Many skincare products on the market are made for the general population and rarely have your unique skin type in mind, which means that they may not be the best choice for your skin. It’s important to understand your skin type so that you can better care for and respond to your skin’s unique needs. Did you know that your skin type can actually change throughout your life? Being able to identify your skin type even as it changes is an important first step to a more personalised approach for lifelong healthy skin.
First, it’s worth clarifying that skin type is different from skin condition. Skin type is mainly about how oily or dry your skin is, whereas skin condition refers to various skin issues, such as skin sensitivity, sun-damaged skin, mature skin, acne-prone skin, atopic skin, or skin affected by hormonal changes, to name a few.
The Skin Type Spectrum
Although there are 4 commonly recognized skin types, it’s more useful to think of skin type as a spectrum, where one extreme of the spectrum is very dry skin, and the other extreme is very oily skin.
The skin type spectrum is a more accurate concept because most people’s skin type cannot be neatly “boxed” under only one category. Many people’s skin type falls somewhere within the spectrum, and can even change over time due to various triggers, such as hormonal changes during pregnancy, a change of diet, or a change or climate.
Now that we have this handy spectrum visual, we can zoom in to different parts of the spectrum to revisit the idea of the 4 common skin types and what kind of skin care works best for each type.
The normal skin type, which falls right in the middle of the spectrum, is neither too dry nor too oily; it is “just right”. This skin type tends to have balanced sebum production and a slightly acidic surface pH, which is beneficial for the skin’s microbiome and barrier function . The skin’s surface tends to be smooth with fine pores, with little to no breakouts.
In caring for normal type skin, the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies well. Many people with this type find that leaving their skin alone works just fine. Just make sure to follow common-sense skin care advice, such as staying hydrated, protecting your skin from the sun, and removing makeup before sleeping each night.
The dry skin type is characterized by less sebum production and a higher (more alkaline) pH. A more alkaline pH is also associated with various skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis . Additionally, dry skin may feel tighter, be flakier or rougher to the touch, and have more visible fine lines and wrinkles.
Dry Skin Type Tips:
- Consider using a humidifier to help restore moisture to your skin.
- Take warm or cold, not hot, showers, as hot water can wash away more of your skin’s natural moisture. Also, try to minimise washing frequency, as too much washing can further dry out your skin.
- Use mild soaps or cleansers; these tend to be less irritating for dry skin.
- Cover and protect exposed skin, especially in harsh weather conditions. Also, choose smooth, looser-fitting fabrics to reduce friction and irritation.
The oily skin type often has overactive sebum production, leading to greasier, shinier skin and clogged pores. Pores also tend to be larger and more visible. The excess oil on the skin means that the skin’s surface pH is typically lower (more acidic) than usual , and the oily skin type often is often more prone to acne breakouts.
Oily Skin Type Tips:
- Wash your face at least twice a day (morning and evening) and minimise touching your face to help prevent clogged pores. Take care not to overwash, as this can dry out your skin and trigger more sebum production.
- If you use skincare products, use oil-free and water-based versions.
- You may still want to use a moisturiser, especially if using any skin-drying acne treatments. Just make sure to choose an oil-free moisturiser.
The combination skin type is just what it sounds like—a combination of oily and dry skin. Combinations can vary widely, but a common combination is to have an oily T-zone (forehead and nose bridge) and normal or dry cheeks.
For this skin type, the right skincare routine really depends on your particular combination. It may be useful to use a mix of skincare regimens for different skin areas, such as washing oily areas more often and moisturising drier areas more often.
Regardless of your skin type, always make sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from damaging UV radiation by wearing sunscreens and covering exposed skin, especially if you spend time outdoors during peak sun hours. A holistic skin care perspective prioritising aspects such as diet, sleep, and lifestyle habits is also important for lifelong healthy skin. Check out our Holistic Skincare series of blog posts to learn more about holistic skincare!
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