Knowing what your skin type is, is the holy grail to finding a skincare routine that works for you. So, you say, ‘how do I find out?’. Well I’d like to be able to tell you that it’s as easy as booking in with an expert and saying ‘so what skin type do you think I am?’. It’s not. To make this just a little more difficult, skin types can change for many reasons; over time, with the season, stress levels, hormone levels, age, and diet. The biggest secret is learning all your skin types and being able to continually meet your skin’s needs. So how do we find out?
A study in 2002 concluded that there was no definitive method to be able to ‘measure’ your skin type based on sebum (oil) production! Now in 2019, it is possible to have your skin professionally categorised, although it can cost a small fortune and often requires recurring appointments.
Essentially, the most cost-effective way to learn your skin type is to do it yourself, by matching your skin qualities to the described skin types. Doing it yourself saves you time and money and it won’t matter how many times it changes throughout the year. Below, I have gone through the five most common skin types; dry, oily, normal, sensitive and combination, and listed their characteristics and what you should look for to care for it. It is important to note here that sometimes, your skin won’t fit neatly into one category, sometimes it will fit two or more. In this case, you should go with the one that fits best and keep in mind your other conditions when purchasing skincare. For example, I have dry, sensitive skin. It is therefore important that I still purchase products that are suitable for sensitive skin while I’m trying to increase moisture.
Please keep in mind that this is only general recommendations, if you have any specific conditions, you should definitely consult a specialist!
I hope you find this helpful!
Recommended Routine: Make sure you don’t neglect a routine for dry skin, just choose products that are suitable.
Cleanse once daily: go for a cream or oil-based cleanser that will gently remove dirt and impurities without stripping the skin.
Tone after cleansing: opt for alcohol free and hydrating, nourishing oils including rosehip oil. Press into the skin with warm hands so the active ingredients will be absorbed more deeply.
Moisturise twice daily: you may opt for sunscreen through the day - natural sunscreens are great for this and are often formulated with green tea and rosehip for an extra hit of moisture (bonus!)! At night consider a thick recovery cream, natural is best here; natural emollients like cocoa butter, shea butter and jojoba oil will work wonders!
Exfoliate no more than 3 times per week: avoid chemical peels, these are very drying! Instead, look for a cream based exfoliant with micro beads or finely ground nut shells to remove dead skin cells. Masks are a great way to increase moisture, you might go for a homemade yoghurt, oatmeal and honey mask (there’s heaps of recipes out there!), or you could go for a clay-based mask like Australian Pink Clay which is great for replenishing the skin as well as drawing out impurities.
What else? You also might like to include options like serums or facial oils into your routine depending on how dry your skin gets. Facial oils are a great way to increase moisture under makeup and give you a beautiful, dewy glow. Serums can be awesome to increase the moisture in areas that dry out faster like under eyes.
Ingredients to look for: Glycerine, natural butters including shea & cocoa, coconut oil, jojoba oil, borage oil, avocado oil, rosehip oil, aloe vera.
Ingredients to AVOID: All alcohols, synthetic fragrances, sulfates and retinoids
Characterised by: Oily skin is usually characterised by an oily ‘look’ to your skin, enlarged pores, breakouts, black and white heads.
Recommended Routine: Seeing as oily skin is a result of the skin over producing sebum, your routine needs to restore balance to the oil production of your skin. Don’t avoid oils, some can be beneficial to restoring balance, also be careful not to over dry the skin as this can lead to more excessive oil production!
Cleanse twice daily; avoid using straight soap or foam cleansers. Oil based and milk cleansers work best, you need to gently remove the dirt, impurities and excess oil, not strip your skin.
Tone following cleansing; avoid alcohol based, instead use something that will purify the pores, lemon myrtle, aloe vera and quandong extract are great for this!
Moisturising can be tricky, your skin will still need some moisture but emollients can be uncomfortable. You could use rosewater here to help hydrate the skin without clogging the pores, make sure you still use sunscreen as necessary, natural sunscreens often use green tea extract which can help tone the skin and reduce the size of pores. Exfoliate 2-3 times per week; avoid chemical exfoliants; these are drying and will cause your skin to over-produce sebum. Go for a fine physical exfoliant such as walnut shells or micro beads.
Masks can be useful to help reduce the size of pores and extract excess oils, it is best to go for clay-based masks (bentonite, kaolin and green and pink French clays) that have been mixed with oils including coconut oil, lemon oil and aloe vera, these will help balance the oil production in the skin.
What else? You also might like to consider using tea tree oil as spot treatment, just dip a cotton swab into the oil and dab onto the affected area. Remember it is only a spot treatment, no need to apply to the whole face!
Ingredients to look for: Vitamins B & C, bentonite clay, kaolin clay, glycerine, tea tree oil, rose geranium oil, lemon oil, coconut oil, aloe vera.
