Skin Types – Why do they matter and how do you find yours?

Skin types are everywhere when you’re buying skin care products – normal to dry, normal to oily, acne prone…it seems like the list is endless.  But, in a Cerave survey last year, a third of the men and women who took part said they weren’t sure on their skin type, and 37% were using a product not suitable for their skin.  So what are they and why do they matter?

But what does a skin type mean, and why is it important to know yours?

Your skin type is genetic, and when it’s really simplified comes down to how much oil your skin naturally produces.  This can then be further complicated by acne, dehydration, sensitivity, eczema, psoriasis, ageing, sun damage…and the list goes on – all of which are skin conditions.  Skin conditions can change down to external factors, or can be pretty permanent. Conditions are separate to your skin type though, and should be treated differently. 

Wanting to solve skincare concerns without knowing your skin type is like putting an address in a sat nav, but not your current location. It’s easy to get lost and will definitely take longer to get where you want to go.

I’ll talk to clients regularly about their skin type, and quite regularly if some one has breakouts they’ll generally tell me they have combination or oily skin, regardless of how much oil their skin really has.  It’s this case where you can think you have one skin type and buy the products you think will help. When in actual fact you’re getting a skin type and condition mixed up & potentially aggravating your skin, making your skin condition worse.  

As we go through different stages of our life our skin type can change too. If you’ve had a skin care routine which has worked for years which then starts becoming less & less effective it may be worth re-evaluating your skin type to check what you’re using are still the best products for you. 

It might sound really  confusing, but I promise breaking it down makes it so much easier. You can also use this free tool to help you demystify your skin type.

What are skin types? 

There are different ways of categorising skin types, but sometimes it’s best to keep it simple in the first instance, so here are the basic skin types-

Dry Skin Type

Having a dry skin type means your skin naturally produces less oil or sebum than normal.  This doesn’t inherently cause dry skin, but it does mean your skin can’t form the lipid layer (or skin barrier). It’s this barrier which helps your skin retain moisture and to protect itself from outside aggressors & bacteria.  

As we age our skin naturally stops producing as much oil, and the skin’s barrier starts to become thinner.  It could be you have normal skin until your late 40s, and then through your 50s and 60s it begins to get drier, meaning a shake up of your skin routine is probably needed. 

It’s important to help your skin build up its barrier, as this is what will help your skin retain moisture. This helps reduce the tight, flakiness that you’re probably suffering from at the moment.  The lack of a good skin barrier can cause sensitivity, and acne due to irritation & inflammation – so treating the dryness can then solve many other issues too.  If you think you’ve probably got dry skin, you can use this free tool to identify your skin type.

Signs of dry skin can include - 
Tightness after you’ve washed your face
Flakiness
Skin can look dull
Skin can sometimes feel itchy
In extremely dry skin, it can start to crack and look scaly

Oily Skin

Oily skin is pretty much the opposite of dry skin, with the skin producing too much sebum than normal.  People with oily skin generally know they have oily skin, from the shininess soon after you’ve washed your face.  

The good thing about having oily skin – your skin should have oil.  It’s necessary for your skin to protect itself, heal and just function how it needs to to be healthy.  It can mean that breakouts are more likely, down to the larger amount of oil being the perfect place for acne bacteria (aka Cutibacterium acnes) to multiply.  

It’s important to not try to rid your skin of all oil, and using moisturiser & a facial oil (designed for oily skin) can actually help your skin regulate oil production.  If that sounds a bit familiar, you can use this free tool to check your skin type.

Signs of oily skin can include - 
Shininess within an hour of washing your face
Larger than ‘normal’ pores
Blackheads can be present
Breakouts may be more regular

Combination Skin

Combination skin is pretty much what it says on the tin – a combination of different skin types.  It’s normally thought of as oily skin in the T-zone (chin, nose & forehead), and dry skin over the cheeks. There can be some exceptions where there are normal skin in some areas too.

Combination skin is one of the most common skin types, especially when we’re younger.  The different areas can adjust as we get older, or sometimes oily areas producing less oil as we age. 

There are a few options with skincare routines for combination skin, one being using different products for the different areas.  Alternatively, using products designed for combination skin can be more cost effective, but maybe not as effective for your skin. If you think you’ve probably got combination skin, you can use this free tool to identify your skin type.

Signs of combination skin can include - 
A shiny forehead, nose & chin
Drier skin on cheeks than on the rest of the face
Larger pores on the oilier areas

Normal Skin

Normal skin is the holy grail that anyone with oily, combination or dry skin is searching for with the skin producing the right amount of oil which is should be for ‘optimal performance’.  It’s actually far from normal for most of the population though, and is more of a way for skincare products to be categorised than an actual skin type.  

If you are one of the blessed ones with a good balance of oils, and clear, blemish free skin it’s still really important to give it the love and attention it needs.  Having a good skincare routine, albeit a basic, potentially more hassle free than for some other skin types, means you have good foundations and less chance of sun damage in the future.  The easiest way to find out your skin type is by using this free tool

Signs of normal ski include - 
Pores aren’t particularly noticeable
Skin is well hydrated with good texture
Minimal breakouts and blemishes

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is a middle ground between a skin type and a skin condition, but isn’t an actual clinic diagnosis.  Any skin type can also have sensitivity, due to environmental factors like the weather, skincare products which aren’t right for your skin type, intolerances to food, or a skin condition like eczema, contact dermatitis or psoriasis.  

Dry skin can be more prone to sensitivity.  Remember that lack of skin barrier? Without the lipid layer protecting the lower layers of skin there’s more chance it will be irritated and sensitive.  

Sensitivity can be almost permanent, which is why I’ve still included it in this list. It can cause a lot of confusion as it can cause havoc with the appearance and characteristics of the skin.  It is also included in this free tool to identify your skin type.

Signs of sensitive skin include - 
Redness and irritation
Acne when skin is not generally oily
Skin ‘flaring up’ when trying new products
Skin behaving differently in different seasons

For more skin advice, why not come over and join The Face Base Community – it’s totally free!

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