Understanding your skin type

What are the skin types and conditions?

Many people believe there are five main skin types: normal, dry, oily, combination and sensitive.
Others believe there is no such thing as skin type, but rather ‘skin conditions’. I think it’s a bit of both. The skin type, or the way your skin ‘behaves’ is partially due to genetic predisposition, but the skin is also affected by hormones, environmental factors (sun exposure, cold weather, pollution), the foods we eat and how hydrated we are. If you think about it this way, a young woman might have perfectly ‘normal’ skin for three weeks out of every month and then experience hormonal acne for the week of her period. In this case, her skin condition is blemished/acne prone – at that time – even though it’s usually normal. The skin can change over time too; teenagers often have oily skin as a result of hormonal sebum production, but often find it normalises as they mature and the hormones settle down.

How to care for different skin types

Normal skin is generally neither oily nor dry, with no flakes or cracked skin and no blemishes. If you’re blessed with this easygoing skin type, it’s best to try to maintain it by using products that are hydrating enough without being greasy.

Dry skin may feel tight and uncomfortable and can flake, peel or crack. Stay away from hot showers and avoid ingredients that can dry the skin further, such as alcohol and benzoyl peroxide. If the skin is itchy and red it’s worth checking to see whether it is eczema or dermatitis. Opt for creams instead of light lotions to increase the moisture levels in your skin.

Oily skin tends to be thick and develops fewer lines and wrinkles as it’s less prone to dehydration. However, excess sebum production can often mean whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Don’t reach for harsh, drying ingredients that strip the skin’s natural oils as it will likely produce more sebum in response. Regular, gentle exfoliation is essential as it will help to reduce the buildup of oil that can cause dead skin cells to become trapped in the pores (hello acne blemishes!). Never pick or squeeze pimples as this can lead to scarring.

Combination skin is dry on the cheeks and oily in the T Zone (across the forehead, nose and chin) where breakouts may occur. I suggest starting with a layer of light moisturiser on your whole face and then topping it off with a heavier moisturiser on the cheeks and other dry patches. A gentle, regular exfoliation (with particular attention in the t-zone) will help to reduce excess sebum that can cause blocked pores and lead to acne blemishes.

Sensitive skin is prone to redness and irritation. It pays to introduce only one new product at a time and always do a 48-hour test patch on the inner arm. If there’s no reaction (redness, itching or small bumps or spots), test again behind your ears before trying it on your face. Look for products that are free of common irritants such as parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, sulfate detergents, phthalates, urea, DEA or TEA, as these ingredients can result in redness and itchiness. DOWNLOAD our ingredients to watch out for list here.

Skin reactions – the common culprits

Even if you don’t have ‘sensitive skin’ some ingredients can trigger skin reactions (contact dermatitis) such as redness, itching and inflammation or even a stinging or burning sensation. Sometimes the reaction may be the result of an individual’s allergy (contact allergic dermatitis) while other chemicals affect everyone (contact irritant dermatitis). Some of the common irritants in skin care include ascorbic acid, paraben preservatives and alpha hydroxy acids (marketed as exfoliants) such as glycolic acid, malic acid, and lactic acid. When it comes to sunscreens, the most common allergic reactions occur with those that contain PABA-based chemicals.

Our skin’s condition and needs can change over time and in different seasons, so it’s important to ‘check in’ with your skin regularly and adjust your skin-care routine according to its needs. And of course, always see a dermatologist if you have a skin condition that is not helped with over-the-counter products, as well as if you have any moles or irritations that concern you.

Lastly please check out our NO NASTIES pdf which is a handy list of ingredients in common products that might be sensible to avoid.

– Christine

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