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How to know what type of skin you have and create your ultimate routine

When it comes to the important elements of self-awareness, we would like to say that knowing your skin type is perhaps one of the most useful pieces of information you can have. Skin typing is a very real and extremely useful thing when it comes to choosing products and creating an effective skin care routine.

Knowing your skin type gives you a better understanding of which products will benefit your skin and which ones may end up doing more harm than good, says board certified dermatologist Aanand Geria, MD. "Most over-the-counter skin care products are not "one size fits all," so knowing your skin type allows you to choose the products and ingredients that best meet your skin's needs and will both treat existing problems and ward off future ones," he explains.

So what exactly are the differences between skin types and how should they be treated differently? Ahead, Geria, along with board certified dermatologists Christina Chung, MD, Hadley King, MD, and Geeta Yadav, MD, weigh in. Plus, they share a super simple way to determine exactly what type of skin you have.

Meet the expert

  • Anand GeriaMD, is a board certified dermatologist based in Verona, New Jersey.
  • Christina ChungMD, is a board-certified dermatologist with the Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia.
  • Hadley KingMD, is a board certified dermatologist based in New York City.
  • Geeta YadavMD, is a board certified dermatologist based in Toronto.

What is skin typing?

"Skin typing is about understanding how your skin naturally exists at any given time," Chung explains. "Everyone has a different biological framework for their skin and is genetically programmed to produce different levels of oil." This is the main criteria that determines your skin type. It's worth mentioning that while skin type is primarily determined by genetics, King says it can also be influenced by other factors. For example, certain medications, age and even the environment/climate can affect it.

The key point here is that each of the different skin types has different needs, and having a better understanding of these and choosing the right products accordingly will leave your complexion looking and feeling beautiful.

How to know what type of skin you have

"Perhaps the biggest mistake people make when determining their skin type is not assessing the skin at its core," says Yadav. For example, just because you have a sudden flare-up doesn't mean you're prone to acne, and just because your skin gets drier in the winter doesn't necessarily mean you have dry skin.

To accurately determine your skin's natural baseline, try this simple technique recommended by experts. Wash your face (with a mild, gentle cleanser), dry it and do not apply any other products. Wait 30 minutes, then evaluate how your skin looks and feels. "If your face looks shiny all over, you probably have oily skin. If it's only shiny on the T-zone, that translates to combination skin. If your skin feels tight and dull, you have dry skin. And if it's very irritated and uncomfortable, you have sensitive skin," says Yadav. Yes, it's that simple.

The different types of skin

Continue reading for more detailed information on five different skin types.

Oily skin

"Oily skin often appears shiny due to excessive oil production," Yadav notes. She adds that excess oil can make pores appear larger and more prominent. (Note: While unwanted shine and oil tend to be concentrated in the T-zone, they can spread across the face in people with oily skin).

When it comes to choosing products, one of the biggest misconceptions is that oily skin doesn't need moisturizing, says Geria. That's totally false: you go to still need to use a moisturizer. The key is to choose the right kind; specifically, opting for non-comedogenic, lightweight, oil-free formulas is your best bet, he says. He adds that foaming cleansers, which effectively remove excess oil, are also good to add to your routine.

Dry skin

Common characteristics of dry skin include a dull appearance, flakiness and even a feeling of tightness or discomfort, Yadav says. The antidote? Adding as much moisture as possible. That means using products that contain a combination of humectants, ingredients that draw water to the skin, as well as emollients, ingredients that help seal, soften and smooth the skin's surface, she says.

Tip: Look for moisturizers in jars, which tend to be richer than those in pump bottles, suggests Chung. And when it comes to cleansers, King advises avoiding soaps; they can strip skin of its natural oils and leave it even drier. Instead, she recommends looking for creamy, soap-free cleansers or cleansing oils, milks or balms.

Mixed skin

As the name suggests, this skin type has some traits of both of the above, with some areas leaning toward oily and others toward dry. Most often, the cheeks and perioral area tend to be dry and the nose and forehead more oily, Chung notes.

It's certainly hard to find the right products for this skin type. Use a mild, gentle cleanser, then use different formulas on different parts of your face. For example, use lighter, oil-free moisturizers on your T-zone and creamier moisturizers on your cheeks, Chung says. "Follow a gentle skincare regimen overall, but be mindful of your skin's needs and adjust your daily routine accordingly, alternating products to give your skin what it needs that day," advises Yadav.

Acne-prone skin

Those with acne-prone skin tend to have a bumpy texture from blackheads and whiteheads and break out easily, Chung says. "You'll also see inflammation of the skin, which goes hand in hand with breakouts," Yadav adds.

There's a bit of overlap between oily and acne-prone types; after all, excess oil is a key contributing factor to pimples and blemishes. So the same rules apply when it comes to choosing lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizers and foaming cleansers. But King says you can also add products with ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, all of which are helpful in preventing and treating acne.

Sensitive skin

According to Geria, people often mistakenly place themselves in this category. Their skin reacts to a strong ingredient ? think of something like glycolic acid or retinol ? and they assume their skin is sensitive; in reality, it's just that it's a strong ingredient that their skin hasn't yet developed a tolerance for, and that can happen to any skin type, he says. If you really have sensitive skin, it will become hot, red, itchy and/or irritated by things like showers, exercise and even gentle skin care products. Those with sensitive skin are also often diagnosed with eczema, rosacea or dermatitis, he adds.

Sticking to the same product criteria as dry skin is a good thing, as there is often overlap between the two (Credit a compromised skin barrier, which can contribute to both dryness and increased sensitivity). But you'll also want to opt for fragrance-free formulas and those that generally have simpler, more minimal ingredient lists; the fewer ingredients, the less likely any of them will irritate.

The last takeaway

Knowing your skin type can be the best way to find products that will really work for you. Even if you think you know what it's like, keep in mind that it can change over time? just because you were fat at 16 doesn't mean you'll still be fat at 36? so it's worth trying the quick DIY technique to reassess the situation.

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Gabriela is the creator of the blog, a platform dedicated to natural cosmetics and skin care. Her blog is an invaluable source of information and advice on how to achieve perfect, glowing skin. Gabriela passionately shares her in-depth knowledge of natural products, emerging trends and practical tips for an effective skincare routine.

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