skin. And, mid 30’s and older tend to lean towards dry skin since our skin loses its ability to produce oil and retain moisture as we age.
By testing your skin in its natural state, having a good understanding of your skin type and using products that compliment your skin is the best way to ensure a healthy complexion.
As always, remember that smart lifestyle choices paired with a quality, consistent skincare routine is absolutely key.