Ingredients to AVOID: Alcohols, synthetic fragrances sulfates, retinoids and mineral oils.
Characterised by: Normal skin is the goal! It is characterised by few or no imperfections, no severe sensitivity, pores barely visible and predominantly radiant complexion
Recommended Routine: Routines for normal skin can depend on other factors like occupation or time availability, basically though you can go with whatever you see fit!
Cleanse 1-2 times daily; oil based, milk or cream cleanser is best.
Tone following cleansing; always avoid alcohol based, nourish with natural oils and extracts.
Moisturise as necessary and always use sunscreen when applicable.
Exfoliate 2-3 times per week to maintain and encourage cell production.
A mask might be helpful for extraction of excess oils or dirt or to replenish the skin and maintain a glowy, radiant appearance.
Ingredients to look for: Natural ingredients will nourish skin the best, always look for natural!
Ingredients to AVOID: Alcohols, synthetic fragrances and sulfates
Characterised by: Sensitivities can appear in various ways, redness, itching, burning or dryness. If these occur following the use of any product, remove immediately! Follow with something you know agrees with your skin to soothe it.
Recommended Routine: When caring for sensitive skin, it is important to maintain a routine with products that agree with your skin. If any product results in any of the above symptoms, remove immediately and follow with something you’re sure agrees with it! It is also a good idea to do a patch test when trying new products for sensitive skin.
Cleanse once daily; opt for milk, cream or oil-based cleansers are best.
Tone following cleansing; always avoid alcohol based, go for something natural that will purify the pores without causing irritation; lemon myrtle can be good for this. Moisturise as necessary; choose a moisturiser that will nourish and hydrate your skin, rosehip oil, avocado oil and glycerine are good ingredients to keep an eye out for! Natural sunscreens with green tea and rosehip oil are a good option for sun protection.
Exfoliate no more than twice per week, and avoid chemical peels; these often aggravate sensitive skin and can take some time to recover from. Try and find something that has physical exfoliants such as walnut shells, apricot shells or micro beads. A cream based with balancing oils would also be recommended, lime is great for this!
A mask wouldn’t be recommended more than once per week; opt for a gentle, clay-based mask or homemade. Kaolin and Australian pink clay are two of the mildest clays available, they can be great for soothing irritated skin. If you feel your skin becoming irritated when you have a mask on, remember you don’t HAVE to wait for it to set hard, it’s perfectly fine to remove it while it’s still tacky and you will still reap the benefits without drying out the skin completely.
What else? Avoid using any spot treatments, if you feel like you need to, opt for something natural like tea tree.
Ingredients to look for: Coconut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, aloe vera, glycerine, green tea extract.
Ingredients to AVOID: Alcohols, synthetic fragrances, sulfates, retinoids, harsh cleansers and scrubs, high concentrations of essential oils, high concentrations of soap.
Characterised by: Combination skin is usually characters by an oily or ‘shiny’ t-zone (forehead nose, chin), areas of normal or dry skin and areas of enlarged pores.
Recommended Routine: When caring for combination skin, you will find that you need to find the right balance of products between those used for dry and oily skin types. Sometimes it may be necessary to use separate products in the t-zone areas.
Cleanse twice daily; avoid harsh soap or foaming cleansers, instead go for oil or cream based.
Tone following cleansing; avoid alcohol based opt for something contain lemon myrtle which will help to purify the pores without stripping the skin.
Moisturise as necessary; use your moisturiser sparingly over your t-zone. It might beneficial to alternate between an emulsified moisturiser and a hydrosol (e.g. rosewater).
Exfoliate 2-3 times per week; avoid chemical peels, opt for cream based with physical exfoliant and work gently. A product with lime or patchouli would be perfect here to help balance the skin.
When using masks, you might find it beneficial to use a French pink clay on your t-zone and a white (kaolin) clay mask for the rest of your face.
What else? Serums for under the eyes and isolated areas of dryness may be beneficial to you.
Ingredients to look for: Coconut oil, aloe vera, glycerine, rose geranium oil, lemon oil, vitamin E, cucumber extract
Ingredients to AVOID: Alcohols, synthetic fragrances, sulfates, retinoids, mineral oils, harsh cleansers and scrubs
Disclaimer: this article is only intended to assist working out your skin type for everyday routines and convenience when shopping for skincare. This will not be useful if you have been diagnosed with any specific skin condition. In this instance we advise that you seek out the appropriate help.
Sang, Y. W., K. J. Soo, H. A. In & P. C. Kyoung. 2002. “Evaluation of facial skin type by sebum secretion: Discrepancies between subjective descriptions and sebum secretion”. Skin Research & Technology. vol. 8, iss. 3, pp. 168-172.