POSTED: 28 Jul 2017


The most important thing to do before creating an effective skincare routine is to accurately determine your skin type. It seems like an obvious point. However, the current oversimplification of skin types can be quite confusing and even misleading.

Where to start

You’re probably familiar with the idea of skin types being split into normal, oily, dry or combination. Whilst this is a good place to start, it’s not enough to properly understanding your skin.  Even more so for putting together a good skincare regime.

At City Skin Clinic, we prefer to categorise skin type according to your base. This is followed by major problem then secondary issues. For example, you might have oily skin as your base with acne as your major problem and acne scarring as well as rough texture as your secondary issues. Another example is if you had oily skin with ageing as the major issue and uneven pigmentation as your secondary problem. It’s helpful to think of skin in this way as it allows you to choose the best treatments and skincare products. They should be suited to your underlying skin base and target your problem areas.

How to find out which skin type you have

First things first; remove your makeup, gently cleanse your skin and apply a toner. Wait for 20-30 minutes and look in the mirror to see how your skin behaves. If oil appears throughout the surface of your skin then you probably have oily skin. In addition, people with oily skin will also have slightly thicker skin, a courser texture and enlarged pores. On the other hand, if your skin starts to feel tight and look dry then you have dry skin. If you have combination skin then you will see oil appear over the T-zone area ( the area around the nose, chin and middle of the forehead) whilst skin on the cheeks may appear dry.

What about normal or sensitive skin? In reality, we don’t really think there is such a thing as normal skin. We prefer to think of skin type as a gradient with dry and oily at either end and combination in the middle. It is much easier to think of how far from combination your skin is on either side. Hence, most people will have combination skin but either be a little more towards the oily side or dry side. Thus combination skin is probably the closest there is to normal skin in our definition.

As for sensitive skin, again this is a complex issue. In reality, everyone will experience sensitive skin at some point although some people are more predisposed than others. As sensitisation is dependent on a trigger, it’s better to find out which ingredients cause your skin to feel sensitive and avoid them.  In general, you should avoid anything that can irritate your skin. This includes sun damage, certain chemicals and even high concentration of alcohol in everyday skincare products.

Once, you’ve figured out the base, its time to work out what your major problem is. In general, this is the main ongoing and worsening skin concern for you. It may be acne, ageing or a major pigmentary problem like rosacea. Secondary issues are established skin problems that are not worsening. This may be rough texture, scarring, patchy or uneven pigmentation, enlarged pores or dull appearing skin.

Choosing the right skincare products for your skin type

Now that you’ve worked out your skin type, it’s very easy to decide which products you need. Your base skin type (oily, dry or combination) will establish the essential components of the skin products you need. The main problem will determine the active component of your skincare regime. The secondary issues will require skin-boosting ingredients.

To begin with, all skin types need gentle cleansing, hydration and sun protection. In addition, oily skin will need lightweight water-based non comedogenic formulations. These should hydrate but not strip the skin of its moisture. For dry skin, you will need emollient and intensely hydrating products. If you have combination skin, you need products that can treat the oily T-zone and address the peripheral dry skin.

Main problem areas such as acne or ageing skin will require both specific treatments such as retinoic acid. In addition, advanced treatments like chemical peels for both or anti-ageing injections like Botox and dermal fillers to resurface and rejuvenate the skin. On a day to day basis, one would need to consider skincare products that have active ingredients like lactate in the case of acne or glycolic acid in the case of ageing skin.

Secondary problem areas can similarly be managed with targeted treatments like chemical peels for pigmentation or texture and collagen induction therapy for acne scarring. Day to day skincare products can include hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C and Retinol serums which manage signs of ageing, hydration and uneven pigmentation.

What next?

Well, that’s all there is to find out your skin type. We hope that this classification makes it easier to better understand and look after your skin. Look out for our articles on selecting the correct products for a fuss-free skincare regime.

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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