Makeup experts and skin care specialists refer often to various skin types — dry, oily, combination — assuming you know which category you fall under. Your skin care regimen depends on your skin type, but not everyone has a good understanding of their skin. As a result, their skin care plan is more of the hit-or-miss variety.
Know Your Skin Type
Unsure of what skin type you have? See which description fits you best:
Dry skin. “Dry skin can be flaky and easily irritated. It’s more sensitive,” says Linda Franks, MD, director of Gramercy Park Dermatology and clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York. She says if your skin has these qualities and also tends to react to some (or all) of the skin products you have tried, you have dry skin. The extreme version of dry skin is sensitive skin.
Oily skin. The primary test for determining if you have oily skin is when you start to feel some oil on your face. Most people can feel a little oil by late afternoon, but if you feel oil around midday, you have oily skin. Oily skin rarely reacts negatively to skin products like dry, sensitive skin types do. It has slightly better natural sun protection, but is also prone to acne.
Combination skin. If the description of dry skin matches your cheeks, but the description of oily skin matches your “T-zone” (nose and brow area primarily), you have combination skin.
Matching skin care to skin type is important. Dr. Franks notes that there are two commonly used skin care products that just about everyone can steer clear of: toner and too-frequent exfoliation, both of which can strip away the protective layers of your skin. If you have a good skin care regimen, you don’t need either one, although you could plan for a semi-annual exfoliation as seasons change.
Caring for Dry Skin
Dry skin needs babying and lots of tender, loving care. Here are the key components of dry skin care:
Cleanse. Use a gentle cleanser. You should be able to cleanse at night and not have to cleanse again in the morning. “Mild cleansers are best for all skin types,” says Franks, who recommends Purpose, Dove bar soap, or Cetaphil cleanser. These cleansers should easily remove makeup as well as dirt.
Apply retinol. “Stick to a retinol for anti-aging. Retinol can be very good for dry skin,” says Franks. However, not everyone with dry skin can use retinol products due to sensitivity. If irritation appears, the frequency of use can be decreased.
Apply products with hyaluronic acid. “The other thing that can go on underneath a moisturizer is a hyaluronic acid product. That molecule is very hydroscopic — it pulls water in around it. That would be a great augmenting moisturizer for someone with dry skin,” says Franks.
Moisturize. “The stratum corneum, which is the dead skin cell layer that protects the surface of the skin, tends to get easily interrupted with dry skin. You want to try to repair that,” advises Dr. Franks. Look for moisturizers that contain phospholipids, cholesterol, and essential fatty acids. She recommends CeraVe Moisturize in the morning (with an SPF of 30) and more moisturizer before bed, using a thicker cream, such as Olay’s Regenerist.
Proceed with caution. It helps to take your time adding new products to your skin care routine, says Franks. Try them one at a time and wait to see if you get a reaction before adding another new product.
Caring for Oily Skin
If you have oily skin, you’ll have an easier time finding skin care products that won’t irritate, but your challenge is managing the oil:
Cleanse. People with oily skin or acne should wash with a gentle cleanser morning and evening. Franks offers this tip for cleansing properly: Use your fingertips and rub it in for 30 seconds before rinsing.
Use salicylic acid. Apply an alcohol-free salicylic acid product, such as a Stridex pad, or a salicylic acid medicated cleanser on the oily areas of your skin. Do this two or three times a week.
Apply retinol. Retinol products also cut down on oil production and reduce the appearance of large pores. They are a good anti-aging choice for those with oily skin, who are less likely to find them irritating than those with dry skin.
Moisturize. Use an oil-free moisturizer with SPF 30. “One of my favorites is Complete Defense in the Olay line,” says Franks.
Caring for Combination Skin
People with combination skin will follow the same basic routine, but have to make it a balancing act, drawing from skin care routines for both oily and dry skin:
Cleanse. Stick to gentle cleansers. “Do not use a medicated cleanser at all — keep it mild,” says Franks. Once a day should be fine unless you have significant oil in some parts of your face.
Spot-treat with salicylic acid. Apply this to the oilier areas of your face every other day.
Moisturize. Go for oil-free products with SPF 30 and spot-treat the drier areas of your face with richer moisturizer.
Take some time to develop the skin care routine that’s right for your skin type. If you are still unsure of how to care for your complexion, talk to a dermatologist about the products you are using and how they affect your skin. With a little work, you can achieve a healthy glow, no matter what your skin type.