Here’s How to Identify and Care for Your Skin Type

BY Jessica Griffiths · August 14, 2017

woman looking at skin in mirror

Skin care is an art and a science, but don’t be intimidated: this is something we can all learn. The trick to caring for your skin is knowing your skin because understanding means you can find the right products that work for you and combat potential issues without causing more problems.

There are seven basic skin types: normal, oily, dry/dehydrated, combination, acne prone, sensitive and mature. Learn how to identify and care for yours below.

What Is My Skin Type? 

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Normal

How to Tell: You don’t experience many breakouts. Your skin doesn’t tend to react negatively to new products or weather changes. You don’t feel like you need to constantly moisturize or blot oil from your face all day long. Your skin is firm, with minimal fine lines and wrinkles.

Skin Care Tips: Lucky you! With normal skin, you experience almost no sensitivity, dryness or oiliness. Your skin can tolerate most ingredients, meaning you can play hard with beauty products and have tons of fun experimenting with cleansers, moisturizers and masks until you find exactly what works for you.   

Dermstore Recommends: Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil

Oily 

How to Tell: Your skin seems to always be glowing. You’re likely no stranger to blotting sheets or mattifying powders. You might find that makeup and skin care products don’t always stay put like you’d want them to.

Skin Care Tips: With oily skin, shine control is a top concern. Although there are benefits to having oily skin (like fewer wrinkles!), you should avoid ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum and alcohol. Products labeled “non-comedogenic” work great for oily skin as these won’t clog up your pores. Oil-free moisturizers are your best friends (yes, you still need to moisturize!), as are chemical exfoliants and clay masks. Be sure not to over-wash your face, as drying out your pores can cause them to produce even more oil to compensate

Dermstore Recommends: SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque

Dry/Dehydrated

How to Tell: Dryness and dehydration are actually two separate concerns, but they have very similar symptoms. Here’s how to identify them in your skin:

  • Dryness is caused by a lack of oil in the skin. Symptoms include flakiness, sensitivity, itchiness and cracks. It may be caused by lifestyle and environmental factors or a chronic condition (in case of eczema or related conditions).
  • Dehydration is the result of your skin not retaining enough moisture. Your skin may be feel tight, have a papery appearance or show small, fine lines when your skin is pinched together.

Skin Care Tips: To care for dry skin, you’ll want to seal in moisture by applying a rich moisturizer several times each day—especially after washing your hands or bathing. Try to keep the air in your home warm and moist to help heal. Avoid using harsh soaps or products containing citrus oils or lots of fragrance.

If your skin is dehydrated, on the other hand, be sure to look for water-based products, as oil-based products can actually make your skin condition worse. Most important, be sure you’re drinking enough water each day!

Dermstore Recommends: Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

Combination 

How to Tell: If you’re having trouble figuring out what type of skin you have, it’s likely combination. Is your skin dry in certain areas, while oily in others? Combination skin is most easily defined by an oily T-zone (the strip across the forehead and the line down the nose) and dry or normal skin on the rest of the face.

Skin Care Tips: You’ll want to stay away from the same ingredients as with oily and dry skin, such as alcohol-based products. The name of the game with combination skin is balance. Isolate problem areas with spot treatments and use toners or balancing cream to even out the skin.

Dermstore Recommends: PCA Skin Nutrient Toner

Acne Prone

How to Tell: If you get frequent breakouts (or ones that just never seem to go away), you likely have acne-prone skin. This means that your pores tend to clog easily, making you more susceptible to whiteheads, blackheads or pustules than other skin types. You can have oily or dry skin and be prone to acne.

Important Note: Blemishes on your skin might not necessarily be acne. In fact, a common skin concern called rosacea is often known as “adult acne” because it can cause acne-like symptoms. Other symptoms of this condition include flushing, prominent blood vessels, thickened skin and stinging or burning. (If this sounds more like your skin, skip down to the “Sensitive” section instead.)

Skin Care Tips: Use cleansers specifically formulated to treat acne, as well as exfoliants and moisturizers that will help minimize breakouts. Gently cleanse your face to avoid trauma to existing breakouts, and use topical gel to treat and lighten acne scarring. Look for acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, clay, benzoyl peroxide or retinol.

Dermstore Recommends: Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

Sensitive

How to Tell: Sensitive skin might be caused by genetics, allergies or environmental factors. Signs of this skin type include:

  • Skin that flushes easily
  • Frequent rashes and bumps
  • Stinging or burning after using a skin care product
  • Negative reaction to fragrance
  • Patches of dry, flaky, irritated skin

Skin Care Tips: You need to be careful when choosing cosmetics, as you’re more prone to irritation, redness, stinging, burning or acne breakouts. Avoid fragrances and irritants like alcohol or antibacterial ingredients. Look for products with fewer additives, and seek out those with calming, healing or anti-inflammatory properties.

Dermstore Recommends: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

Mature

How to Tell: While not everyone’s skin ages at the same pace, the signs are fairly universal. You might notice a wrinkle here and there or more dryness than in your younger years. For more mature skin, you may notice sagging, dark spots, dullness and dehydration.

Skin Care Tips: Mature skin requires enhanced skin care to tackle past and future damage. There’s no wrong time to create an anti-aging routine with restorative treatments, which can boost collagen, as well as protect against environmental aggressors and cell turnover. 

Dermstore Recommends: Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Mask

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Jessica Griffiths

Jessica Griffiths is a writer and content manager living in Brooklyn. Her essays have been published on The Hairpin and Narratively. She loves many things including puns, pups and police procedurals. She strongly believes there’s no wrong way to ea... Read More >