Determining Your Skin Type

Jennifer Katehos

Posted on February 15 2017

Your skin type (as opposed to skin conditions, like dehydration and sensitization -- more on that in another post!) is a matter of genetics.  You are born with it, and aside from a few exceptions (such as pregnancy and undergoing chemotherapy), it cannot be changed.  Skin type is determined, generally, by oil production and follicle (aka "pore") size.  (It bears noting at this point that no magical potion can reduce the actual size of your follicles, though it might reduce the appearance of your follicles.  Your follicles simply are the way they are, and sometimes they can even be stretched out from stubborn blackheads and other breakouts.)

There are six different skin types: Normal, Dry, Oily, Combination, True Sensitive, and Acneic.

It's rare to be normal!  Normal skin type is the least common.  Normal skin is soft, moist, and plump.  It has a healthy color and glow, with little wrinkling.  Normal skin can experience some congestion, and an oily shine may appear down the middle of the face later in the day, in the afternoon.  Follicles are generally small and visible only toward the middle of the face.

Dry skin, also known as "alipoid" skin, is lacking in oil.  The skin is smooth but dull and prone to wrinkles.  Dry skin does not experience an oily shine during the day.  Follicles are not very visible, except perhaps a little on the nose.

Oily skin has larger follicles, visible across the entire face, and experiences an oily shine all over the face, all day. Oily skin is likely to experience congestion (blackheads and whiteheads) and breakouts. One bonus: less fine lines!

Combination skin is typically combination normal-to-oily.  Combination skin experiences an oily shine starting in the early afternoon in the "T-Zone" area (that is, the forehead, nose, and chin).  As for follicles, they are most visible and enlarged in a wider strip down the center of the face.

True Sensitive
True sensitive skin is a bit of an exception, as it can override what you know of your oily shine and what you see about your follicles in the mirror.  Your skin is truly sensitive if you answer "yes" to two or more of the following question: (1) Have you ever been diagnosed by a doctor as having eczema?  (2) Have you ever been diagnosed with hay fever or allergies?  (3) Have you ever been diagnosed with asthma?     The idea is that if your insides are prone to an immunogenic reaction, so are your outsides.  True sensitive skin is easily stimulated and exhibits an underlying redness and heat.

Acneic skin has excess oil production and the oil that is produced is thicker than typical.  Acneic skin, which experience congestion and papule and pustule breakouts, is determined by genetics.  People with acneic skin will likely have close relatives (parents and siblings) who also have acneic skin.  Those with an acneic skin type will have experienced breakouts continuously since they were teens, and will usually also experience breakouts on the chest and back.

Want to determine your skin type? Grab yourself a mirror and ask yourself these questions: (1) Do you ever experience an oily shine during the day and, if you do, what time of day do you begin to notice it? (2) Do your follicles look small or enlarged, and where on the face are they most visible?  (3) Have you ever been diagnosed with eczema, hay fever or allergies, or asthma?  (4) Have you experienced breakouts consistently since you were a teenager, meaning that you have never had a stretch in your life where you did not have an active breakouts?

Classic skin typing, while informative, does not take into account skin conditions caused external and internal factors, such as climate, lifestyle, and diet, and is thus is not dispositive in accurately diagnosing the skin.  Stay tuned for a future blog post about skin conditions....