What’s Your Skin Type?

You’ve heard the buzz about normal, oily, dry, combination, or sensitive skin types. But which one do you have?

It can change over time. For example, younger people are more likely than older folks to have a normal skin type.

What’s the difference? Your type depends on things such as:

  • How much water is in your skin, which affects its comfort and elasticity
  • How oily it is, which affects its softness
  • How sensitive it is

Normal Skin Type

Not too dry and not too oily, normal skin has:

  • No or few imperfections
  • No severe sensitivity
  • Barely visible pores
  • A radiant complexion 

Combination Skin Type

Your skin can be dry or normal in some areas and oily in others, such as the T-zone (nose, forehead, and chin). Many people have this type. It may need slightly different care in different areas.

Combination skin can have:

  • Pores that look larger than normal because they’re more open
  • Blackheads
  • Shiny skin

Dry Skin Type

You may have:

  • Almost invisible pores
  • Dull, rough complexion
  • Red patches
  • Less elastic skin
  • More visible lines

Your skin can crack, peel, or become itchy, irritated, or inflamed. If it’s very dry, it can become rough and scaly, especially on the backs of your hands, arms, and legs.

Dry skin may be caused or made worse by:

  • Your genes
  • Aging or hormonal changes
  • Weather such as wind, sun, or cold
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds
  • Indoor heating
  • Long, hot baths and showers
  • Ingredients in soaps, cosmetics, or cleansers
  • Medications

Use these tips to help your dry skin:

  1. Take shorter showers and baths, no more than once daily.
  2. Use mild, gentle soaps or cleansers. Avoid deodorant soaps.
  3. Don't scrub while bathing or drying.
  4. Smooth on a rich moisturizer right after bathing. Ointments and creams may work better than lotions for dry skin but are often messier. Reapply as needed throughout the day.
  5. Use a humidifier, and don't let indoor temperatures get too hot.
  6. Wear gloves when using cleaning agents, solvents, or household detergents.

Oily Skin Type

You may have:

  • Enlarged pores
  • Dull or shiny, thick complexion
  • Blackheads, pimples, or other blemishes

Continued

Oiliness can change depending upon the time of year or the weather. Things that can cause or worsen it include:

  • Puberty or other hormonal imbalances
  • Stress
  • Heat or too much humidity

To take care of oily skin:

  • Wash it no more than twice a day and after you sweat a lot.
  • Use a gentle cleanser and don't scrub.
  • Don't pick, pop, or squeeze pimples. They'll take longer to heal.
  • Look for the word "noncomedogenic" on skin care products and cosmetics. This means it won’t clog pores.

Sensitive Skin Type

It can show up as:

  • Redness
  •  Itching 
  • Burning
  • Dryness

If your skin is sensitive, try to find out what your triggers are so you can avoid them. There are many possible reasons, but often it's in response to particular skin care products.

Why Does It Matter?

Before you buy skin care products, it’s a good idea to know your skin type and other things that contribute to the look and feel of your skin, like: 

  •   Your skin complexion. Does your skin burn easily, rarely, or never?
  •  Your skin care goals. Are you trying to prevent premature aging? Do you have a skin problem, such as acne or rosacea, or other concerns, such as dark circles under your eyes or fine lines?
  •  Your personal habits. Do you smoke? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? Do you take a daily vitamin? Do you eat a well-balanced diet? All these factors may affect how you should care for your skin.

This information can help you sort through skin care products for those that suit you. If you need help, ask a dermatologist or an aesthetician at a skin care counter for recommendations.

The 6 Basics of Skin Care

No matter what type of skin you have, these tips will keep it looking its best.

  1. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Avoid direct sunlight, and wear a hat and sunglasses.
  3. Don't smoke.
  4. Stay hydrated.
  5. Wash your skin gently but thoroughly every day and never wear makeup to bed.
  6. Moisturize.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 13, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

The National Skin Care Institute: "Skin Types,” "Skin Types: Dry Skin,” "Skin Care."

American Academy of Dermatology: "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin."

AcneNet: "Skin Care for People with Acne."

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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