If you’ve ever shopped for skincare products, then you’re already familiar with the seemingly endless options, each one carefully formulated for a very specific skin type. As overwhelming as this can be, it’s important to choose skincare that’s designed to take care of your skin properly, and that includes understanding exactly what the different skin types are, and where yours falls along the spectrum.
The funny thing is, while most of us have a pretty good idea of what we think our skin type is – most of us are also off base, at least a little. Skin type is more complex than a simple oily or dry. Let’s take a quick look at exactly how many different skin types there are, and what plays a role in determining yours.
What Determines Skin Type?
One of the reasons it’s difficult to understand skin type is because our skin is constantly changing. You might have what’s defined as oily or dry skin, but there are variances that occur due to both internal and external factors that bring about subtle changes.
There are a number of factors that determine skin type, and why it changes. Genetics do play a part, but there are other influences that can change what mother nature handed you.
Skin changes naturally as we age, with hormones playing a major role in bringing about these changes. Maybe you remember as an adolescent when you first saw a glaring red pimple on the tip of your chin, or that time when you noticed your skin suddenly felt a little patchier than normal – all thanks to hormones.
The hormone fluctuations brought on by puberty, pregnancy/childbirth, hormonal birth control, menopause, and just the normal shifts that occur through the years all influence skin type.
Environmental factors also play a role. If you work somewhere with dry air, you might notice that moisture tends to get sucked from your skin by the end of the day. If you work around chemicals or spend time in an area that’s high in allergens, you might find your skin becomes more sensitive.
Understanding skin type changes over time is important. Noticing, and acknowledging, these subtle changes help you better care for and protect your skin.
The 5 Skin Types Explained
So, now to the real question at hand. How many skin types are there, and what are the differences? There are essentially 5 skin types. Here’s a quick breakdown of each.
Normal Skin: Normal skin might seem like it would be the most common skin type, but it’s also hard to define because what we all think of as “normal” is a bit subjective. What seems normal to you, might seem dry or oily to the next. Generally speaking, those who have normal skin wouldn’t really describe their skin as particularly oily or dry, and when skin issues do arise – like the occasional blemish or rough patch – it tends to resolve fairly easily.
The telltale signs of normal skin are pores that are not enlarged, inflamed, or otherwise overly visible. Skin tone is for the most part even, with no red or rough patches interfering with the texture. Normal skin doesn’t exhibit the shine caused by excessive oiliness, or the dry, flakiness brought on the lack of skin oils in dry skin.
Oily Skin: Everyone’s skin secretes natural oils that both protect the skin and keep it moisturized. Without the natural production of such oils, we would all be walking around looking like lizards. For people with oily skin, oil glands are more active, producing more oil than what the skin needs to maintain a healthy balance.
The oil these glands produce is known as sebum, and it moves from just under the skin where it’s produced, up into the pores until it reaches the surface of the skin. When too much sebum is present, the pores appear large due to inflammation and the increased amount of oil they’re holding. Oily skin also has a persistent shine that resurfaces throughout the day, despite your best blotting efforts.
A main problem oily skin has, in addition to the shine and slickness, is that many products, including skincare and cosmetics, seem to only encourage breakouts.
Dry Skin: On the opposite end of the spectrum from oily skin is dry skin. The hormonal changes that bring about an increase in oil production take a shift over time and slowly cause the oil glands to slow down. Environmental factors can also contribute to dry skin.
Dry skin may appear flakey. If you lightly brush your fingers across your forehead, you might notice a few dead skin cells shedding. Dry skin can also appear patchy, flat, and even a little grey. Fine lines are also more noticeable with dry skin because the skin’s oils aren’t plumping them up or preventing cosmetics from seeping into them. Dead skin cells might also accumulate in fine lines, making them more noticeable.
Combination Skin: People with combination skin fall outside of the definition of normal skin and tend to fluctuate between the extremes of oily and dry. The “T zone” with oiliness appearing over the forehead, nose, and chin, and then sometimes dry skin in other areas is the classic defining characteristic of combination skin.
However, the T zone isn’t the only sign. You might have combination skin if your skin type changes seasonally, such as becoming oilier in the summer and dryer in the winter, or if you experience somewhat extreme fluctuations due to hormones or environmental factors.
Sensitive Skin: Finally, we come to sensitive skin. Sensitive skin can actually show any of the characteristics of the skin types listed above, but it requires special care because it’s easily irritated by-products and the environment.
Skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and contact dermatitis are common with sensitive skin. This skin may become red, dry, or itchy when it comes in contact with certain irritants – which can sometimes be something as seemingly benign as water.
Know Your Type to Take Care of Your Skin
Knowing your skin type is essential to choosing the right skincare products and cosmetics to keep your skin healthy, supple, and glowing. To get started determining your skin type and what products are best for your unique skin care concerns, take out Skin Care Quiz. Whatever skin type you have, make sure you choose products that are natural and gentle to protect your skin and keep it healthy now and into the future.