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How to Determine Your Skin Type: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you sure you're using the correct cleanser or moisturizer? Should you add a hydrating toner or a clarifying mask to your skincare routine? Maybe you're confused about selecting the best foundation formula. Or you're stuck deciding between a cream or powder blush. Knowing your skin type can help you answer all these questions and help you select the best products and formulas every time. In this blog I am going to describe 5 skin types and let you know how to identify which one describes you. Note: you may not experience every characteristic listed under each skin type. These are just a general description to help you identify which skin type you might have.


Dry Skin generally produces less natural oils that other skin types. It is characterized by:

  • A feeling of tightness

  • Almost invisible pores

  • Dull, rough complexion

  • Red patches

  • Less elastic skin

  • More visible lines


Normal skin is balanced and characterized by:

  • Small, less visible pores

  • Radiant complexion

  • Feels neither tight nor greasy

  • Good elasticity and moisture

  • No severe sensitivity

  • Clear appearance


Combination Skin can vary throughout different seasons of the year and is characterized by:

  • Is typically oily in the t-zone while the cheeks are dry or normal

  • Pores that look larger than normal

  • Shiny skin

  • Blackheads, especially in the t-zone


Oily Skin occurs when sebaceous glands produce excessive amounts of oil and is characterized by:

  • Shiny appearance

  • Prone to breakouts and blackheads

  • Less visible wrinkles

  • Visible, enlarged pores especially on the nose, chin, and forehead

  • Makeup may wear off easily


Sensitive Skin is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as "a sensory reaction trigged by contactors and/or environmental factors". Here are a few characteristics of sensitive skin:

  • Redness

  • Itching

  • Burning

  • Swelling

  • Stinging or burning, especially when applying beauty products

  • Rashes or hives

  • You sunburn easily

  • You're prone to breakouts that cause red bumps or pustules

If you have sensitive skin products that contain fragrances and perfumes may cause irritation. Sensitive skin is prone to developing rashes. You may also experience things like rosacea, eczema, and/or broken capillaries. Sensitive skin that is dry may try to compensate for the lack of moisture by producing extra oils. This can lead to easily clogged pores that cause breakouts.


If you're still not sure which skin type you have, try a wash test. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and then wait approximately 30 minutes before applying any skin care or makeup products. At the end of the 30 minutes see how your skin feels and appears.

  • Does it feel tight and dry or appear to have some flakiness? You probably have dry skin.

  • If your skin feels comfortable and hydrated but not oily you likely have normal skin.

  • Do you see shininess in the t-zone only? Your skin is probably combination.

  • If your skin is shiny all over you likely have oily skin.

  • Is your skin red, itchy, or inflamed? You may have sensitive skin

Make sure to do this when your skin is relatively calm, not immediately after being in the hot sun or cold weather or after an intense workout when your skin is possibly beat red.


You can also add an extra step and try the tissue test. Use blotting sheets to see if you have excess oil on your face and where. Take a blotting sheet and lightly press it over one area of the face. Then hold the sheet up to see if it's soaked up oil from that area. Use a new blotting tissue for each area of the face. If the tissue soaks up oil from every area of the face you probably have oily skin. If the sheets only show oil in the t-zone you likely have combination skin. If you see a minimal amount of oil from every are of the face you mostly likely have normal skin. If there is little to no oil absorbed anywhere on the face you likely have dry skin.


Another way you can determine your skin type and address specific concerns is by visiting a dermatologist.


Lastly, let's talk about dehydrated skin. Dehydrated skin is not a skin type, but a condition, and it can occur with any of the 5 skin types. Dehydrated skin should not be confused with dry skin. With dry skin, water isn't the problem. Dry skin is caused by the skin producing less oils. Whereas dehydrated skin occurs when there's a lack of water in the skin. And all skin types can experience dehydration, even those with oily skin. Dehydrated skin is a temporary condition that can be addressed with appropriate products.

What are the signs of dehydrated skin?

  • Dull skin

  • Sunken eyes or bags under the eyes

  • Fine lines

  • Itching

  • Flaky or Scaly skin


What causes dehydrated skin? Many things can contribute to your skin being dehydrated:

  • Environmental factors such as cold weather, winter, wind, pollution, UV rays, air conditioning

  • Lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, not drinking enough water, travel, taking too hot showers, stress, tobacco, alcohol, or certain medications

  • Cosmetic product factors such as using harsh skin care products, using products not formulated for your skin type, or products that strip or dry the skin


Knowing your skin type will help you customize a skin care routine specifically formulated for your face. It can also empower you to make the best choices when it comes to selecting skin care and makeup products. Need help customizing the perfect skin care routine or curating your makeup collection? Email me to schedule your free consultation.


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