How to Determine Your Skin Type, A Dermatologist’s Guide
Is your skin dry? Oily? Perhaps a combination of the two? If you’re scratching your head right now, don’t fret. We share a helpful guide to help you determine your skin type—so you can better care for your skin’s specific needs—once and for all, below!
By a show of hands, how many of you know your skin type? Hopefully all of your hands are raised. This information is important in order to properly care for your body’s largest organ. Your daily routine, including the wide array of products you use, should be catered to your specific skin type. It’s the best chance you have at achieving the beautiful, healthy-looking skin we know you’re after.
“Most people fall into one of the following skin types: normal, oily, dry, or combination,” says board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. “Combination skin is by far the most common skin type I see in my patients. My patients come in with oily T-zone areas (nose, eyebrows, chin) and dry skin at the periphery.”
To help you determine what your skin type may be, we’ve laid out a few common indicators of each type below. Your skin may not fit neatly into one category, but this guide can help lead you in the right direction—or, at the very least—clear up some confusion.
Normal skin is often balanced—read: not too oily, not too dry—throughout the day. That said, according to Dr. Bhanusali, normal skin is rare. Nonetheless, we share how you should care for normal skin, below.
How to care for normal skin: Cleansing with a gentle cleanser, and applying moisturizer, and sunscreen are daily essentials. Incorporating an antioxidant serum, as well as an exfoliating product a few times per week are welcomed additions, as well.
The easiest way to spot an oily complexion? Shiny skin. Since sebaceous glands in oily skin types are more active, oily skin types may be more prone to breakouts and blemishes. Still not sure if you have oily skin? Dr. Bhanusali recommends trying this quick test: “Grab a blotting paper and gently dab different areas of your face,” he says. “If the sheet becomes translucent, it’s indicative of oil absorption.”
How to care for oily skin: When it comes to taking care of your oily skin, “cleansing two to three times per week with an exfoliating cleanser can be helpful,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “Look for products formulated with ingredients like glycolic acid or salicylic acid.” Just be careful not to over-do it. “Over-exfoliating can lead to a compensatory oil hypersecretion,” he says. “In other words, your skin can actually become even more oily than when you started!” To complete the routine, stick to lightweight, oil-free moisturizers, antioxidants serums, and—of course—daily sunscreen.
Dry skin is not very difficult to notice. According to board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman, dry skin appears flakey. “If you see lifted skin—white flecks, usually—you probably have dry skin,” she says. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), dry skin may also appear dull and occasionally feel itchy.
How to care for dry skin: The AAD recommends dry skin types reach for a gentle or creamy cleanser. Steer clear of foaming cleansers, which may be formulated with ingredients that could strip the skin of moisture. While the skin is slightly damp, apply moisturizer formulated with broad-spectrum sunscreen. Reapply moisturizer as needed throughout the day.
Editor’s note: There’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin, and it is worth mentioning. Dry skin (the skin type) is what you deal with year-round. Winter, summer, spring—no matter the season, your skin still looks dry. Dehydrated skin can be a temporary result of exposure to a number of factors, including winter weather, strong cleansers, hard water, and more. Dehydrated skin can affect all skin types. In fact, you may even suffer from dehydrated skin and dry skin at the same time. If your skin looks drier than usual in the winter, for instance, this may be a sign that your skin needs more attention during harsh environmental assaults perhaps with additional coats of moisturizer or protection measures. It may not mean you have a dry skin type! When in doubt, your dermatologist can provide you with a professional assessment.
As Dr. Bhanusali mentioned, combination skin is one of the most common skin types out there. This is often characterized as skin that’s dry in some areas and oily in others. The area of skin that’s typically oily is the T-Zone, while the cheeks are usually where dryness is most prominent.
How to care for combination skin: Dealing with two opposite skin personalities can be a bit tricky, but it’s not impossible! Once you create (and stick to) a skin care routine that addresses both dryness and excess oil, you’re golden. Lucky for you, we did the hard part for you. We share exactly how to care for your combination skin in four easy steps, here!