What skin type am I?
Everyone’s skin is different, but knowing your skin type is essential for looking after your skin and getting it at its best. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the massive range of skincare products on the market—particularly Korean skincare where a routine can have up to twelve steps—you can narrow down what to choose if you know whether your skin is oily, dry, combination, sensitive or acne-prone.
One thing I was surprised to discover is that you won’t necessarily have the same skin type for your entire life. Your skin will have tendencies, sure, but as you age and your body and its chemistry changes, you might move from one skin type to another. So if someone told you that you had oily skin when you were 18, and now twenty years later you’re still thinking you’ve got oily skin… well, that might not be the case any more.
I’m going to go through the common skin types and some ways for you to answer the question of ‘what skin type am I?’—as well as give you some advice on how to best take care of your skin, no matter what skin type you have.
The ideal skin type is normal. Some beauty ideals are questionable, like the Asian focus on having a pale complexion, or the Western ideal of a slim, tanned and toned body, but I don’t think anyone could argue that wanting to have a normal skin type is problematic.
It’s really about having balanced skin health: skin that’s soft, smooth and strong, hydrated but not greasy, and free from pimples. Everyone’s skin dream, right?
Very few people have normal skin naturally—if your skin is not flaky or oily and feels balanced without a targeted skincare regime, you’re incredibly lucky. Normal skin can be achieved through a regular skincare routine that’s tailored to your skin type, however, but you’ll have to keep that routine up to keep your skin balanced and normal.
Maintaining normal skin is pretty simple, although it can be thrown out of balance by hormonal changes, unhealthy diet or other factors, so you do still need to take care of it. You should always remove your makeup promptly, and follow that with a basic three step routine of cleansing, gentle toning, and moisturising. You can introduce lightweight anti-aging products as a preventative measure, as even normal skin gets old!
Oily skin and acne-prone skin
Oily skin is very common in younger people, through the teens and into your twenties. Oily skin is caused by excess oil (duh), also known as sebum, and excess oil production is often stimulated by hormonal changes like puberty.
Sebum is produced by the oil or sebaceous glands in your facial skin, and it’s essential to keeping your skin healthy, so you don’t want to get rid of it entirely, but too much of it makes your skin slick and, well, oily. Oily skin can be hard to apply makeup to, or if it does look good when you first apply makeup, will start looking greasy and shiny throughout the day. Even without makeup, people with oily skin may feel self-conscious about how it looks.
Another thing about oily skin is that excess sebum can contribute towards the formation of acne, so people with oily skin may notice more active pimples and breakouts than people of other skin types. If oily skin isn’t properly taken care of and cleansed regularly, sebum can build up and clog pores, creating an environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.
While oily skin may seem like a drag when you’re young, there is one bonus: oily skin stays looking younger for longer, so oily-skinned folks may not get as many wrinkles as their dry-skinned counterparts. There’s always a silver lining!
The best way to maintain and balance oily skin is to cleanse regularly with a gel cleanser that doesn’t deposit more oil on the skin. Astringent toners can help, but must be followed with moisturizer to prevent the oily skin from feeling stripped and producing more oil to compensate.
You probably don’t need to be told that you have dry skin—if your skin is dry, you’ll know. Dry skin feels tight if it isn’t moisturized immediately after washing, and can even have noticeable dry patches whether the skin is patchy, dull-looking and even flaky or scaly. Dry skin is uncomfortable to apply makeup to, and foundation can cling to dry areas and draw more attention to them.
Chronic dry skin can be caused by other skin conditions like eczema, and if your dry patches are itchy or inflamed, you probably want to see a dermatologist. Regular dry skin is more easily cared for, however, with regular applications of rich moisturizers and oils. Careful exfoliation with a gentle scrub or weak acid can also help remove dry, dead skin and improve the appearance of dry skin, but you’ll need to always apply moisturizer or a nourishing oil afterwards.
Dry skin can also be a temporary condition caused by hot, dry weather, excessive exposure to air-conditioning, over-exfoliation of the skin or cleansing with harsh soaps (tip: never wash your face with body soap!)
Most people get a dry skin type after a certain age, especially over fifty, and dry skin tends to form wrinkles and creases more readily—it’s a symptom of the interior structure of the skin breaking down as it ages. Keeping dry skin hydrated is essential, but take care not to irritate it with fragrances or other potential irritants.
Sensitive skin is often called a skin type, but it’s really a condition that can be found in conjunction with either oily or dry skin. People with sensitive skin will notice their skin reacts to many ingredients or products, and can come up red or bumpy, or sting or itch after exposure to heat or rough contact.
Facial skin is thinner and more delicate than skin elsewhere on the body, so sensitivities are often only noticed on the face—and particularly around the eye area where your skin is extra thin.
Often what you might think is sensitive skin is just a valid anti inflammatory reaction by your skin after contact with an irritant. Although you’d hope that skincare companies wouldn’t put irritants in their products, everyone’s skin is different, and ingredients like essential oils and fragrances can cause reactions like these.
Sensitive skin is best cared for with very gentle, basic formulas with few ingredients and no scent. Use emollient moisturizers and avoid exfoliating acids and other active ingredients.
Skin Type Conclusions
No matter your skin type, there are products out there to help care for and balance it—and hopefully get your skin closer to the magical “normal” skin type you’re dreaming of. Knowing the answer to ‘what skin type am I?’, however, is essential before you can start treating it, and hopefully I’ve helped you on your journey there!
About the author: Morgan Ashworth is a New Zealand-based makeup artist and Korean beauty lover. You can find her rambling about all things beauty at Hyacinth Girl.
Those of you with oily skin may want to check our step-by-step guide to Korean skincare for oily skin. Skin type is crucial when choosing stronger agents such as cleansers.