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Skin Type

Own Your Skin Type

How many times have you spent money on products only to have them sit on your shelf or end up in the trash because they just didn’t work for you?  Do you have a friend with a perfect complexion who swears by a certain moisturizer, but when you use it, it makes you break out? I would argue that you are using products that were created for someone with a different skin type than you.

What are the different skin types, which one do you have, and what is the best way to care for your skin once you know? 

There is some debate over how many skin types really exist.  Some experts agree that there are 4 while others argue there are 5. 

Still, there are others, like Leslie Baumann, MD, who feel that there are many more than 5.  In her book, The Skin Type Solution, she shares fundamentals of 16 different skin types. 

At the very basic level, whether your skin is oily, dry, sensitive, combination or normal is determined by genetics. 

But it’s not really that simple

Just like everything else with the human body, the condition of your skin depends.  It depends on so many different things including what you eat, do you wash your face, do you drink water, do you live in a dry climate, do you live in a humid climate, what’s your age, or are you in menopause, just to name a few.  You can also have a different skin type in the Summer than you do in the Winter.

So, what are the basic skin types?

There is debate on the true number of skin types.  It’s likely that you will have more than one.  You may also have one skin type in the Summer and another in the Winter. The 5 skin types below will give you a general idea of the skin types that are recognized.

Dry

Causes:

Skin is supple and smooth when it has enough moisture.  

Moisture in your skin comes from natural moisturizing factors like urea, lactate, amino acids, and PCA (pyrrolidone carboxylic acid). It also comes from lipids (fats) like ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.  The lipids help to seal in moisture and protect your skin from foreign invaders. If your skin lacks the appropriate amount of moisture, fine lines become more visible making you appear older than you are. 

Lack of moisture can also cause your skin to become chapped, cracked and it can even tear.  This lack of moisture, better known as dehydration, can happen to any skin type, including oily. Not only does this hurt, but it can also leave you open to infection.

A moisture imbalance in your skin can be caused by many different things.

How to Identify Your Skin Type:

Each skin type possesses its own characteristics that will provide clues for you to figure out which one you have. You can also use an old-school technique called the tissue test to help determine your skin type.

Oily Skin

Oily Skin

Causes

Oily skin is caused by an over production of naturally occurring oils or sebum. Your skin produces oils to help keep it moisturized and to protect it from outside invaders. 

Oily skin produces too much oil.

Genetics, of course, play a role but also hormonal changes like puberty and pregnancy can cause excess sebum production. Stress, diet, weather, some medications, and certain pore-clogging (comedogenic) make-up or bathing products are other culprits. 

Oily skin may develop acne in various forms such as blackheads, white heads, and in severe cases, cysts. 

The good news is that your skin will look plumper and more youthful due to the extra moisture.

Identifying Oily Skin

  • You may have oily skin if you frequently have breakouts after applying moisturizers. 
  • You may also have larger, more visible pores.
  • Sunscreens may be too sticky and heavy feeling.

The Tissue Test for Oily Skin:

  1. wash your face
  2. dry it, and avoid applying any products
  3. Wait at least one hour for your skin to normalize
  4. take a piece of tissue and blot it on your forehead, cheeks, and chin
  5. if you have oily skin, the tissue will stick and you will see oil on it

Taking Care of Your Skin Type

  • If you have oily skin avoid using thick creams. You may still need to keep you skin hydrated though. Oily skin can still get dehydrated.  If you find that your skin is tight, flaky and has fine lines all while you see a visible layer of oil on top, you will need to moisturize.
  • If your skin feels like it needs moisturizer then apply it at least every evening after washing your face.
  • Use lighter serums or gels that contain hyaluronic acid, which is a natural moisturizer found in your skin.  Hyaluronic acid will help  moisturize without the heavy, sticky feeling. 
  • If you have acne, wash your face daily with a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or sulfur (sulfur tends to be less irritating).  These will help diminish the bacteria that causes acne. 
  • Exfoliate with a product that contains glycolic acid as this will help control excess oil production.

