It seems like our world is obsessed with typing and labeling – do you have a type A or type B personality? What’s your Myers-Briggs type? What clique would you belong to in a high school cafeteria?
Sometimes these categorizations can be helpful and sometimes they’re reductive and overly simplified. But there are some “types” out there that actually have practical applications, and one of them is your skin type.
Knowing your skin type can help you take better care of your skin and figure out what products to buy to balance it out. First things first – let’s get on the same page about what these skin types are.
Defining the Skin Types
Everyone’s skin is unique but most people’s skin generally fits into one of these four categories:
- Oily skin – produces more natural oil, called sebum, than usual and tends to be prone to acne
- Dry skin – produces less oil than usual so it’s dry, rough, and flaky
- Combination skin – is oily in some areas, usually the T-zone (your forehead, nose, and chin), but dry in other areas, usually the cheeks
- Normal skin – has a healthy balance of oil
In some conversations about skin types, you’ll see sensitive skin listed among the skin types, but it’s more of a quasi-skin type. You can have sensitive skin along with any of the four types above – it’s not an alternative to the four skin types, but just an added skin quality.
Tips to Determine Your Skin Type
Now that you understand the gist of the four main skin types, how do you figure out which one best fits your skin type? For some people, it’s obvious enough that you don’t even have to test it – you might be constantly dabbing oil off your skin, or your skin might be so dry that it’s itchy and uncomfortable. If you aren’t sure, though, there are a few tell-tale ways to find the answer.
Check Your Gloss Level
If you’ve ever done any painting, you know that paints have different gloss levels – high gloss, semi-gloss, matte, and so on. Your skin has a natural gloss level too, and it stems from your skin type.
Look in the mirror on a regular basis and observe how your skin looks. Does it have a shine to it? Then you probably have oily skin. Does it have a duller look? Then your skin is probably dry. Seeing shininess in your T-zone while your cheeks are dull? That’s combination skin. If your skin looks like a happy medium, not producing a noticeable shine but not dull either, you have normal skin.
Try the Wash Test
Skin care products are designed to make the most of your skin composition, full stop. They can have such an impact on your skin that it’s hard to tell what your natural skin type is because the products are making it more hydrated or less oily than it usually is. So how do you see what your skin is really like? Your take those products away with the wash test.
Wash your face with a mild cleanser and then give your skin 30 minutes to normalize. After that half-hour, go to the mirror and take a close look at your skin. If it’s shiny throughout and it feels greasy, you have oily skin. If your skin looks dull or flaky and it feels tight, you have dry skin. If you’re seeing an oily shine in your T-zone while your cheeks are dry and tight, you have dry skin. If your skin feels hydrated and comfortable and you don’t see any shininess or dullness, you have normal skin.
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Use Blotting Papers
Blotting papers are papers specifically designed to soak up oil, and they can answer a lot of questions about your skin. For the blotting paper test, start by washing your face and then waiting half an hour.
At this point, dab a piece of blotting paper on each area of your skin. Hold each paper up to a light to see the oil spots it has absorbed.
If you see a significant amount of oil throughout your face, you have oily skin. If you see little to no oil from any area of your face, you have dry skin. If you see significant amounts of oil from the papers you used on your T-zone but little or none on the papers from your cheeks, you have combination skin. Finally, if you see a mild and fairly consistent amount of oil throughout your face, you have normal skin.
I Know My Skin Type – Now What?
Now that you’ve used the tests above to figure out what your skin type is, what’s next? What do you do with that information?
There are plenty of ways to put your new knowledge into action. Most importantly, it tells you what types of skin care products to buy. For example, when you’re shopping for moisturizers, if you have dry skin, look for a moisturizer for dry skin to provide the thorough hydration you need. If you have oily skin, look for a moisturizer for oily skin so it won’t add greasy residue or clog your pores.
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You can also adjust the way you care for your skin based on your skin type. For example, if you have dry skin, it might be best to moisturize your skin more often. If you have combination skin, it’s often best to use different skin care products for your T-zone compared to your cheeks because your skin is so different in those areas. If you have oily skin, you might use an acne prone skin care routine to prevent breakouts.
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