Skin types are categories used by individuals to explain how their skin is oily, dry, or sensitive. They will learn how to care for it until someone knows what kind of skin they have.
This article discusses the various types of skin, their characteristics, and how to tell a person what kind of skin he or she has. It also provides skin care tips for each type.
The type of skin is determined by how much oil, or sebum, the skin of an individual contains. Sebum is a substance created by the skin to seal in moisture.
Five primary skin types are recognized by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD):
If a person has dry skin, their skin produces less sebum than it needs. These people may notice their skin:
- feels tight or dry, especially after bathing or swimming
- flakes, itches, or cracks
- looks dull, rough, or ashy
If a person has oily skin, their skin produces more sebum than it needs. They may find their skin:
- feels greasy
- looks shiny, especially around the nose and forehead
- has large pores that clog easily
- is prone to pimples or blackheads
Some parts of their skin may be oily in individuals with mixed skin, while others may feel dry. The forehead, nose , and chin, known collectively as the T-zone, are areas vulnerable to oiliness. The cheeks or other areas may feel normal or dry.
Sensitive skin can easily become irritated or inflamed. An individual with this type of skin might notice:
- skin that burns, stings, or itches when applying products
- visible reactions to substances, with bumps, hives, or peeling
Sensitive skin, unlike other skin types, is not defined by how much sebum a person’s skin generates. People with dry or oily skin can have sensitive skin as well, although dryness is most commonly associated with it.
Sensitivity is linked to skin disorders in certain cases, such as eczema or rosacea.
The term normal skin is used by people to describe skin that is not noticeably oily, dry, or sensitive. Without being greasy, this skin form contains enough sebum to keep the skin evenly hydrated.
People with normal skin have few blemishes or even complexions.
How to find your skin type
To determine skin type:
- wash the face with a gentle cleanser
- pat dry with a clean towel
- observe how the skin looks and feels immediately after washing
- take note of how this changes over the next few hours
How to look after your skin
Maintaining the skin clean, hydrated, and covered from UV light is enough for many individuals to keep the skin looking and feeling safe. A simple routine of skin care may involve:
- gently washing the face
- applying moisturizer if the skin feels dry or tight
- using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or above before going outside
At the end of the day, a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser can be used to remove sunscreen and makeup from the face. They also add moisturizer if needed.
They should take more measures to care for their skin if they have serious problems, and see a doctor or dermatologist for more advice.
A very gentle cleanser and a stronger moisturizer than other skin types may be needed by people with dry skin. The AAD suggests that individuals look for products containing the following ingredients:
- humectants, which draw moisture to the skin, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid
- oils and butters that seal in moisture, including jojoba, lanolin, or shea butter
Products containing alcohol, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, or fragrances dry the skin, so it is best to avoid these.
Those with dry skin can need to re-apply moisturizer, particularly after showering, bathing, or hand washing, during the day. Generally, though keeping baths and showers short, it is a good idea to use mild rather than hot water for washing.
A humidifier may help increase moisture in the air during dry weather when people are indoors.
Applying too much moisturizer may often confuse the skin, and it can stop producing the oils it requires to remain hydrated.
Anyone may get acne, but individuals with oily skin are more prone to pimples.
Dermatologists are therefore recommending individuals with oily skin to use non-comedogenic items. This means the ingredients of the product are not going to obstruct the pores and are unlikely to cause breakouts.
To prevent adding oil to the skin, people with oily skin may also wish to use a lighter moisturizer than those with other skin types. An oil-free moisturizer can feel more relaxed during the day.
There are additional ingredients in certain moisturizers that help absorb oil, including:
- starches, such as corn or rice starch
- clays, such as kaolin or bentonite
- silicones, such as dimethicone
Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide oil-free sunscreens can also help minimize oil and the possibility of breakouts.
People with oily skin should avoid harsh, alcohol-containing cleansers and products. Although these can briefly make the oily skin look matte, they dry, causing more oil to be released by the skin. Using water-based makeup rather than oil-based items is also a smart idea.
To absorb excess oil during the day, a person may use blotting sheets. However, a person should wish to talk to a doctor if the oil is excessive.
People with mixed skin should use a gentle cleanser and lightweight or oil-free products to minimize oiliness in the T-zone, taking many of the same measures as people with oily skin.
Individuals should add a more intensive moisturizer to certain areas only for dry patches.
An individual with sensitive skin needs to carefully consider the kind of products they are using on their skin. They can find these tips helpful:
- Using fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products with clear ingredients
- Using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide mineral sunscreens rather than chemical sunscreens such as oxybenzone.
- Try out new products to test for tolerance on a specific area of skin before using them somewhere else.
If an individual has recurrent rashes with no clear cause, they should speak to a doctor about them. They may sometimes indicate an underlying condition.
Can skin type change?
The skin type of an individual varies over their lifespan due to changes in their body.
Many kids under the age of 11 years have normal skin. However, approximately 75 percent of all individuals in the United States aged 11-30 years have acne, according to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. This happens because the sebaceous glands of a person get bigger during puberty and produce more oil.
The skin of a person may be oilier during adolescence than it was during childhood. This persists, often, into adulthood. Other variables that may cause skin type fluctuations include:
- moving to a different climate
- exposure to pollutants and irritants
How skin tone affects skin care
Many aspects of skin care can be measured by how oily, dry, or sensitive the skin is. However, the skin tone of an individual also plays a part.
Using the Fitzpatrick scale, dermatologists measure skin tone, which lists skin tones from light to dark. Where a person falls on the scale, their risk of sunburn and skin cancer is determined.
For all skin tones, but particularly those with light skin, too much exposure to UV light increases the risk of skin cancer. The following traits are identified by the American Cancer Society as risk factors for UV damage:
- light skin
- naturally blond or red hair
- blue or green eyes
People with lighter skin may wish to use or prevent sun exposure with a higher SPF sunscreen.
Although people with lighter skin are considerably more at risk of developing cancer, people with darker skin are more likely to die of skin cancer because of delays in diagnosis and doctors’ lack of understanding.
As a result, with proper skin care and sunscreen, it is also important that individuals with darker skin protect themselves from UV light.
Skin sensitivity and the amount of sebum it creates can determine the skin type of an individual. By observing how it looks and feels after washing, individuals may find their skin type.
Keeping the skin clean, adequately hydrated, and protected from UV light is essential for all skin types. Heavier moisturizers may be needed for people with dryer skin, while those with oily or combination skin may want to use lighter moisturizers and sunscreens that absorb excess sebum.
Skin tone also affects the way an person looks after their skin. It is important to be mindful of any changes in the appearance of the skin, though individuals should also discuss with a doctor any sudden rashes or moles.