The Ins and Outs of Identifying Your Skin Type
September 21, 2021
by Amanda Etkind
It goes without saying that skin care is nuanced. What works for one person’s skin might not work for another, so before you can dive deep into the exciting world of lotions, creams, serums, and more, there’s an important thing you have to determine—and that’s your skin type.
Without a doubt, knowing your skin type—and understanding it—is the most effective way to care for your complexion. Of course, every skin type needs to wash and moisturize (and apply SPF, of course!), but beyond that, there are certain products each one should prioritize in order to keep it in its prime state. While every single person’s skin is unique, there are five skin main types that may help you to identify where your skin fits the most. The five basic skin types are normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive. Keep reading to learn all about the five basic skin types and to determine which one is yours.
The Different Skin Types
- Normal: Normal is commonly described as well-balanced, meaning, it’s not too oily and not too dry. Those with normal skin are not typically prone to breakouts or flakiness, and tend to have a balanced t-zone.
- Oily: Oily skin often has an excess in oil or sebum production, specifically around the forehead, nose, and chin. This is also known as your T-zone. It can often appear shiny and is prone to breakouts and pesky spots.
- Dry: Dry skin often looks dull and suffers from flaky, itchy, or irritated skin.
- Sensitive: This is the most complex skin type as it varies, but typically sensitive skin is often visibly red, dry, or reactive. You can also experience a lot of discomfort with sensitive skin.
- Combination: Combination skin has both dry and oily areas of the face. An example of this looks like a shiny T-zone with dry cheeks.
How To Determine Your Skin Type
The Bare-Faced Method
One simple way to determine your skin type is to simply wash your face without applying product after (i.e. your moisturizers, serums, etc.). To start, cleanse your complexion thoroughly with a mild formula, then gently pat dry with a soft, non-abrasive towel. Afterwards, skip your skincare routine and leave your skin bare, hence the bare-faced method. Wait 30 minutes, then carefully examine your skin. Do you notice any shine or oily patches? Does it feel taught or tight anywhere? Take notes of how your complexion looks and feels. If your skin feels tight all-over, your skin is likely dry. If there is a noticeable shine in your t-zone area while cheeks feel patches, your skin type is most likely combination. If you’re overall shiny, you’ve got oily skin.
The Blotting Method
While not as foolproof as the first method, the blotting method can be helpful as well. Start by pressing a clean blotting paper on different spots on your skin. After you’ve done so, see how much oil was absorbed. Your skin type will generally be dependent on how much oil is visible, meaning the more oil on the paper, the more likely you have oily skin. If there is little to no oil visible, you most likely have dry skin. If the blotting sheet reveals minimal oil from your forehead and nose, your skin is probably normal or combination.
How To Care For Each Skin Type
Normal skin is pretty fuss-free, so you don’t have to do anything too crazy. Start with a gentle cleanser, then pick a hydrating daily moisturizer, and follow-up with broad-spectrum SPF during the day. If you want to add anything special into your routine try a retinol-based product or an exfoliator to keep your complexion balanced.
Those with oily skin tend to struggle with excess sebum production that leads to clogged pores and pimples. When searching for skin care, you want to be mindful of products that tout non-comedogenic claims (i.e. won’t clog pores) and don’t contain heavy or too many occlusive (barrier-blocking) ingredients. We also suggest exfoliating no more than three times per week with a chemical exfoliator like our Texture Magic Exfoliating Toner ($66) that contains which offers a potent blend of lactic, phytic, citric, malic, and salicylic acid that’s effective, but also gentle.
Dry skin types often have a flaky, dry outer barrier that makes moisturizing ingredients difficult to penetrate through. That’s why you’ll want to start with a chemical exfoliator a few times a week. Using one will help remove that layer of dead skin, allowing for your hydrators like serums, moisturizers and oils to penetrate more easily. You’ll want to focus on finding ingredients with hyaluronic acid and glycerin because of their water-attracting abilities. Then, you’ll want to seal in the hydration with an occlusive oil like our Glow Potion Oil Serum ($80), which is a fast-absorbing, triple-layered oil-serum that combines three products into one streamlined bottle to help hydrate and lock in that hydration.
If you’re struggling with a red, tight, or uncomfortable complexion you likely have a compromised skin barrier. For this, you’ll want to keep your routine bare bones and only focus on washing and moisturizing. This will help strengthen your compromised skin. Once you’re ready to potentially add in other products you’ll want to patch test new formulas on your forearm and behind your ear to see if you have any reaction. Also, pay attention to labels—you’ll want to ensure your products are free from common irritating ingredients like parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, sulfate detergents, phthalates, urea, DEA, or TEA.
Typically, dry cheeks and an oily T-zone means you have combo skin. The challenge here is to stick to products that keep your oily areas and your dry areas balanced. So look for products that aren’t heavy (think: thick creams and oils) and stick to light hydrators that don’t contain pore-clogging ingredients. For a moisturizer, we love our Water Jelly Dew Cream ($55) which delivers heavyweight hydration with a lightweight texture thanks to hyaluronic acid and a blend of 20% humectants so it will keep your skin hydrated without turning into a grease ball. Typically, formulas for all skin types help balance skin without over-drying or causing excess oil. Keeping your skin balanced is key for those with combination skin!
And just a heads up, that your skin can change over time, so it’s best to keep a close eye on what it needs. Don’t forget to check in on your skin regularly to see if you need to make adjustments to your routine. Whatever your complexion type, we have a roster of products that work for all of the above. Check out our Goodhabit line here.