Skin type is predominantly a genetic trait and generally doesn't change much over your lifetime however, nutritional status, overall health, external factors such as sun damage and aging can cause changes in the integrity of skin making it important to reassess your skin's needs ensuring you use the appropriate products. Using products that don't suit your basic type can cause numerous issues.
There are four key skin types: oily, combination, normal and dry. In addition to the basic types, there are issues which include congestion, sensitivity and dehydration. You will only ever be one skin type but you may have a number of issues. These are not genetic and tend to be the result of diet and lifestyle choices or using products that doesn't suit your skin type. The characteristics of each skin type and issue are listed below. Please remember however, that every skin type is different and if you feel that you don't fit into any of these types or have any of these issues, contact a specialist, who will assist you with a personalized analysis and product prescription.
Oily - producing too much oil
- Large or open pores
- An oily appearance by midday or into the afternoon
- Prone to blackheads, whiteheads and congestion
- Possibly pustules
One of the common issues with oily skin is the use of creams that are too rich. The misconception is that a rich or heavy cream (those including butters and waxes) will have a better moisturising effect. Regardless of the "richness" of a product, if it is chosen to correctly match the skin type, the moisture content and nutritional status will improve.
The other common misconception with oily skin is that not using a moisturiser at all will help reduce oiliness. Oily skins still need nutrition, moisture in the form of water and ingredients that will help to control sebum, the factor that creates "shine". A good moisturiser for oily will do all of these things.
The benefit of oily skin is that those with more oil production will tend to age more gracefully than their drier-skinned counterparts.
Combination skin - the most common type
- Oily T-section or nose/chin and drier cheeks and eye area OR oily T-section and normal nose/chin
- A tendency towards enlarged pores and blackheads on the t- zone.
- Cheeks may feel comfortable in Summer or dry in Winter, depending on the humidity.
Many with combination skin tend to go for richer creams to help moisturise the drier areas but this causes issues such as clogging and breakouts with the oily areas. A light but highly nourishing moisturiser combined with an eye cream is a better option than a rich cream. The other thing that is important is regular but gentle exfoliation to get rid of the dead cells on the surface of the skin. On drier areas this is important to allow mositurisers to penetrate more easily. With the oily areas, it stops the buildup of dead cells in open pores.
Dry - needs more oil
- Never gets shiny - has a matte appearance all over.
- Has very small or invisible pores.
- May also feel tight or uncomfortable.
- Can be prone to fine lines.
Dry skin lacks both sebum and moisture due to insufficient production by the sebaceous glands which reduces the cells ability to hold onto moisture. Usually delicate with small or no obvious pores and quite fine textured. However, due to the lack of moisture and oil, it is likely to show obvious signs of aging sooner than other skin types such as wrinkles and fine lines. There may also be red or flaky patches evident.
First and foremost it is important with dry skin to prevent further drying out. To do this it is important to avoid alcohol based products as they worsen dryness. Daily moisturising is essential. It prevents moisture loss and supplies essential nutrients and oils to keep the cells well nourished. A healthy cell is more likely to hold onto moisture. Avoid foaming cleansers in general and particularly those containing sodium lauryl sulphate as they will disrupt the acid mantle and again reduce moisture holding capacity.
Other tips include drinking enough water and eating plenty of essential fatty acids which are found in nuts & seeds, fish and flax oil.
Normal - Neither oily nor dry
- A smooth and even texture
- Has small to medium pores.
- May also get a little shiny on the T-zone towards late afternoon.
- Occasionally be little dry on the cheeks.
- Have the occasional pimple or blackhead.
Dehydrated - if your skin lacks radiance and feels "tight" it is likely that it is dehydrated. The appearance of fine lines due to loss of elasticity and flexibility are other key signs of dehydration. Moisture evaporates readily through the skin, and if we don't stop this we lose the ability to protect against the outside environment leading to even more moisture loss and in the long term, actual damage due to poor cellular integrity. Check for these signs:
- Fine lines
- A dull complexion
Sensitive - heightened sensitivity and adverse reactions to certain irritants characterizes sensitive skin. Common irritants include detergents, certain product ingredients particularly synthetics and petrochemical ingredients and environmental factors such as heat, sun exposure, cold and wind. There is a strong correlation between dry and sensitive skin. Those with thin or finely textured skin are more prone to sensitivity. Common characteristics of sensitivity include:
- Red or blotchy
- Easily reacts to certain cosmetics
- Stinging or uncomfortable sensations, particularly after cleansing
- Prone to rashes and irritations
- Reddening or burning as a result of sun, heat, cold or wind
- Fine lines, spots or freckles that worsen with age
Congested - congestion is characterised by blocked pores, dull skin, uneven tone, blackheads and whiteheads.