You step into the skincare aisle. You pick up a moisturizer. The label states, “great on combination skin!” You put it down. You have no clue what combination skin is, or if you have it.
Most of us want to start taking better care of our skin, but with so many options on the shelf it can be overwhelming to find something that will work for your specific skin situation.
As a teen, most of us knew one thing about our skin. Acne. Not oily. Not dry. Not combination. Just that it broke out and we hated it. Most people are introduced to skincare by combating acne.
But as one ages, it can become more difficult to decipher what type of skin one has. Knowing what type of skin you have will greatly help you in finding the right skincare routine. Having the right routine can help you achieve your skin goals.
So, where to start? Pores and Oil levels.
Are they large? Where are they clustered? Are they slick with oil? These questions will help you identify your skin type. Look at the texture of your skin. Everyone has texture, so don’t ever think that the goal in skincare is to remove pores and texture. Leave that up to photoshopped models. Your pores are an integral part of your skin’s self-regulation.
Everyone has some amount of oil on their skin. Oils keep our skin soft and supple and help keep the hydration levels in check. But for some, the amount of oil is just a little more than the average person.
If your skin runs oilier, you’ll find larger pores spread out on the face. They are typically larger especially in the T-Zone; the forehead and nose areas. The pores on the rest of the face are typically larger than most people also. This skin type is more textured and develops blackheads more often. As the name implies, this type also produces more oil, so you may see your hair gets oily/greasy faster than other people.
Typically oily skin types find their faces get shinier quicker than usual. Having an oily complexion is not a value judgment on your health. Some people just have naturally oilier skin. It’s not something that is caused by poor eating habits or bad hygiene. It’s just how some people’s pores work.
When people have oil focused on the T-Zone area of the face, typically they have combination skin. The pores in that area are largest and produce more sebum, or oil, just in that region of the face.
Combination skin is often drier on the jaw and chin areas. Typically this type of skin gets breakouts in the same places. These people can typically use all types of skincare because of the different areas of the face that get oil.
A great skincare trick with combination skin is to multi-mask. That is, use a few different kinds of masks on the face. A clay mask can absorb oils nicely, so throw one of those along the T-Zone. Meanwhile, a hydrating mask can be applied along the jaw and cheekbones to hydrate areas with drier spots. This method of masking makes sure all the skin on your face is cared for.
Dry skin is exactly like it sounds. You find your skin is tight, flakey, and irritated. It’s not very elastic. You may find it peels, or is cracked. Often it wrinkles quickly and may have red blotches. Many people find they get drier skin in the winter-time or when they’re in drier climates, like the desert.
There are a few underlying reasons someone may have dry skin. Often, people find if their skin is too dry they need to see a dermatologist. Eczema, dermatitis, and other skin disorders can be treated to bring the skin back into a nice balance.
When people have dry skin, they’ll notice their skin wrinkling more easily. The skin needs hydration to keep itself from creasing, so oily skin types often have younger-looking skin as they age.
Beyond the amount of oil one has on their skin, the way skin reacts can indicate if it is sensitive skin. This type of skin is typically more prone to irritation, redness, and other uncomfortable sensations*. It falls victim to barrier interruptions easier, meaning that it can break out in hives or swelling easier than other skin types.
Sensitive skin requires one to be very cognizant of ingredients and unnecessary fragrances. There has been a big push recently in the skincare industry to remove fragrance and unnecessary dyes from skin products. If you have skin that breaks out into irritation easily, try to find products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin.
If none of those types sound like you, you may have normal skin. You’ll get the occasional breakout here and there, but for the most part, your skin isn’t oily, or flakey. It doesn’t have much redness. Often people who can’t figure out their skin type are just normal because they don’t show much in way of other symptoms.
Lastly, your skin type is not set in stone.
We all can have different skin types throughout different periods of our lives. Teenagers typically have more oily skin, and as people age, they will have drier skin.
Sometimes hormonal issues can lead to more sensitivity (irritation, bumps, and breakouts). Hormones play a huge role in the level of oiliness or dryness one’s skin exhibits. This is often why women on birth control have fewer breakouts. The steady level of hormones helps the skin avoid the changes that can occur to cause blemishes.
Beyond skin types are different skin conditions. If none of these “types” really explains why your skin acts the way it does, it’s always a great idea to visit the dermatologist to get a good handle on what your skin is doing. They can help find ways to keep your skin in great condition.
* Berardesca, E., Farage, M., Maibach, H. Sensitive skin: An overview. Vol. 35, International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Int J Cosmet Sci; 2012. p. 2–8.
(Header courtesy of The Savvy Reeder. Photo provided by UpSplash)