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Understanding Your Skin Type – A Complete Guide

Taking care of your skin is very important – after all, it’s your body’s largest organ, protecting you from the outside elements. However, did you know that not everyone has the same skin type? In fact, there are five different skin types, each with their own behaviors and sensitivities.

Knowing which skin type you have can help you find the best products for your skin, and it can also help you avoid products that could potentially be harmful for you.




girl normal skin in field

Most people have normal skin, which is characterized by an absence of excessive dryness or oil, as well as a lack of sensitivity. Those who have normal skin don’t need to spend as much time caring for it, but that doesn’t mean you should completely neglect your skin if you have this skin type.

You should always be careful of what you put on your skin to avoid developing allergies or causing long-term damage, even if your skin can handle it in the short run.


Since most people have normal skin, there are no specific causes of this skin type. Those who have normal skin likely have it because it runs in their family and because their skin has developed a resilience over time. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that those with normal skin can still develop skin conditions, such as acne.


  • The complexion of someone with normal skin is naturally radiant, and pores are very small and difficult to see
  • Normal skin is naturally resilient and can handle the application of stronger skincare products that other skin types cannot
  • This skin type is not very prone to developing acne or other imperfections, although it is still very possible
  • Normal skin does not have any severe allergies

If you’ve rarely thought about your skincare routine and tend not to struggle with skin problems, you likely have normal skin. Normal skin feels plump to the touch and looks very radiant. The pores are small and do not produce too much oil. There is also no peeling or flaking and minimal redness.

Although you may get the odd pimple here and there if you suffer from this skin type, it is very unlikely that you would develop an ongoing acne problem.


You Should

Wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice per day to get rid of an oil, dirt, and makeup on your face

Wear a sunscreen (or makeup that contains SPF) to prevent sunburns, which can lead to spots and aging

Use a light moisturizer in the winter if your skin starts to feel taut or uncomfortable. Many people with normal skin even opt to use moisturizer throughout the year as a preventative measure

Use an acne spot treatment to get rid of any pimples that may appear. Most people with normal skin will respond well to benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, so try both to see which works better for you. You can also use a gentle mask to get rid of blackheads and clogged pores if they do occur

Use a gentle eye cream or other anti-aging treatment to prevent fine lines and wrinkles

You Should NOT

Switch between skincare products too frequently, or layer a variety of different products together. This can lead to irritation and allergies

Ignore any problems that do occur with your skin. Since your skin is generally good, it should be easy to treat them right away, but if left unmanaged, small things can become much more concerning

Go to bed without washing your face or taking your makeup off. This can lead to clogged pores even for those who have normal skin

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girl with skin issues

Those who have sensitive skin experience very unique problems with their skin that require a detailed and specific skin regimen to combat. Sensitive skin is highly reactive to new products or other irritations in the environment, and it is quite delicate and easily damaged.

Sensitive skin is also more likely to react to factors like stress and weather. Those who have sensitive skin may also experience some of the problems exhibited by those with dry or oily skin as well, so you should take this into consideration when putting together your skincare regime.

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One of the biggest causes of sensitive skin is the environment. For example, those who spend too much time in extreme heat or cold may develop sensitive skin over time. Exposure to chemicals, allergens, and irritants in your environment, in the foods you eat, or in the products you use may also contribute to sensitive skin.

Sensitive skin is one of the only skin types that can develop later in life, because it can be directly related to other factors in your environment.

Your genes can also affect whether or not your skin is sensitive. If your family members have sensitive skin or are prone to skin reactions, you may be more likely to develop sensitive skin. If you have a skin disorder like exzema or rosacea, you will also be more likely to have sensitive skin and be prone to allergic reactions.​


  • Sensitive skin is very easily irritated. If you try a new product on your face or are exposed to a new element in your daily routine, you may experience redness, acne, dryness, or other skin problems
  • Sensitive skin burns quickly, which can be painful and uncomfortable
  • Sensitive skin types are prone to large acne breakouts and scarring
  • Even when the skin is not irritated, sensitive skin types often flush easier and stay red for longer than those who do not have sensitive skin

It can be difficult to determine if you have sensitive skin, because all other skin types can still experience negative reactions to products or changes in their environment. However, sensitive skin types will react very quickly and intensely to any sort of irritant.

