What's Your Skin Type?

Explanation of the different skin types |

I wish determining your skin type was as easy as figuring out your blood type. However, skin is a bit more complicated because your skin type changes as you age and will also change when your environment differs.

When I was in high school, I remember having really oily skin, but now that I'm in my late 20s, my skin has gone dry, dry, dry! Most people also experience drier skin in the winter and oilier skin during the summer. Other external influences, such as air conditioning and heaters, can also affect the way your skin behaves.

For an accurate skin type test, check out Dr. Baumann's book, The Skin Type Solution. (p.s. You don't really have to buy this book. You can quickly take the test while you're in a bookstore, borrow it from your local library, or fill out the questionnaire online.) But if you're too lazy to go to a bookstore or library, or are just too lazy to take the test itself, keep reading. If you already know your skin type, skip to the next section on how to get a good skin care routine.

Generally skin is categorized into the following types:

The Different Types of Skin

OILY Oily skin is just that: skin that gets oily. Oily-skinned people tend to not be easily dried out from products, i.e. foaming cleansers. They also tend to get oily again an hour or so after cleansing. Shiny-looking skin, especially in the middle of the face and on the forehead, as well as larger pores, are characteristics of people with oily skin.

Now, if you have oily skin on the surface but dry skin underneath, read below for more information about dehydrated skin.
DRY/DEHYDRATED Believe it or not, there is a difference between dry and dehydrated skin:


If your skin is dry, it will feel tight after cleansing and even tighter if you don’t moisturize. Extremely dry skin is very uncomfortable and may even flake or itch. Dry skin occurs when you lack lipids in your skin barrier. Therefore, for some people, taking essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s, can remedy the dryness. People with dry skin also need richer moisturizers and gentler, less-stripping cleansers.


Now, it seems like dehydrated skin and dry skin are the same thing, but there are subtle differences. Dry skin is the result of a lack of oil, while dehydrated skin is the result of a lack of water. You can have dry, oily, or any other skin type and still be dehydrated at the same time. So, dehydrated skin is more like a skin condition than a skin type.

Dehydrated skin often feels a bit tight, exaggerating any fine lines. People with dehydrated skin sometimes experience skin that’s oily on the surface but dry underneath. This is usually from using a cleanser that is too stripping, but is easily remedied by stopping the use of harsh products. When your skin is dehydrated, it tries to overcompensate for it by producing more oil, which moisturizes but doesn't hydrate your skin.
COMBINATION Combination skin is where some parts of your skin are oilier and/or drier than other parts. Usually the T-zone is the oily area while the cheeks are dry. Often people with combination skin use two different moisturizers, a lighter one on their T-zone and a richer one on their cheeks.
SENSITIVE, IRRITATED, OR INTOLERANT People with sensitive skin have to be extra careful about what they put on their skin. They could be easily irritated by fragrances, parabens (a.k.a. preservatives), dyes, or other product ingredients. Sensitive skin, which is often thinner, tends to flush and turn red more easily.

However, sensitive skin does not equal acne-prone skin. With sensitive skin, there are specific things your skin will and will not tolerate but that doesn't necessarily mean that products you are sensitive to will break you out. But, of course you can have sensitive skin and acne prone skin at the same time.
NORMAL Saving the best for last! Normal skin is not dry or oily or sensitive. You can even call it a peaches and cream complexion. Pores are very unnoticeable and overall skin condition is pretty awesome. Normal skin is the ideal type of skin that I wish I had, but oh well, I can dream can’t I?!

So there you have it, a very general breakdown of the different skin types! Knowing your skin type will help you make smarter decisions about what products to use on your face. Now that you know your skin type, it's time to learn how to use that information to get the best skin care routine for your face.

Last updated: October 9, 2012

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How to Get the Best Routine for Your Skin

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