Virtually everyone is concerned about skincare, but if you are like some people, you may have questions about your skin, as well as which products make the best choice for your skin. You may also be a bit confused regarding how to determine your skin type. Fortunately, once you understand the different skin types and perform a quick test, it is easy to discover which type you have and how best to care for it on a regular basis.

Skin Basics Simplified

Although there are many different skin colors and tones, there are five basic skin types:

Oily Dry Combination
Normal Problem Skin

Your skin type is essentially determined by the amount of oil produced by your skin. Of course, there are additional determining factors, such as hormonal fluctuations, stress levels, diet, genes, your personal skin care regimen and even the use of medication. For this reason, it is even possible for your skin to go from normal to dry to oily all within a few months. This phenomenon is actually normal, depending on the various aspects listed above.

Determining Your Skin Type

There is a simple way to determine your skin type, and all you need is several pieces of lens cleaning tissue paper or rice paper. When you have acquired these items, you can complete the test by washing your face, patting it dry, and then taking a few pieces of the paper and pressing them on different areas of your face. If you have oily skin, the paper will become translucent from picking up oil from different areas of your skin. You will know this is occurring because the paper will stick. If the paper immediately falls away from your face without picking up any oil, your skin is probably dry. If it only picks up oil from your chin, nose and forehead, you likely have combination skin. For normal skin, the paper will only cling for a second or two.


Normal skin is not too oily and not too dry, and has the following characteristics:

Few or no imperfections A radiant complexion No severe sensitivity Pores that are barely visible

Normal skin can be kept healthy by simply washing it with a mild soap and applying a light moisturizer several times a week. Do not over-moisturize normal skin or you will create an oily or acne prone complexion.


Dry skin is a common skin type, especially among those who live in cold climates. Dry skin characteristics include:

  • Tightness, especially after washing
  • Dullness
  • Ashy tone
  • Rough Texture

Dry skin may also be more prone to wrinkles than oily or normal skin. Throughout life, you may notice that the older you get, the drier your skin becomes. This is usually attributed to hormones, according to most dermatologists. Dry skin often has a tendency towards flaking and reddish patches in those with fair skin, while individuals with olive skin or African-American women may notice a dull or ashy appearance. Regardless of the color of your skin, however, this dull appearance is typically from the build up of dead skin cells.

Special care is required for dry skin. The best products for you to try are creamy moisturizers and cleansers that are specifically made for dry skin. Many people with dry skin are afraid to exfoliate, as they believe this will make the problem worse. However, using a moisturizer weekly followed by a moisturizing toner will have the opposite effect, providing extra moisture to your skin. If you reside in a cold environment, consider adding a humidifier to your bedroom–provided your home does not have a moisture problem–to keep your skin from drying out, particularly throughout winter.

Oily Skin

Oily skin is not as common as the other skin types, and is characterized by the following:

Large Pores Shiny Complexion Blackheads Frequent Acne Breakouts

Fortunately, oily skin may work to your advantage as you age, because oils keep the skin plump, which prevents extra wrinkles from forming. Sometimes, oily skin takes care of itself, as many women who have had oily skin in their teens and 20s find that after age 35, their complexions become a bit drier.

If you have oily skin, always wash your face before you go to bed with a cleanser specifically made for this skin type. You should exfoliate two to three times a week and only use a light moisturizer when necessary. Cosmetics to which moisturizers have been added are not recommended for oily skin, even though they are quite popular on today’s market.

Combination Skin

Many dermatologists state that most women have combination skin, and that this is the most common skin type. It is characterized by the following:

Medium Pores Healthy Color Good Circulation Even Texture Oily T-Zone

The term combination simply means that your forehead, nose and chin–usually referred to as the “T-zone,” are oily, while the rest of your skin is normal or dry.

To properly care for combination skin, your T-zone requires different treatment from that given to the rest of your skin. Try a mild astringent on the T-zone after you have washed your face, and use moisturizer only on the drier parts of your skin. Always avoid heavy moisturizers and cosmetics that contain moisturizers.

Problem Skin

You may also have something referred to as “problem skin,” which typically falls under one of two categories: aging or sun damaged skin and sensitive skin.

Sun-Damaged Skin

Damaged or aging skin often features broken capillaries, a leathery texture and a slack skin tone, particularly around the jawline and cheeks. Although some damage and certain effects of aging cannot be reversed, you may wish to speak to a dermatologist about prescription creams or other options that can minimize the appearance of these problems.

Caring for Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin tends to be delicate and thin. If your skin is easily irritated by cosmetic products or the sun, and it is difficult for you to find moisturizers that do not make your skin itch or produce a rash, you probably have sensitive skin. Finding the best products may be a daunting endeavor, and the wisest course of action is to choose department stores or drugstores that allow you to return products that bother your skin or that allow you to test them before making a purchase. In many cases, cleansing with mild soap and water is the only thing sensitive skin will tolerate. Always “listen” to your skin regarding various products and never continue using something that you find irritating.

Regardless of your skin type, always use sunscreen if you plan to be in direct sunlight for more than 30 minutes a day. Additionally, consider hypoallergenic products if your skin is sensitive, and always be aware of what you are putting on your face. Although nothing can completely prevent the signs of aging, taking proper care of your skin goes a long way toward maintaining a beautiful, radiant complexion throughout your life.

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