Oily, dry, combination…do you know your skin type? With literally thousands of products bombarding us with amazing promises to calm problem skin, or to close enlarged pores etc. it all starts to get a bit overwhelming. Although we can’t promise to find you a product that will solve all your skin problems; every single person’s skin is individual and unique so there’s going to be a bit of trial and error, what we can promise is to help you work out your skin type and guide you on the types of products you should be looking out for.
First things first, you need to strip your face of any make up and remove the day’s oil and dirt traces from your skin, as it’s a lot easier to know what you’re dealing with if you go completely au naturel. Once you’ve cleaned your face you need to wait two hours so that your skin has time to settle and return to its natural state. After two hours you should be able to look at your face, ideally in a magnified mirror, to look out for some key skin characteristics.
Which Skin Characteristics Do You Have?
Skin types vary depending upon factors, such as:
- Water content – this affects comfort and elasticity of your skin.
- Oil content – this affects the softness of your skin.
- Sensitivity – the level of sensitivity of your skin may be genetic or down to other external or environmental factors.
Different skin contains varying levels of water and oil and in the beauty industry these skin types are labelled under the categories of normal, dry, sensitive, oily and combination. So, let’s take a look at each type in more details:
Normal skin is defined as not too dry and not too oily. Count yourself incredibly lucky, because you have a balanced complexion that is easy to care for and will be the envy of all your friends. People with a normal skin type tend not to suffer from breakouts of spots, although hormonal changes throughout the month may affect things slightly. Skin is smooth and radiant looking with barely visible pores and little or no imperfections. If you are fortunate enough to be blessed with normal skin, then you can pretty much use any type of skincare product on your face. You are unlikely to suffer any sensitivity, but try to use lightweight formulas and steer clear of anything too thick and heavy. You shouldn’t need to cover up your perfect skin and in doing so you may end up creating problems that weren’t there to begin with!
Dry skin has low water and oil content and as such is particularly prone to flakiness and can be easily irritated by the wrong skincare products. People with dry skin are likely to flush easily, suffer from red patchiness or, in extreme case, eczema and the surface of the skin will feel rough and dry. There is also minimal elasticity in dry skin so it can often cause tightness in a person’s face. The advantage of this is that pores are virtually invisible, but the downside is that fine lines are more visible so it can make a person look older than they actually are. The key to looking after dry skin is to try and rehydrate it with gentle moisturisers, but there are also some simple steps you can take to ease the symptoms.
- Try taking shorter baths of showers. Although common sense would tell you your skin needs more moisture and you would imagine submerging it in water would do the trick, water is actually incredibly drying and will make the problem worse.
- When you do take a bath or shower make sure you only use mild soaps or cleansers, and don’t scrub your skin too hard. Ideally apply a rich moisturising lotion before washing to help seal in as much moisture as possible.
- Turn down the heating in your house, as this can be incredibly drying and think about investing in a humidifier.
- Always wear rubber gloves when doing any housework that involves cleaning agents, solvents or detergents.
- Look for products containing retinol, as this is a great anti-aging product and is particularly suited to dry skin.
- Products containing hyaluronic acid are also great, because it works by attracting moisture to the skin. Try using something like CeraVe Moisturize in the morning and a thicker cream, such as Olay Regenerist at night.
Dry skin can be made worse by extreme weather, such as wind, sun and the cold so applying a barrier cream is also a good idea to counteract these conditions.
Sensitive skin is the extreme version of dry skin and will experience very similar problems, but with added itchiness and sometimes with a burning sensation. Sensitive skin can be genetic, however it is generally down to a reaction caused by ingredients in certain skincare products. Finding a product to suit your skin type is incredibly difficult and if you know your skin is prone to redness, itchiness and can be sensitive it is worth visiting a dermatologist to ask for advice.
Oily skin looks shiny, with enlarged pores, which are easily clogged and is therefore more prone to infections, such as both noninflammatory acne (blackheads and whiteheads) and inflammatory acne (pimples and cystic zits). Exposure to heat, too much humidity, high stress levels or puberty and other hormonal imbalances can call make oily skin worse. The main thing to remember is to not use products with high levels of oil, such as heavy, creamy moisturisers. Instead use gel or liquid formulas with a higher water content and ideally use products that are labelled ‘noncomedogenic‘, as these are better at not clogging pores. No matter how tempted you may be please, please do NOT pick, pop or squeeze any spots. This could lead to further infection or, at worst, could cause permanent scarring. Products containing salicylic acid, usually medicated cleansers aimed at the teenage market, are great at balancing out oily areas of the face, but limit application to just two or three times a week, as it is too harsh for everyday use. Retinol products are also good at limiting oil production as well as reducing the appearance of large pores.
In reality most people have a combination of different skin types on their face, which only makes looking after it even more difficult. The most common combination is to have dry/normal cheeks with an oily nose, forehead and chin, which is often referred to as the T-zone. Use the advice given above to treat each area separately for example, oily areas should be treated with gels or liquids and dryer areas should be soothed with light lotions and serums.
Why Have I Got This Skin Type?
There are various reasons as to why you have the skin you have, these include:
- Smoking (including passive smoking)
- Skin disorders
- Skin care routine and the products you use
- Too much sun exposure
Whilst you can’t really do a lot about the majority of these, you can control some of them and that in itself will make a huge difference in the health and appearance of your skin. If you have a diagnosed skin disorder, such as rosacea, acne, sun damage, or eczema, it is of the utmost importance that you treat your skin with the correct, often medicated, products, as using anything else is likely to worsen the problem and could lead to other, more serious issues. Caring for the wrong skin type with the wrong product can aggravate skin, lead to acne, or even make your skin look older than it really is.
Everyday Skin Care Tips
No matter what your skin type, simply by following these simple tips you will help promote healthier, more radiant looking skin:
- Always use a high factor sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and that is specifically for the face.
- Give up smoking.
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water as well as moisturising your skin.
- Wash your skin thoroughly every day ALWAYS remove make up before going to bed.
- Practice mindfulness and other stress relieving exercises to prevent premature signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.