They often are very flushed and are more prone to developing acne or dry, flaky patches, depending on whether they are dry or oily. These reactions occur frequently and when they do occur, they are much more prominent and painful than they would be for someone without sensitive skin.


You Should

Cleanse your face very gently twice per day. Use a cleanser that does not contain any fragrances or harsh chemicals and is designed specifically for sensitive skin. Take extra care to remove all makeup and dirt before you go to bed. You should also be sure to wash your face after exercising

Use a gentle moisturizer to keep your skin supple and prevent dryness and flaking

Wear a facial sunscreen or makeup with SPF every day. Be sure the SPF is designed specifically for sensitive skin

Test new products on a small patch of skin before applying them to your whole face to ensure that they will not cause a large reaction

Throw out your makeup when it gets old or if it starts to look or smell “off” in any way

Maintain a healthy diet and drink lots of water. If you consume too many foods that are greasy or overly processed, it may irritate your skin

Try to avoid excess stress and get enough sleep every night. Too much stress can irritate sensitive skin

You Should NOT

Use products that contain fragrances, alcohols, anti-bacterial solutions, or retinoids

Try new products all over your face without doing a small patch test first

Use harsh household or cleaning products, which can be extremely irritating, even without direct contact to the skin


girl with oily skin

If you have oily skin, you’re likely already aware of your skin type – oily skin tends to need a high level of maintenance and can be prone to severe acne breakouts. Those who have oily skin tend to be afraid of using nourishing skin products like moisturizers or face oils, fearing that these products will exacerbate their skin problems.

However, it’s important for those who have oily skin to still maintain a good skin care routine that uses lightweight and gentle products.


Oily skin has a variety of causes. Most people who have oily skin inherit it from their families, as the oversecretion of oil can be genetic. Oily skin can also be caused by stress, which encourages the glands beneath the skin to produce higher levels of sebum.

Humid or hot weather can exacerbate oily skin problems, because the skin produces excess oil to try to cool down. Eating an excess amount of oily or greasy foods can also have a negative effect on those with oily skin types, although it’s unlikely that this would cause oily skin on its own.


  • Oily skin generally feels slightly moist or even slick to the touch. Those with oily skin will often feel sweaty and uncomfortable, particularly in hot weather.
  • Oily skin looks shiny all over the face, particularly on areas like the forehead, nose, and chin, where oil tends to gather.
  • Those with oily skin tend to have large pores, and their skin will feel and look slightly textured.
  • Oily skin tends to be prone to breakouts, and blackheads are common on areas like the nose, chin, and forehead. This is because the pores clog very easily.

Oily skin is characterized by an extreme level of oil production all over the face and body. In addition to excess oil and breakouts on the face, those with oily skin often experience breakouts on other areas of the body, such as the chest and back.

Oily skin usually looks very textured and uneven due to the prominence of acne and large pores on the face. Truly oily skin will also produce a consistent layer of sebum that is not easily removed by washing the face. Even if the skin appears clear right after cleansing, the oil will return within an hour or two.


You Should

Wash your face twice a day with a strong cleanser. The cleanser should contain an anti-acne ingredient that works for you, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These products have drying properties and will prevent breakouts

Use a spot treatment on breakouts when they occur. This will dry out the pimple and protect the bacteria from spreading

Use a mask to get rid of any blackheads and reduce the size of your pores. There are many popular and affordable masks that are designed specifically for oily skin

Use a very lightweight moisturizer. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizers are still important for those with oily skin, because they balance out the level of sebum that your pores produce and improve the overall quality of your skin. Just be sure to use a very light layer

Use blotting papers throughout the day to get rid of excess oil

You Should NOT

Over – cleanse your face, as this can lead to irritation and strip your skin of the natural oils that it needs to stay healthy. While cleansing is very important, too much of a good thing can lead to negative results.

Use makeup products that contain oil. Before purchasing any makeup products, be sure to read the label and avoid any oils. Water-based products tend to be the most effective for those with oily skin

Touch your face often. This can trigger your skin to produce more oil and make breakouts even worse


dry skin type vs oily skin type

Dryness in the skin is usually thought to be a reaction to cold or dry weather, but in fact, many people suffer from dry skin that is not a result of their environment, but is just their skin type. Those with the dry skin type will notice that their skin has a rough texture and doesn’t have much elasticity or flexibility.

