We often hear the phrase “skin type” thrown around a lot in conversations concerning skincare. What exactly is a skin type, how do we figure out which one is ours, and why is it important in the first place?
Today, MadeMan is going to keep things easy for you by breaking down your skin type in simple terms.
Everyone has a specific skin type assigned by their genetics, though your type can be affected by external and internal factors and change with time.
Generally speaking there are five different skin types, which includes:
A variety of skin characteristics contribute to determining your skin type. The water content in your skin will influence how elastic it is, the sensitivity level will influence how it tolerates various substances and materials, and the oil content will influence the feel and texture of your skin.
Determining Your Skin Type
Determining your skin type does not require a trip to the dermatologist or cosmetic aisle, though receiving professional input is always useful. There are a number of ways for you to figure out your skin type on your own at home.
Examining Your Skin’s Unique Traits
The first potential method for determining your skin type is to examine your skin’s characteristics and determine which category fits best.
If you observe that your skin is balanced and feels neither dry nor oily, you likely fall into the normal skin category. Normal skin is not prone to breakouts or tightness, generally has a smooth texture, is less prone to irritation and breakouts, and has small pores.
If you observe that your skin is red, burning, or itching, your skin type is likely sensitive. Sensitive skin is more vulnerable to external irritants. You may find that your skin reacts poorly to certain fragrances, materials, and dyes.
If you observe that your skin is rough and flaky, you probably fall into the dry skin category. Dry skin is typically dull, tight, and occasionally scaly. It is more prone to itchiness and irritation and fine lines tend to be more visible on this skin type.
If you observe that your skin consistently appears shiny or greasy, your skin type is oily. Oily skin is categorized by overactive sebaceous glands that produce an excess amount of sebum, particularly on the forehead, nose, and chin (collectively referred to as the T-Zone). Oily skin is often prone to blemishes, breakouts, and enlarged pores.
If you observe that there are dry areas on your face and other areas that are oily, you likely have combination skin. The combination skin type gets its name from being a literal combination of the dry and oily skin type. You will usually find that your T-Zone is oily while the remaining areas, like your chin, stay dry.
Skin After Washing
Clean your face in the morning with an effective cleanser and then go about your day as you typically would. At the end of your day, position yourself in front of a mirror and analyze the characteristics of your face.
If you don’t have the time to wait an entire day for your results, there is an alternative way for you to determine your skin type. You can try a shortened 30-minute version of this same test.
Similar to the day-long test, this requires you to observe how your skin behaves after being cleaned. Wash your face with your favorite cleanser and pat it dry. Then, wait just thirty minutes. Once the thirty minutes is up, take a moment to see what your skin looks like:
- Skin that feels comfortable and has little to no distinguishable physical features is likely normal.
- Skin that looks red and feels itchy tends to be sensitive
- Skin that feels tight and shows signs of flaking may be dry.
- Skin that appears shiny is usually oily.
- Skin that appears shiny only on your T-Zone may be combination skin.
For extra security, you can also add blotting sheets into the mix and use them to make the results of your 30-minute at-home test more accurate. Blotting sheets are an absorbent type of paper used to remove oil from your face.
Testing for Oil
Go about this test just as you did the previous one. However, instead of simply looking at the changes in your face, you will measure the amount of oil that has appeared on your skin in the past 30 minutes.
This can then help you identify your skin type. Gently press blotting sheets against various areas of your face and observe the oil markings that they absorb.
If you notice very minimal oil from every tested area of your face, your skin type is likely normal. If you find that the blotting sheets have absorbed little to no oil, your skin type is likely dry. If the sheets reveal an absorbed abundance of oil in all areas of your face, your skin type is likely oily.
If the sheets only really absorb oil when placed upon your T-Zone, your skin type is most likely combination skin.
While you can use this method for testing for sensitive skin, the sensitive skin type is still better identified by its characteristics of redness and irritation than the amount of oil it produces, as this generally can vary or be non-distinguishable from other types.
You are welcome to try any of these methods — or any combination of these methods — for determining your skin type.
Why Is It Important To Know Your Skin Type?
What is the purpose of going through all this trouble to determine your skin type, anyway? Is it that important to know your skin type? Briefly put, yes, it is.
Knowing your skin and its type will influence how you treat your skin, how you develop your skincare routine, and what methods and products you apply to your skin.
Allow us to give you an example. Let’s pretend that you are interested in adding exfoliation to your skincare routine. There are several different methods for exfoliating and, to select the healthiest one for you, you need to know your skin type.
Exfoliating is a treatment in which dead skin cells are removed from the outer layers of your skin. Besides ridding your skin of dead skin cells, the benefits include increasing blood circulation and brightening your appearance.
Though exfoliating can reap several major benefits for your skin, it can also cause a lot of damage to the skin if performed incorrectly or on the wrong skin type, which is why you must get it right.
The two methods of exfoliation are mechanical exfoliating and chemical exfoliating. Mechanical exfoliating is when you use tools to shed dead skin cells from the epidermis, such as specially made brushes, sponges, and gloves.
Chemical exfoliating is when you use a chemical solution, typically containing a beta hydroxy acid like salicylic acid or alpha-hydroxy acid like glycolic acid to buff away at dead skin cells.
Exfoliation Based On Skin Type
If your skin type is normal, you generally have free range when selecting your method of exfoliation. Both mechanical and chemical exfoliators have been deemed safe for this skin type, and it typically comes down to a matter of preference.
If your skin type is sensitive, it might be tricky at first to find the right exfoliating method for you. Those with sensitive skin should usually avoid mechanical exfoliating, which is typically considered the rougher option between the two.
Mechanical exfoliation may cause further redness and irritation. A mild chemical exfoliator is likely to be the best option.
If your skin type is dry, you are also going to want to avoid mechanical exfoliation. This method tends to dry the skin out, even more, leading to unwanted microtears. Instead, try a chemical exfoliant with an alpha hydroxy acid that will promote healthy skin turnover.
If your skin type is oily, it will probably respond well to mechanical exfoliation. Since oily skin typically has an additional layer of buildup on the skin, it can benefit from a stronger exfoliating option. Those with oily skin may also need to exfoliate more often than those with other skin types.
If your skin type is combination, you may need to combine mechanical and chemical methods to treat your skin’s dry and oily parts. You can do so by alternating between methods of applying your chemical exfoliant with a tool.
Remember to adjust your method of choice based on how your skin responds to the treatment.
Your skin type plays a larger role in your skin’s health than you may think. If you’ve ever wondered why your skin tends to look dryer, redder, or more oily than some of your friends, the answer may lie with your skin type.
Having a solid understanding of your skin will give you the necessary foundation to treat it properly so that you may begin to witness the progress you have been dreaming of.
This all starts with identifying your skin type.
Oily skin: an overview | PubMed