Does caring for your skin feel like a losing battle, no matter what you try? Determining your skin type may be the first step toward ending your skin care struggles once and for all. Each of the five basic skin types—normal, dry, oily, sensitive, and combination—has unique characteristics and needs.
Understanding how to properly care for your skin type is the first step in building the perfect skincare routine that will make your skin look and feel its best.
Normal skin is balanced, making it the “Goldilocks” of skin types. It's neither too oily nor too dry, nor is it not overly sensitive or prone to redness, breakouts, or blemishes. You may have normal skin if: Your skin has a smooth texture and uniform complexion all year round, whatever the weather. Pimples? Not a problem for you. You also wash your face with whatever soap is available without thinking twice. (Who needs a fancy face cleanser, anyway?) Read on to page 6 for how to care for this skin type.
Dry skin produces less sebum, or natural oils, than other skin types. As a result, it tends to feel tight, especially after cleansing, and it often has a dull or flaky appearance. Because dry skin has less of a protective moisture barrier, it can also become itchy or easily irritated. Fine lines and wrinkles are also more visible due to moisture loss. You may have dry skin if: Your skin always feels slightly rough, and moisturizers never seem to penetrate deep enough to make a difference. See page 7 for how to care for this skin type.
Oily skin is the result of overactive oil glands producing an excess of sebum. Skin often appears shiny and greasy even with frequent cleansing, especially on the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). Because too much sebum can lead to clogged pores, oily skin tends to be more acne-prone than other skin types. You may have oily skin if: Despite your best cleansing efforts, your skin always ends up looking like an oil slick as the day wears on. If you wear makeup, it seems to just slide right off in the first few hours. Check out page 8 for how to care for this skin type.
Sensitive skin is more reactive to external irritants than other skin types. Certain skincare ingredients or environmental factors may trigger flare-ups that cause redness with an itching, stinging, or burning sensation. Although the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) regards sensitive skin as a stand-alone type, it can also be a subcategory of other skin types. It’s possible to have sensitive dry skin, sensitive oily skin, or sensitive combination skin. You may have sensitive skin if: You’ve learned the hard way to be very careful about the products you use, lest your skin either break out in an itchy rash or feel like it's on fire. Even the wrong laundry detergent can set your skin off. See page 9 for how to care for this skin type.
Combination skin is the most common skin type, and it's also the most complex to care for. Typically, the T-zone is oily and acne-prone while other areas of your face are dry and often sensitive. How skin of this type reacts can vary from season to season due to changes in temperature and humidity, along with other factors, like hormone fluctuations or stress. You may have combination skin if: Different skin care products seem to work well on some areas of your face, but not so well on others. Page 10 is all about caring for this skin type.
Not too surprisingly, normal skin is the easiest of the five basic skin types to care for. It may not have any specific concerns, but that doesn’t mean you should skip skincare altogether. A soap-free facial cleanser and daily moisturizer will keep your skin’s natural protective barrier healthy. As with any skin type, make sure you apply sunscreen every day.
Gentle, soothing hydration is the key to protecting the moisture barrier of chronically dry skin. Using a serum helps your moisturizer penetrate deeper into your skin’s layers for more effective hydration. Apply thick moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid and ceramides both day and night, and avoid hot showers and skincare products containing alcohol.
While drinking more water may be great for your complexion, it won’t cure dry skin, which results from reduced oil production, while dehydrated skin lacks water.
Although it’s tempting to wash oily skin as often as possible, over-cleansing can dry out your skin's surface, triggering your oil glands to produce even more sebum. Instead of harsh astringents, use a gentle, foaming cleanser to wash away excess dirt and oil without stripping your skin of its protective moisture barrier.
A lightweight, oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer will give your skin the healthy hydration it needs to look more glowy and less greasy.
Sensitive skin tends to be more prone to psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis, so it’s particularly important to avoid irritants that may trigger or aggravate these conditions. Seek out moisturizers and cleansers designed for sensitive skin, and steer clear of products that contain fragrances or dyes.
Remember, just because a product is “natural” or “clean” doesn’t mean it automatically gets the green light for sensitive skin. Test everything on a small area first.
Despite its complex nature, simplicity is key when it comes to combination skin. Attempting to address all your skin concerns at once with overlapping products can often make the problem worse. Instead, opt for pH-balanced, non-comedogenic, hydrating cleansers and gel creams that help balance your skin’s microbiome without aggravating problem areas.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.