Dry Skin

Causes

Skin is dry because it’s not producing enough oil.  Genetics are the primary cause but hormones also play a role.  Your skin will get drier as you age!

Dry skin can also be dehydrated skin.  Dehydration comes from a lack of water.  The top layers of skin are disrupted for various reasons (excess sun exposure, over washing, dry weather, cold weather, or over exfoliation) and they have a difficult time slowing down excess water evaporation.

The outer layer of skin, in conjunction with natural moisturizers and fats, forms a smooth, even barrier.  Dry skin lacks the appropriate quantities of moisturizers and fats, so the outer layer of skin is uneven.  The uneven layer reflects light poorly making your skin appear dull. 

If the top layer of skin is hydrated and smooth, then it reflects light evenly.  An even reflection of light makes your skin appear to glow.

Identifying Dry Skin

  • You may have dry skin if it appears dull and rough.
  • small pores
  • you have visible flakes  
  • Age is also a culprit for dry skin.  The older you are the more likely you will have dry skin.

The Tissue Test for Dry Skin:

  1. wash your face
  2. dry it, and avoid applying any products
  3. Wait at least one hour for your skin to normalize
  4. take a piece of tissue and blot it on your forehead, cheeks, and chin
  5. if you have dry skin, the tissue will not stick and you won’t see any oil it

Taking Care of Your Skin Type

  • The best thing you can do if you have dry skin is to hydrate it. When you apply hydrating creams to dry skin you instantly see plump, radiant skin and fine lines seem to vanish. 
  • Your skin can tolerate thicker, oil-containing moisturizers like creams versus lotions which tend be lighter.
  • Apply your moisturizer while your skin is still damp to help seal in moisture
  • Look for products that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, argan oil, squalane, urea and algae.
  • Wash daily with a gentle cleanser that is free from harsh detergents (those that vigorously sud and foam) which can irritate dry skin.
Dry Flaky

Combination Skin

Causes

Combination skin is characterized by an oily T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and normal to dry cheeks.  The T-zone is oily in combination skin because it contains more oil producing glands than the cheeks.

Your skin may be classified as combination, if it’s dry in the winter and oily in the summer.

Genetics, again, are primarily responsible for this skin type. 

Identifying Combination Skin

  • You may have combination skin if you have an oily T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) and normal to dry cheeks. 
  • The pores on your nose are more visible than those on your cheeks. 
  • You have oily skin in the summer and drier skin in the winter.

The Tissue Test for Combination Skin:

  1. wash your face
  2. dry it, and avoid applying any products
  3. Wait at least one hour for your skin to normalize
  4. take a piece of tissue and blot it on your forehead, cheeks, and chin
  5. if you have combination skin, the tissue will stick to your forehead and chin and you will see oil on it.  The tissue on your cheeks will not stick and you won’t see any oil on it.

Taking Care of Your Skin Type

Caring for combination skin can be a bit tricky. 

  • If your skin is dry in the winter and oily in the summer, you will likely need to alternate products (use products for oily skin in the summer and products for dry skin in the winter). 
  • If you have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, you can apply products for oily skin to the T-zone and products for dry skin to the cheeks. 
  • Combination skin, in general, can tolerate a gentle cleanser, gentle exfoliation, and moisturizers with hyaluronic acid.

Normal Skin

Causes

It’s more appropriate to call it well-balanced skin because it is possible to attain normal skin even if you weren’t born with it. It requires knowing what skin type you have right now and using the right products to balance out your complexion.

Genetics are primarily responsible for this skin type although diet, weather and hormones will also contribute.  

Identifying Normal Skin

  • You may have normal skin if you are neither too oily nor too dry. Your skin is just right for you. 
  • You know you have normal skin if you can tolerate most things without having a reaction.

