How to Determine Your Skin Type

Having a firm knowledge of your skin type is essential to maintaining a healthy complexion. After all, if you’re using the wrong products for your skin type you could be exacerbating existing problems or even creating new ones.

Determining whether your skin is dry, oily, or combination may seem like a pretty straightforward observation, but be wary of jumping to conclusions. Depending on your current skincare regimen, you could be masking your real skin type and creating a never-ending loop of ineffective treatments.

Here is the easiest way to get a base understanding of your true skin type:

  1. Thoroughly wash and cleanse your face with warm water and a gentle cleanser
  2. Dry your face and wait about a half hour without touching your face or applying any products
  3. Observe how your skin looks and feels. If your skin has a matte look and it feels tight, you have dry skin. If it feels clean but has some shine to it, you have oily skin. If your nose, chin, and forehead are shiny but your cheeks are matte and feel tight, or if none of these descriptions apply to you, you have normal/combination skin.
  4. If you’re not completely convinced by the look and feel test, try dabbing your face with a tissue. If you notice any excess oil on the tissue, you either have oily or combination skin.

Keep in mind these are just generalized categories to give you a sense of how you should be treating your skin. Your individual skin type is likely much more nuanced than these broadly drawn categories so consult your dermatologist for a more detailed diagnosis.

So now that you have an idea of which category you fall into, what does that mean for your skincare regimen?

Normal/Combination Skin


Normal/combination skin can range from a completely flawless complexion with no oily or dry areas, to a complexion that is oily in the T-zone (nose, chin, and forehead) and dry on the cheeks. The clinical term for this type of skin is eudermic.


  • Small pores
  • Smooth texture
  • Possibly oily in the T-zone
  • Few imperfections

How to Treat it

The great thing about having this type of skin is there are really no wrong answers when it comes to treatment. Depending on how oily your T-zone is compared to the rest of your face, you should try using a mix of products in different areas of your skin.

The most important thing to consider is the texture of the product you’re using. For dry skin use more emollient, moisture-rich products like crèmes and serums. For oily skin use more light-weight products like cleansers, scrubs, and lotions.

Dry Skin


Dry skin lacks the essential oils needed to retain moisture and protect itself from external pollutants. This impairment of the barrier function of the skin can lead to flaky, itchy, and irritated patches of skin.


  • Rough or flaky patches
  • A tight feeling
  • Itchiness
  • Cracking

How to Treat it

Since your skin doesn’t regulate the oils it needs to retain moisture on its own, you need to give it a hand by applying nutrient-rich moisturizer multiple times a day. Applying a creme or serum rich in antioxidants works wonders for evening out the look and feel of dry skin.

You can also take shorter showers, use mild, non-scented soap, and use a humidifier to replenish the moisture in the air, especially during the winter.

Oily Skin


When your skin over-produces sebum it leaves you with a shiny complexion that can clog pores and cause acne breakouts. If your skin is prone to this type of oil over-production, you fall under the oily skin type.


  • Large pores
  • Glossy texture
  • Acne or acne scarring
  • Discolored areas or blemishes

How to Treat it

When dealing with oily skin, you want to make sure to use products that won’t clog your pores, which would result in more oil production. Use light, noncomedogenic products like cleansers, scrubs, and balancing lotions to rid yourself of the oil without drying out your skin.

Keep in mind you don’t want to strip your skin of oil completely. If someone with oily skin dries out their complexion, the production of your skin’s natural oils will work double time to get your skin nice and oily again. The key is to regulate the balance of the oils your skin needs to keep it from over-producing.

You’ll notice we didn’t include “sensitive” as one of the skin types listed. That’s because skin sensitivity is on a different scale from skin type. Someone with oily skin can be equally as sensitive as someone with dry skin. If you think you’re someone with very sensitive skin, use products with light textures and do your best to identify what ingredients trigger your skin’s sensitivity.

This breakdown should give you a jumping off point from which you can build the skincare routine perfect for your skin. Again, to get a more in-depth diagnosis of your skin type, visit your dermatologist.



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