Friday, September 10, 2010

Hey Baby! What's Your (Skin) Type?

Knowing your skin type is vital if you want to put your best face forward- so why does it remain such a mystery to so many people? Often, we look at symptoms like acne, flakiness or dry patches and make assumptions about our skin type that may not be accurate. Sadly, the fact is, people with dry skin break out and people with oily skin can experience dry patches or flakiness. So how can you tell what your true skin type is? A few simple questions, and a bit of introspection.

1. How does your skin feel immediately after patting it dry after a bath or shower?
  • Normal and combination skin will typically feel clean and comfortable.
  • Oily skin often feels as if it's not clean enough, or may even still feel slightly greasy. Pore generally appear larger on oily skin.
  • Dry skin will feel tight or itchy, may look visibly taut or stretched, and often has dry patches or flakiness. Pores will likely be less visible on dry skin.
2. How soon do you see an oily shine after cleansing your skin?
  • Contrary to popular belief, seeing shine on the skin is NOT in itself a sign of oiliness. It's normal for your skin to produce oil- that's how it protects itself. If you're not noticing the shine until midway through the day (say, lunchtime) then you're probably not truly oily, but rather normal/combination.
  • If you notice oil all over your face within an hour or two of washing, you may be oily.
  • Dry skin may not show oily breakthrough at all, or if it does, it probably won't be until well into the evening.
3. If you could change one thing about your skin, what would it be? What's the one thing that bothers you the most when you look in the mirror?
  • If you think this is a horribly rude question because you're one of the lucky few that simply wouldn't change a thing, then good for you! Protection and prevention should be your main focus. Sunscreen and antioxidants are your best friends, and if you're in your twenties or beyond, look for products with peptides or niacinamide to fend off wrinkles.
  • If you're already concerned with signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, or dark spots, peptides and niacinamide can help you too. Products with alpha or beta hydroxy acids can also help to some degree, but more advanced expression lines and dark spots are most effectively treated with prescription retinol.
  • For those plagued by breakouts, you may want to try a gentle cleanser with salicylic acid. For dry or sensitive skin with breakouts, sulfur or charcoal are good ingredients that generally don't cause the dryness and irritation that salicylic acid can. Since acne is caused by bacteria in the skin, severe cases can be treated by prescription antibiotics. This is also a concern in which prescription retinol can be helpful, so if over the counter options aren't helping, talk to your doctor.
  • Two common mistakes people make when trying to control oil are over-cleansing and skipping moisturizer- creating a vicious cycle. Over-cleansing strips your skin of its natural oil and disrupts its protective barrier, which triggers your skin to pump out even more oil to compensate. This leads to more cleansing to get rid of that oil, and so on... Instead, choose a gentle foaming cleanser and use an oil-free gel or lotion moisturizer. Your skin is smart- it’ll sense the moisture you’re providing and, in time, cut its own oil production back since the excess oil is no longer necessary.
Finally, you need to consider what kind of products you're using. In the years that I've been advising on skincare and makeup, I can't tell you how many people I've seen that are using the wrong products on their skin and are actually causing the problems they complain about. Everything you use on your skin can affect its natural balance- even something like a cleanser that's only on the skin for a few minutes per day. In fact, things you don't directly put onto your skin, like shampoo or hairspray, can make a difference. (If you're going "Huh?" then read this!)

These indicators are tough to describe in writing, but often in cases where the skin is doing confusing things it can be traced back and remedied by changing a step or two in the skincare process. For instance, if you feel tight after cleansing, but have oil peeking through by lunch, you probably have normal/combo skin but are using a cleanser that's too harsh. That's just one is as unique as...well...a finger print, and everything from diet to heredity weighs in.

Armed with this knowledge, analyze your answers to the questions above- average them together and a clear skin type may present itself. As always, if you’re not confident after reading this, feel free to leave questions in the comments (or even message me) and I'd be happy to help!

Good luck!


Phyrra said...

1. Normal and combination skin will typically feel clean and comfortable.
2. I notice oil in some places within a few hours, so I consider my skin combination.
3. I didn't know that sulfer and charcoal were good for sensitive skin, awesom :)

I know my skin is sensitive and combination. It's annoying. If I could change anything I'd probably make it not be sensitive!

Unknown said...

If you want to try something to reduce sensitivity, look for things that help to strengthen the skin's protective barrier. Ingredients classified as skin identical, or NMFs (which stands for Natural Moisturizing Factors) will help to do this- look for ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, triglycerides, and linoleic acid (to name a few- search for NMF on for more options, including natural ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter and squalane.)

Also, I should clarify that sulfur and charcoal are anti-bacterial and disinfecting agents that can be effective in reducing breakouts. They can both be found in spot treatments and I've found them to be MUCH gentler than Salicylic Acid (which actually has given me second degree burns!)

Having said that, sulfur can be an irritant in higher concentrations, so while it may be a better option than Salicylic Acid for blemish treatments on more sensitive skin types, that's about the only thing I'd use it for on sensitive skin.

Katie said...

Hi! I love your blog. I have to say, I must have spent an hour yesterday just sifting through your posts. I have very dry skin on my face. I'm currently using Neutrogena oil free acne wash and I'm sure it's too tough on my skin but I think their gentle cleanser doesn't clean very well. California Baby Calendula cream (which I originally bought for my newborn in July '09) turned out to be the only thing that keeps my skin from flaking like crazy. Do you have any other suggestions?

Unknown said...

So sorry I never replied to you (until now, when you probably won't even see it!) I somehow missed your comment :(

So, yeah, if you haven't already, you need to stop using that Neutrogena Acne wash- it's got Salicylic acid in it, which very well could be causing the flakiness that you're seeing. At very least, it's not helping. The best cleansers I've found for dry skin are Philosophy Purity (the original milky one). It's a little pricier than the Neutrogena, but if you get one of the larger sizes it's actually not that big of a jump per ounce- Neutrogena is around $1.08/oz, Purity ends up being around $1.50 (even cheaper since I often find it on sale.)

I also really like AnneMarie Borlind's Rose Dew cleanser, but I have to take points of because of it's price. Key is, if you're truly dry, you probably are best using a non-lathering cleanser. These two both take of makeup really well, but don't feel greasy when you rinse- which is a tough combo for lotion cleansers.

Given this post, does your skin exhibit all of the symptoms of dryness? Feel free to reply w/ your answers to the questions, or hit the "contact" button to email me privately!

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