The Tissue Test for Normal Skin:

  1. wash your face
  2. dry it, and avoid applying any products
  3. Wait at least one hour for your skin to normalize
  4. take a piece of tissue and blot it on your forehead, cheeks, and chin
  5. if you have normal skin the tissue will not stick and you will not see any oil on it

Taking Care of Your Skin Type

  • Normal skin may be the easiest to care for, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything at all. 
  • Your skin doesn’t react to many, if any, ingredients so you have a lot of options.  You will still want to stay away from cleansers with harsh detergents because these can dry out even normal skin. 
  • Exfoliation is also a must for normal skin. This will remove dead skin cells and clean out pores.  You are not immune to the occasional breakout just because you have normal skin.  Exfoliation will also help your products absorb better so you will get the most out of them.
  • You may still need to hydrate your skin.  If it feels tight after washing then you may need a moisturizer. Look for products that contain glycerin as well as hyaluronic acid.

Sensitive Skin

Causes

Sensitive skin is more easily irritated than normal skin. The outer skin barrier is weak, which allows irritants to get into the deeper layers where they cause havoc. Your sensitive skin is more reactive to temperature, the sun, and a lot of skin care ingredients. 

Genetics are key here but there are other factors that can contribute to sensitive skin such as medications and hormones.

Identifying Sensitive Skin

  • You may have sensitive skin if you experience frequent facial redness, stinging, itching, flaking or acne. 
  • Often, if you have sensitive skin you also have dry skin.

The Tissue Test for Sensitive Skin:

The tissue test doesn’t apply to sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin you may also have dry skin, in which case you won’t see any oil on the tissue.

Taking Care of Your Skin Type

  • Avoid any products with harsh detergents. 
  • You may not be able to tolerate any type of exfoliation including using a washcloth.  Your clean hands will be your best tool. 
  • Hydration is still a necessity so products containing hyaluronic acid, which is found naturally in your skin, will help your skin retain moisture. 
  • When using new products test a small amount on your inner forearm first to see if you have any signs of a reaction.  If you don’t have a reaction, then test a small amount of product on the skin behind your ear.  If you are still free from a reaction, then you should be safe to use it on your face.

Bonus: Baumann Skin Types

There are 16 distinct skin types that Dr. Leslie Baumann has identified in her research and experience.

The 16 types have two skin types at their core, oily and dry. 

They are listed below. 

For more information you can purchase her book, The Skin Type Solution.  The book has an in-depth quiz that will help you identify your skin type. 

She also offers product recommendations although some of her recommended products are no longer available.  You can visit the skin type solutions website to get up to date product recommendations.

Oily

Dry

  1. OSPW: Oily, Sensitive, Pigmented, Wrinkled
  2. OSPT: Oily, Sensitive, Pigmented, Tight
  3. OSNW: Oily, Sensitive, Nonpigmented, Wrinkled
  4. OSNT: Oily, Sensitive, Nonpigmented, Tight
  5. ORPW: Oily, Resistant, Pigmented, Wrinkled
  6. ORPT: Oily, Resistant, Pigmented, Tight
  7. ORNW: Oily, Resistant, Nonpigmented, Wrinkled
  8. ORNT: Oily, Resistant, Nonpigmented, Tight
  1. DSPW: Dry, Sensitive, Pigmented, Wrinkled
  2. DSPT: Dry, Sensitive, Pigmented, Tight
  3. DSNW: Dry, Sensitive, Nonpigmented, Wrinkled
  4. DSNT: Dry, Sensitive, Nonpigmented, Tight
  5. DRPW: Dry, Resistant, Pigmented, Wrinkled
  6. DRPT: Dry, Resistant, Pigmented, Tight
  7. DRNW: Dry, Resistant, Nonpigmented, Wrinkled
  8. DRNT: Dry, Resistant, Nonpigmented, Tight

Basic Skin Care No Matter What Type You Have:

  1. Wash your face every day at least once per day and especially before bed
  2. Remove makeup before going to bed (see #1 above)
  3. Avoid using tanning beds
  4. Wear hats and sunglasses when outside
  5. Drink water and/or eat lots of water-containing foods to stay hydrated
  6. Find a good moisturizer that works for your skin type and use it
  7. When in doubt, consult a dermatologist
  8. Last but certainly not least, wear sunscreen everyday

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