They also may notice flaking or cracking that can be exacerbated by cold weather or harsh skin products. If you have dry skin, you may believe that you just have to moisturize constantly, but caring for dry skin is actually about finding a balance that encourages your skin to produce more healthy oils and reduce painful flaking and peeling.


Those with dry skin have pores that don’t produce much sebum, which is an oil that the body naturally secretes. A good balance of sebum on the skin will prevent it from feeling tight, and will prevent the skin cells from flaking or cracking.

Dry skin is also exacerbated by cold and dry weather, so those with this skin type may find that they feel particularly uncomfortable in the winter.​


  • The biggest symptom of dry skin is a consistent feeling of tightness on the face, as well as redness, flaking, and irritation on the skin
  • When the weather is very dry or the skin is particularly irritated, those with this skin type will experience peeling or cracking in some areas
  • The skin feels rough and taut to the touch and has very small pores
  • As those with this skin type age, they will notice that any lines that develop are quite prominent

Those who have dry skin struggle most with texture. This skin type does not have the elasticity that other skin types have, so it can look dull and feel very rough and taut if it isn’t properly taken care of.

When this skin type is irritated, patches of skin will start to flake and peel because the body is not producing the oil that is necessary to keep it healthy.

In particular, flaking, cracking, and peeling may occur after using harsh face products or washing the face. If you experience a cold or other illness, that can also exaggerate the symptoms of this skin type.​


It is important to be extremely gentle with dry skin, as it is easily irritated and can be very painful to manage.​

You Should

Wash your skin with a very gentle cleanser before you go to bed. Opt for something that has minimal fragrance or other added ingredients, particularly benzoyl peroxide or other anti-acne treatments, which can be drying.

Moisturize daily. Look for moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, which draws in water and oil to the skin.

Apply a small amount of a natural oil (such as rosehip oil) to your skin periodically to soothe it and reduce the feeling of tightness that comes with dry skin.

If you are concerned about the effects of aging, add a retinol treatment to your skincare routine, which increases cell turnover.

Purchase a humidifier for your home if you live in a very dry climate. This will make your space much more comfortable.

You Should NOT

Wash your skin excessively, as this can irritate it and cause peeling and cracking

Take long, hot showers or wash your skin with hot water. The heat can dry your skin out even more

Use benzoyl peroxide or other acne treatments that are drying

Try out too many new skincare products at once. This may result in irritation that can take a long time to fully recover from

Use products that are heavily fragranced or contain alcohols, which can be drying


skin condition area lifting

Combination skin is exactly what it sounds like – it is a combination of oily and dry skin symptoms. Those who have combination skin often believe they have another skin type, because of their symptoms. If you find that you only get oily on your T-zone (forehead, nose, chin and area circling the mouth) but experience normal to dry skin everywhere else on your face, you likely have combination skin.


Generally, combination skin is almost always caused by genetics. However, it can also sometimes be caused by your environment or the products you are using on your skin. For example, if you use acne products that are extremely drying on your T-zone, this can actually encourage the skin to produce more oil, which can cause combination skin.


  • Combination skin mimics the characteristics of oily skin in some areas and dry skin in others. Often, those with combination skin experience acne or an over-production of oil in the T-zone and dry patches and flakiness everywhere else on the face, but symptoms can vary from person to person
  • Combination skin tends to be highly reactive to environmental factors, such as the products used on it, the weather, stress, and the food you eat. If you have combination skin, you may feel like your skin type changes on a regular basis


You Should

Wash your face twice per day with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and excess oil from the skin

Eat a healthy diet that contains essential fatty acids, which help the skin feel plumper and prevents your cheeks from drying out

Protect your skin from the sun with SPF. Sun damage can worsen the symptoms of combination skin

Use a gentle moisturizer that is designed specifically to balance out combination skin

You Should NOT

Use heavy – duty makeup products or leave your makeup on overnight. Heavy makeup can clog the oily parts of your pores

Use cleansers or skincare products that are overly drying or contain harsh chemicals. These can make the dry parts of your skin drier while increasing the likelihood of acne on other parts of your face

Overconsume greasy or fatty foods, as this can make the contrast between the different areas of your skin worse


No matter what skin type you have, you can easily care for your skin. By knowing your skin type, you can develop a skin care regime that directly addresses your biggest problems and helps you feel great and look completely radiant.

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