Trying to figure out your skin type can be tricky. It’s like figuring out what relationship box to check on social media. Especially just weeks after you and your latest love interest started dating.
For most people, “it’s complicated.”
Knowing your skin type, however, is a determining factor in how you treat your skin, including the products you use and the makeup you wear. And once you have a skin care regimen that works for you, your skin will reward you by developing a radiant, youthful glow.
For optimum skin health, knowing your skin type is everything, even if it is a little complicated.
Skin Type 101
In a room full of people, there will be a wide range of different skin types, each with its own set of challenges, according to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali.
Skin can be normal, oil and dry, but a mix of several types is the norm.
“Combination skin is by far the most common skin type I see in my patients,” he said in an interview with the website skincare.com. 1
Combination skin includes an oily T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin) surrounded by dry skin, and because of the dual types of skin, finding the right skin regimen can be tricky.
To determine your skin type, according to celebrity skin care specialist Jennifer Rock, wash your face as usual, then revisit it an hour later.
If your T-zone is rough and tight, your skin is dry. If your T-zone feels slippery, your skin is oily. You have trapped oils that will require specialized products if there are lumps and bumps anywhere else. If skin is both slick in the T-zone and dry and tight elsewhere, you have combination skin.
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If skin is smooth to the touch, you are one of the lucky – and rare – few to have normal skin. 2
It is possible for skin types to change over time – hormones, seasonal changes, weather, dietary changes or medications are common culprits 3 – so it’s a good idea to regularly assess how your skin appears and feels, in case its time to switch up your routine.
Normal Skin: A Unicorn
Normal skin is the Holy Grail of skin, the perfect bowl of porridge for Goldilocks, and about as rare as three bears living in a cabin eating oatmeal.
Skin like this is not too oily, not too dry, and it stays that way throughout the day. Breakouts are rare for those with normal skin.
According to Dr. Bhanusali, very few people fall into the normal skin category, especially given the role stress, hormones and diet play in the condition of our skin.
Still, to keep normal skin the rare wonder that it is, it should be treated with a gentle cleanser followed by moisturizer and sunscreen, every day, no matter the weather. A serum packed with antioxidants or an essential oil aimed at cellular regeneration applied a few times a week can keep aging at bay.
Using an exfoliating product a few times a week to speed the sloughing away of dead skin cells can also help skin look radiant.
THE ESSENTIALS: The best essential oils for normal skin include those that are both gentle yet moisturizing, such as lavender, chamomile, fennel, geranium, lemon, patchouli, rose, and sandalwood. Sweet almond is an excellent carrier oil for those essentials that have to be diluted before application.
Oily Skin: The Lowdown
Cameron Diaz, who became a household name after starring in the raucous comedy “There’s Something About Mary,” suffers from acne outbreaks, most likely the result of oily skin, so if your skin is oily, know you are not alone.
Oily skin is the result of overactive sebaceous glands – this is part of your genetic makeup, but certain foods and chronic stress can boost the production of sebum – which can lead to clogged pores and more frequent breakouts or blemishes.
Those with oily skin are more likely to develop blackheads and pimples.
To determine if your skin is oily, use a blotting paper and gently pat your face in different areas. If the blotting paper becomes translucent, it is absorbing oil from your skin’s surface.
Oily skin should not be treated harshly, no matter the temptation. Harsh cleaners that dry up oil will only send those already overly active sebaceous glands into overdrive.
“Your skin can actually become even more oily than before you started,” says Dr. Bhanusali.
Oily skin can be treated with ingredients such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid, neither of which dry skin, but instead gently but efficiently clear up blemishes. Using an exfoliating cleanser two or three times a week is also a good option.
Keeping calm – Monq’s Zen personal aromatherapy diffuser with orange, frankincense, and ylang-ylang as the dominant oils is a good calming agent – can help keep oily skin in check. As it turns out, chronic stress can elevate levels of cortisol. This is what sets that excess sebum production in motion.
THE ESSENTIALS: To help keep oily skin balanced, essential oils that keep sebum production under control are your skin’s best friend. Some options include lavender, tea tree, clary sage, juniper berry, rosemary, geranium, and lemon. Lightweight but nutrient-dense jojoba makes an excellent carrier oil for essentials that need to be diluted.
Dry skin is the easiest to recognize, according to experts, because skin that falls into this category generally feels tight and itchy, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, may also appear dull. Flaking is also possible, and skin not only appears less radiant but is also less pliable and resilient.
Because it can plump up fine lines and wrinkles, moisturizer is the most important product for dry skin. Gentle moisturizers such as the emollients found in essential oils paired with carriers can have more lasting benefits.
Actress Kristen Bell, currently starring in the sitcom “The Good Place,” has dry skin, so she treats her face gently, she told In Style magazine.
“I actually don’t wash my face in the morning. I wash it at night in the shower so my pores are open. All the oils that come out at night, I need to save. I run a washcloth under the InstaHot or nuke it in the microwave and just set it on my face for twenty seconds every single day. There are lazy days for sure, but it makes me look like I just went on a 10-minute run.” 4
Dry skin requires TLC in the form of creamy cleansers – foaming cleansers will likely strip skin of precious moisture. A hydrating moisturizer and sunscreen should come next. Moisturizer or an antioxidant spritz can add an extra boost of hydration throughout the day. It also will add nutrients to keep skin looking fresh and radiant.
THE ESSENTIALS: The best essential oils to ease the symptoms of dry skin include frankincense, sandalwood, carrot seed, geranium, German chamomile, Helichrysum, lavender, and palmarosa, all of which offer anti-aging benefits along with lasting moisture that penetrates beneath the skin’s surface where actual healing can take place. Both Argan and avocado oils make luxurious carrier oils for essentials that must be diluted. For particularly dry skin, shea butter – which mimics skin’s natural sebum, will also offer anti-aging benefits. This is thanks to vitamin A and other collagen-building antioxidants. 5
Combination Skin: Common and Complicated
Combination skin – a mix of dry and oily skin – is the most common of skin types. It is most complicated to treat, because it requires a regimen that meets two different skincare needs.
An oily T-Zone marks this skin type – the forehead, nose and chin. Other parts of the face such as the cheeks are dry.
Using a creamy yet lightweight cleanser will help cleanse without drying or stripping away oils. This way, the lack of oils will not trigger the production of more oil. A lightweight moisturizer, with serum applied to the dry areas, can help keep skin radiant.
THE ESSENTIALS: Bergamot, neroli, calendula, sandalwood, and frankincense are all ideal essential oils for combination skin. They penetrate the skin’s surface, addressing problems beneath the surface, where they begin. While calendula is gentle enough to apply directly, most oils require a carrier to prevent burning and/or irritation. Grapeseed oil is an effective carrier oil that offers skin-friendly antioxidants along with penetrating moisture. That means it is not too light but not too heavy.
By knowing your skin type, you can practice effective skincare to protect the structural elements of your skin. This will help keep you looking younger longer. Plus you won’t have to hide beneath too much makeup in order to achieve a fresh, radiant look.
“If you focus on good skin care, you won’t need a lot of make-up,” actress Demi Moore once said. Don’t let her superstar status fool you into thinking that her flawless skin is the result of aliens. The star of the current hit series “Empire” has taken good care of her skin. You can too!
Photo credits: iordani/shutterstock.com, VladimirGjorgiev/shutterstock.com, cunaplus/shutterstock.com, Tinatin/shutterstock.com, popcorner/shutterstock.com