If your current skincare routine isn’t working, the products you’re using might not be suited to your skin’s needs. Skincare is, after all, not a one size fits all kind of thing. The first step towards healthy, radiant skin is figuring out your skin type.
Once you know your skin type, you can choose the right products that will address your skin issues. This should help you put together a skincare routine or treatment that will actually make your skin look younger or help you get rid of acne, pimple marks, wrinkles, and other skin issues you’re dealing with. It will also help you avoid wasting money on products that don’t work for your skin.
Your skin type depends on a variety of factors, including how much water is in your skin, how oily it is, how sensitive it is, and how old you are. Skin usually falls under one of six types:
To work out your skin type, wash your face with a gentle cleanser, removing all traces of makeup but not overwashing. Pat your face dry and wait an hour. After washing, your skin reverts to its natural state and reveals certain characteristics that will indicate your skin type.
If your face is neither dry nor oily after washing, your skin type is normal. What this means is that your skin is well balanced. People with this skin type produce just the right amount of sebum (skin oils). While these people occasionally experience some shine or dryness, their skin is mostly supple and smooth.
Normal skin has:
- Small, barely visible pores
- No or few imperfections
- Occasional dry patches and breakouts
- Some shine on the T-zone that usually appears later in the day
If your skin type is normal, use gentle products for your daily skincare routine. For sporadic dryness and oiliness, choose products that address these problems, but go back to your usual skincare products once they're gone.
If your face feels and looks greasy an hour after washing, your skin type is oily. People with this skin type have overactive sebaceous glands that produce excess sebum. This creates an oily sheen all over the face and clogs pores, leading to frequent acne flareups. The upside of having oily skin is that it doesn’t age as fast as other skin types.
Oily skin is characterised by:
- Surface oiliness, especially at midday
- Large, visible pores
- Blackheads and whiteheads
- Inflammatory acne
- Fewer fine lines
If your skin type is oily, steer clear of skincare products with ingredients that can further clog your pores (mineral oil, petrolatum, cocoa and shea butters). To keep your skin moisturised, go for light facial oils instead. Avoid alcohol based products as they can dry your skin out and cause your sebaceous glands to go into overdrive.
If there are flakes of dead skin on your face an hour after washing, your skin type is dry. Dry skin does not produce enough oil. This skin type is characterised by fine or invisible pores, a matte appearance, and a susceptibility to heat and wind damage. Dry skin often feels tight, especially in the morning and after washing.
Dry skin is prone to:
- Flakiness, especially in winter
- Fine lines
People with this skin type require skincare products that help replenish the skin’s moisture levels. However, avoid mineral oils as they can lead to breakouts. Instead, choose products with high grade plant oils and ingredients that gently exfoliate.
Combination skin exhibits traits from the normal, oily, and dry skin types. People with this skin type usually have an oily T-zone with dry patches on other parts of the face. Combination skin is susceptible to changes in temperature — it can be super dry in winter and really oily during summer.
Combination skin is defined by:
- An oily T-zone, especially in the afternoon
- Not much oil on the other parts of the face
- Large pores on the T-zone and fine pores elsewhere
- Slightly dry cheeks, temples, and eye areas
- Breakouts throughout the T-zone
- Makeup getting patchy as the day progresses
If you have combination skin, you need to find products that will balance out your skin’s moisture and oil levels. Avoid rich emollients that could clog your pores, but also avoid harsh products that strip your skin of beneficial oils. Instead of foaming facial washes, go for oil or cream cleansers and balms. Mild exfoliants may also help. Try an oil-free moisturiser for daytime and a balancing plant oil for your nightly skincare regimen.
Dehydrated skin is actually more of a skin condition than a skin type. While dry skin results from insufficient skin oils or lipids, dehydrated skin lacks water. There are a number of factors that can result in this skin type/condition, including diet, weather, age, exposure to the elements, contact with allergens and chemicals, and dehydration due to insufficient water intake or excessive sweating.
Dehydrated skin is characterised by:
- Fine lines that may come and go
- Dry and/or cracked lips
Dehydrated skin always looks better and plumper after washing, but reverts to its dry and lacklustre appearance after drying. This skin type looks healthier and plumper during humid weather.
You can sometimes improve the appearance of dehydrated skin simply by drinking more water. If this doesn't fix the problem, you may need to try skincare products with humectant ingredients. A humectant is a substance that reduces the loss of moisture by binding and holding water to the skin’s surface. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin are found in many natural skincare products and both can help plump up your dehydrated skin.
Sensitive skin reddens easily and tends to react to various products. People with this skin type are prone to rashes, irritations, and burns from heat exposure.
Sensitive skin is:
- Often blotchy
- Sometimes flaky
- Prone to skin reactions, especially with new skincare products
- Sometimes itchy and hot
- Often flushed and angry looking
- Prone to stinging and other uncomfortable sensations
People with sensitive skin can have difficulty finding products that will not trigger a reaction. The only way around this is through trial and error. Pare down your skincare regimen to just the basics and add new products one at a time, checking for adverse skin reactions to each. Avoid common skin irritants such as parabens, paraffin oils, palm oils, mineral oils, fragrances, and alcohol. There are now plenty of natural skincare products that don’t contain any of these ingredients.
Another way to ease your sensitive skin problems is to avoid foods that cause a reaction. Keeping a food diary and noting each food item’s effect on your skin may be cumbersome but could also help calm things down.
Skin types change
If your skincare stops working for you, or isn't as effective as it used to be, your skin type may have changed. This is perfectly normal and usually results from changes in weather, age, hormones, stress levels, and even skincare products.