Serious Question: Do You REALLY Know Your Skin Type?
Understanding whether you have normal, dry, oily or combination skin may sound simple enough, but do you really know your skin’s inherent type? Here, we break down the four basic skin types – because yes, there really are only four. Gasp.
Everybody’s skin is different, we know that. Your skin might be fairly normal most of the time, but flares up every now and again due to hormones, diet, stress, whatever. Or your skin could be oily, but hold on because sometimes it feels kind of tight and flaky in certain areas. What the….?
The thing is, while your skin can take on many different guises and needs throughout the various stages of your life, there are only four true skin types: normal, dry, oily and combination. Dehydration? Aging? Sensitivities? Breakouts? Contrary to popular belief, these are skin conditions, not skin types. And skin conditions are super important when determining your skincare routine, for sure, but they’re not your true skin type.
So, what’s the difference between skin types and skin conditions? Well, your true skin type is what’s predetermined by your genes, not a result of other factors like your age, hormones, stress levels or the products you put on your skin. Take dehydration, for example. Dehydrated skin is skin that’s lacking in water (unlike dry skin that’s lacking in oils). This can be due to any number of reasons like changes in the weather, stress, lack of sleep and sun damage. But, it's rarely a genetic disposition which means you can have dry skin that’s dehydrated, but you can also have oily skin that’s dehydrated. Makes sense? We hope so.
How To Check Your Skin Type
Now we’ve cleared that up, are you 100 percent sure of your genetic skin type? Well, one of the best ways to determine yours is to study your skin when it’s completely free of any product or makeup. Wash your face with a mild cleanser, then gently pat it dry and leave it for an hour or so. After this time, study and feel your skin with clean hands. What does it look like? And what about the texture? How does it feel? These questions will all help you understand your skin type – which will fall into one of the following four categories…
If, after it's left clean and unmoisturized for an hour, your skin feels tight and itchy, and looks dull or flaky in certain areas like around your eyebrows, mouth and nose, it’s likely to be dry. Dry skin has fewer sebaceous glands than other skin types which means it produces less sebum (oils and lipids) to protect and naturally moisturize the uppermost layers of your skin.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is oily skin. Oily skin will start to look shiny and feel greasy an hour after cleansing, especially around the t-zone area (your forehead, nose and chin). This is the result of having overactive sebaceous glands which produce too much sebum than your skin really needs. Due to the excess sebum, you may also notice enlarged pores over the nose and cheeks which have become stretched and clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
Combination skin is undoubtedly the most common skin type of them all. There’s much debate over whether it’s a true skin type, but just like dryness and oiliness, it’s something you were born with, so we believe it is. The problem is that unlike dry and oily skin types which are easily defined, combination skin is not a ‘one symptom suits all.’
Combination skin is characterized by unbalanced sebum production, meaning different areas of your face produce different levels of oils. Most people with combination skin tend to have an oily t-zone and dry cheeks but this is not always the case. You might simply have dry patches around your mouth, for example.
Does your bare-faced skin look the same an hour later as it did immediately after cleansing? Kind of balanced with no shine, no dry patches and very few visible pores? Then you hit the gene jackpot and are one of the very few lucky ones graced with normal skin. Normal skin is neither oily nor dry, but is able to maintain just the right level of sebum-to-water ratio to keep it soft, supple and healthy. The rest of us are so happy for you. No, really ;)
Knowing your skin type is only the first step to achieving an awesome complexion. But we believe it’s the best step. After all, this fundamental knowledge is the basis for your entire skincare routine. Then and only then can you start to understand your skin, react to its wants and needs, and learn how to care for any conditions you experience as a result.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.