Skincare with a chemist: Skin types
You probably have heard about skin types before, but what are they exactly? In this blog we will discuss how to determine your skin type and which ingredients and products you should look for. Let’s begin.
How to determine your skin type?
1. THE BARE-FACE METHOD
An easy way to determine your skin type is to carefully study your bare skin. You can start by washing your face with a cleanser. Then, gently pat dry with a soft towel and don’t apply any skincare products. After 30 minutes, observe your skin. What does it look like? Does it appear shiny on your cheeks and T-zone? Then you might have oily skin. Or, does your skin feel tight and have flaky areas? Your skin is most likely dry. If you see an unbalanced mix of oiliness and dryness, you likely have combination skin. If you don’t notice and type of particular oiliness or dryness you most probably have normal skin.
2. THE BLOTTING SHEET METHOD
Another way to determine your skin type at home is to press a clean blotting sheet on various parts of your face. Then, hold the sheet up to a light to see how much oil was absorbed. Your skin type will generally be dependent on how much oil is visible, meaning the more oil on the paper, the more likely you have oily skin. If there is little to no oil visible, you most likely have dry skin. If the blotting sheet reveals minimal oil from your forehead and nose, your skin is probably normal or combination.
This one is tricky because there is a pretty good chance that you might feel like everything you are trying out is making you break out. Oily skin is more susceptible to acne because the excess sebum created by our skin clogs our pores, therefore leading to more breakouts. This overproduction even has a scientific name in dermatology, it is called “seborrhea”. Fancy, right?
What to look for : There are a plethora of products you can use to treat acne and/or excessive sebum production . AHAs, BHAs, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, zinc aaaand my personal favorite, retinoids. Ingredients like niacinamide are also amazing for controlling “seborrhea”.
Many people with oily skin think that they cannot use oils, but short chained oils like squalane or oils that are rich in linoleic acid (a type of fatty acid that people with oily skin lack) such as rosehip seed oil can be wonderful to decrease the sebum production.
What to avoid: Usually oily skin has less sensitive properties, therefore it can handle harsher treatments. However this is certainly not to say you should exfoliate your skin constantly, use all the AHAs/BHAs etc. in moderation.
Treating acne and excessive oiliness is not an easy task, it is one that requires a lot of patience. Many studies show that in the long run, lower percentages of acne treatments used with a lower frequency give excessively similar results to higher percentages of acne fighting ingredients used with a higher frequency. Time is your friend here. No need to rush things out because you might end up with a damaged moisture barrier.
In terms of ingredients, it is impossible to say, as everyone’s skin is different. Many people will bring up comedogenicity, however the tests that rate the comedogenicity of the products were done on rabbit ears, so my suggestion would be not to pay too much attention to them. But still, there are some ingredients like coconut oil and its derivatives (for example Caprylic/Capric/Coco Glycerides), vitamin e (Tocopherol) and lubricants such as isocetyl stearate etc might be good to look out for. As mentioned before this is certainly not a comprehensive list because it will be different for everyone.
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In dermatology this type of skin is called euphoric. Joking joking, it is actually called “eudermic”. This means a balanced skin with no excessive sebum production or dryness. People with normal skin usually don’t have that many acne problems, they tend to have a smoother skin type with less sensitivities. However, as a person with normal skin ages, their skin can become dryer.
What to look for: Honestly keep doing what you are doing. A simple regimen with a cleanser, moisturizer and a sunscreen is more than enough. You can throw a serum in there to spice things up.
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Combination skin is usually defined by having an oily T-zone with normal-to-dry cheek area. This type of skin is usually hard to get around, because usually products you might want to use for your T-zone won’t mesh well with your dryer cheeks and vice versa.
What to look for: There is no shame in being a bit extra and applying different types of skincare to different parts of your face. You can use a light weight moisturizer for your T-zone and a heavier, more occlusive formula for the central parts of your face. Also instead of applying acne treatments all over your face you might want to use them more like a spot treatment, otherwise the dryer parts of your skin might hate you.
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‘Dry’ is used to describe a skin type that produces less sebum than normal skin. As a result of the lack of sebum, dry skin lacks the lipids that it needs to retain moisture and build a protective shield against external influences. Dry skin can feel tight and rough and look dull. It can be caused by many things such as genetics, environmental factors and acne treatments. It lacks the natural moisturizing factors, especially urea, amino acids and lactic acid – that help to bind in water. A lack of epidermal lipids such as ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol can also cause dry skin.
What to look for: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, urea, amino acids, plant oils and salicylic acid are amazing ingredients to keep dryness at bay.
What to avoid: Harsh exfoliation, whether it is chemical or physical, can exacerbate the symptoms of dry skin. Therefore AHAs, BHAs and scrubs should be used carefully. Using them once a week is usually more than enough for people with dry skin. But here is an interesting tidbit of information, when used right, exfoliators and retinoids can actually thicken the deeper layers of your skin. Therefore they can actually be used to aid the problems caused by dry skin as well.
Cleansing twice a day can also make your skin dryer. Cleansing only at night to remove your sunscreen and any other dirt that might have accumulated on your skin is enough. In the morning you can just wash your face with water to avoid making your skin dryer. Instead of a foaming or a gel cleanser you can use cleansing oils as your main cleanser.
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EVALUATING SKIN TYPE AND CONDITION
Unlike skin type, skin condition can vary greatly during the course of your life. The many internal and external factors that determine its condition include: climate and pollution, medication, stress, hereditary factors that influence the levels of sebum, sweat and natural moisturising factors that your skin produces as well as the products that you use and the skincare choices that you make.
For example, oily skin and skin that got oilier due to dehydration and a lack of moisture can exhibit similar symptoms, however dehydrated skin issues can be fixed in a manner of months whereas oily skin is usually persistent (unless you go through vigorous acne treatments like accutane). As explained above, hormonal changes and environmental factors can also affect these as well.
Skincare products should be selected to match skin type and address skin condition. That is why it is so important to determine what your skin type is before shopping for skincare.