What is My Skin Type?

March 10, 2021

Three women -each with a different skin type

You may know that your skin type plays a role in skin care, but unfortunately, most people don’t know their own skin type – or even what the different skin types are. According to Dr. Carmen Julian of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Austin, Texas, “Many people either haven’t identified or have misidentified their skin type, which leads to using the wrong products resulting in a negative outcome. Without proper skin care, people may notice increases in the signs of aging, skin irritation, more frequent breakouts, flare-ups in chronic skin conditions, and other skin health issues. It’s amazing how much better people look and feel after they work with a dermatologist to identify their skin type and adjust their skincare routines to fit their type.” You can learn more about the different skin types in this blog, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Julian or one of the other knowledgeable dermatologists at U.S. Dermatology Partners to learn more.

Skin Type 1 – “Normal” Or Balanced

According to Dr. Julian, “The normal skin type may actually be the rarest, so it’s probably more accurate to call it ‘balanced.’ If you have balanced skin, you should consider yourself lucky. Balanced skin isn’t too oily or too dry. While you may sometimes struggle with dryness or oiliness, it’s generally connected with environmental factors like temperature, humidity, or using a specific product.”

After cleaning and drying the skin and before applying any cosmetics, the normal skin type has the following characteristics:

  • Even complexion
  • Soft, smooth appearance
  • Minimally visible pores
  • No dry or scaly skin patches
  • No oily or shiny areas of skin
  • Little to no product sensitivity

Skin Type 2 – Dry

Dry skin is very common, but it’s not necessarily what people think it is. According to Dr. Julian, “People with dry skin type don’t produce as much sebum oil, as those with balanced or oily skin. Sebum oil is necessary to keep the skin healthy and retain moisture. When the skin doesn’t produce enough oil, people assume their skin will look scaly or flaky. While this may happen, dry skin affects people in a variety of ways. Specifically, dry skin is often more irritated, has an uneven complexion, and may be itchy or inflamed. The impact of dry skin really differs from person to person.  Problems can occur when people try the wrong products to improve their dry skin without guidance, thus resulting in worsening dryness or other adverse reactions.  Finding a good skincare routine for dry skin is very important since this skin type is much more likely to experience sensitivity, and people may be at a higher risk for skin infection or flare-ups in other skin conditions.”

After cleaning and drying skin and before applying any cosmetics, the dry skin type has the following characteristics:

  • Redness, paleness, or generally uneven complexion
  • Skin appears dull or flat
  • Skin may be dry even in areas that are typically oily like the T-Zone (forehead, nose, and chin)
  • Ashy or noticeably dry areas of skin
  • Skin feels taught or doesn’t seem to move naturally
  • Skin may itch or be prone to hives
  • Cracked or broken areas of skin
  • Thickened patches of skin called plaques or tough, callused areas may develop over time
  • Because the skin’s protective, moisture barrier is often insufficient, people with dry skin may be very sensitive to skincare products

Skin Type 3 – Oily

According to Dr. Julian, “People often incorrectly think they fit the oily skin type. All skin should be producing an oil called sebum. Sebum production keeps the skin moisturized and helps to retain that moisture. People who have dry, combination, or balanced skin may think their skin is oily because we’re hyper-aware of the look and feel of our own skin, but having oil on the skin doesn’t necessarily mean you have an oily skin type. If you do have truly oily skin, your skincare routine is all about striking a good balance. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you fail to moisturize oily skin, it will produce even more oil.”

After cleaning and drying the skin and before applying any cosmetics, the oily skin type has the following characteristics:

  • Skin appears shiny
  • Skin feels oily or greasy
  • Can see oil or residue when you use a blotting paper
  • Visibly enlarged pores
  • Skin may look pale in areas that produce more oil
  • Skin can thicken in oily areas
  • The extra-moisturized skin means minimal risk of adverse response to skincare products

Skin Type 4 – Combination

About combination skin, Dr. Julian says, “It can be really challenging to find a good skincare routine for someone with a combination skin type. They may have dry and oily patches on the skin at the same time or fluctuate between the two, but they have the difficulties associated with both of these skin types. Creating personalized skincare routines with a dermatologist is absolutely essential for someone with combination skin.”

After cleaning and drying the skin and before applying any cosmetics, the combination skin type has the following characteristics:

  • Dry and oily patches of skin may be visible simultaneously
  • Fluctuation between dry and oily skin at different times (may be related to environmental factors, changes in skincare routines, or biological shifts)
  • The T-Zone (forehead, nose, chin) tends to be oily and have larger, more visible pores
  • The cheeks and outsides of the face tend to be dryer
  • Skin is sensitive or tends to flare-up in oily or dry areas (treating oiliness leads to excessive dryness and treating dryness leads to excessive oiliness)

Skin Type Sub-Categories

In addition to these four main skin types, some sub-categories may characterize your skin and impact your skincare needs. They’re not really distinct skin types because people who fit into these sub-categories may have any of the four skin types.

Some of the most common skin type sub-categories include:

  • Sensitive skin – Characterized by its hyperreactivity to skincare products and other irritants and environmental factors, people with sensitive skin need to choose products that have few ingredients, contain no perfumes or dyes, and are naturally derived if possible. Before using a new product, people with sensitive skin should test it on a small area to check for an adverse response.
  • Skin of color People with darker skin tones can fall into any skin type. In addition to the skincare recommendations for their skin type, people with darker skin pigmentation may also need to look for and avoid using cosmetics and skincare products that including bleaching agents that may strip color, damaging their complexion.
  • Acne-prone skin Individuals with acne are prone to developing pimples, so they need to use products that are non-comedogenic (won’t cause pimples) to decrease their risk for a breakout.
  • Other chronic skin conditions – In addition to acne, people with chronic skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis should work with a dermatologist to find products to address their skin health concerns while maintaining a generally healthy, beautiful appearance.

Caring for Your Skin

According to Dr. Julian, “Whatever you determine your skin type to be, you need to partner with a professional to create a personalized skincare routine that will help you protect your skin, minimize the signs of aging, and maintain optimal skin health.  The over-the-counter and online market for skin care is inundated with products that boast guaranteed results.  It is important to seek advice from a dermatologist who can guide you to greater skin and keep you from spending money on products that may be harmful.”

No matter what your skin type, your daily skincare routine should include the following simple steps:

  • Step 1 – Use a gentle cleanser to wash your face, removing dirt, oil, cosmetics, and other debris from the skin, at least twice each day.
  • Step 2 – Use personalized products and treatments as recommended for your skin type by a dermatologist. This may include exfoliating, applying deep moisture serums, and other products to help address skin health concerns.
  • Step 3 – Moisturize. Yes, even people with oily or acne-prone skin need to apply moisturizer at least twice a day. To decrease oiliness or the risk of an acne breakout, look for oil-free or non-comedogenic products. People with dry or combination skin may need to use a thicker, cream-based moisturizer.
  • Step 4 – Apply sunscreen or sunblock to protect the skin from daily sun exposure.
  • Step 5 – Maintaining overall health helps keep your skin healthy. If the body isn’t healthy, it will redirect nutrients from the skin, so it’s important to take steps to maintain whole-body health. Specifically, individuals should eat nutritious foods, drink enough water, get plenty of sleep, and manage stress.

Visit U.S. Dermatology Partners

Whether you’re looking for help creating a personalized skincare routine or you’re struggling to manage a specific skin condition, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team is here to help. Get started scheduling your visit with one of our knowledgeable dermatologists by completing our online request form. Once we hear from you, we’ll be in touch to confirm your appointment details.

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