What is your skin type? And does it matter? What are the characteristics of each skin type? What are common skin care strategies? Today we answer these questions and more.
What is your skin type?
There are four common skin types: oily, normal, dry and sensitive. Your skin type can change over time. For example, teenagers have a higher chance of having oily skin than elderly people. Some people also have a combination skin type, i.e. different skin type on different parts of their face. A common example is an oily T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) with relatively normal cheeks during adolescence. A skin type is basically a result of the following factors :
- Natural water content: This is the natural rate of water supply to your skin and the quantity of water your skin can hold. Often this is determined by the thickness of the skin (especially the stratum corneum) along with the age of the person.
- Natural oil content: The oil on the surface of the body is a mixture of the lipid barrier (natural moisture barrier of skin), and the sweat and sebum produced by the sweat and sebaceous glands respectively. The oil on the skin’s surface helps lock down the moisture in the skin by impeding transpiration to the atmosphere.
- Sensitivity of skin: The skin is a strong barrier as the overlapping layers of cells are very effective at keeping foreign materials outside. However, some substances may react with the skin itself. The skin’s sensitivity depends mainly on skin disorders and environmental damage.
Does it matter?
Unless you choose to au naturel your way through life, you’ll be adopting skin care to some extent. Knowing your skin type is important if you want to tackle skin problems properly. Choosing skin care products for your regime also depends heavily on your skin type, as using products meant for other skin types may give minimum benefits (it is outright counterproductive in some cases). For example, you’ll only worsen your condition if you use products meant for oily skin (drying and harsh cleansers) on your dry skin.
What are the characteristics of each skin type?
Normal skin: If you have normal skin, you should rejoice as you’ll face minimum skin problems. Acne should not be a problem if dealt with properly. Normal skin types also have average sized pores and an even complexion and skin tone. Normal skin type is due to a good balance of oil and water content, and hence the skin is often not very sensitive.
Oily Skin: Oily skin is due to a high oil content in the skin. Oily skin is most common in adolescents and least common in old people. Blackheads and acne is very common, as the oily environment is a breeding ground for bacteria. Oily skin can be worsened (or caused) by:
- Hormonal Imbalance: This is why oily skin is common in teenagers.
- Heat and Humidity: Sweat and sebaceous glands are very sensitive to heat (being located in the outer layers of the skin) and produce oil at an increased rate in a hot or humid environment.
- Your gender: The male sex hormones stimulate the oil glands all over the skin to produce more oil. As men have as much as 10 times the testosterone as women do, men often have oilier skin.
Dry Skin: Dry skin is caused by one of three reasons: A problematic supply of water to the skin, the inability of the skin to hold a large amount of water, or the loss of water through transpiration and the inability of the skin to prevent it. In middle-age, lines are more visible. The skin can show redness or patches of colour. The complexion of the face is dull. The face looks dry and without vitality. Some skin disorders associated with dry skin are eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
If a drying agent acts on the skin, it can lead to itchiness, flaking, worsening of skin disorder, etc. Dry skin also takes longer to heal and is often thinner. As oil glands become less active with age, dry skin is very common in older people.
Combination skin: Combination occurs when different parts of the face have different skin types. This is often caused by genetics or hormonal imbalances, as the face produces oil in uneven quantities. Often it shows up as an oily T-zone (forehead, nose and chin). Combination skin types can have overly dilated pores and shiny skin.
Sensitive skin: Sensitivity can be due to many different reasons, and it is helpful to know both the cause of the sensitivity and what causes it. Sensitivity can be due to allergy, irritation or just incompatibility with a certain skin care product. Commonly sensitive skin shows up as:
- Redness of skin or rosacea
- Eczema or psoriasis flare-ups
The best treatment for allergies is avoidance. Simply figure out what causes the allergic reaction and avoid it.
What are some common skin care strategies?
- Use gentle cleansers. Important times to cleanse are before you sleep and after any physical activity like sports.
- Don’t wash your face often as this can cause irritation.
- Use salicylic acid wipes occasionally to clean your skin to reduce acne. Salicylic acid prevents bacteria growth for hours after use.
- Moisturise daily, and every few hours.
- Use an emollient in a convenient form, such as bath oils. Emollients help lock in the moisture in the skin.
- Take short baths with lukewarm water. Hot water is very drying.
- Don’t touch harsh chemicals and detergents as these can strip the lipids from your skin.
- Avoid alcohol based skin care products as alcohol is drying to the skin.
These are general tips which all skin types should follow:
- Use a sunscreen every couple hours to reduce damage from sun exposure.
- Moisturise your skin.
- Stay hydrated and don’t smoke or consume too much alcohol.
- Never sleep with makeup on, as it clogs the pores.
- A cleanse is required Twice a day after waking up and once before sleeping.
- If you have an oily T-zone, use blot papers or rice paper to dab it regularly instead of washing your face.
- Look for products made for combination skin that aren’t harsh.
- Avoid skin products that cause irritation or show a symptom on use.
- Always read ingredients of skin care products and make sure they don’t contain any irritants or allergens.
- If you experience any allergic reaction, visit a doctor to find out the cause.
- Some skin products that are harsh on the skin can also act as irritants. For example, harsh cleansers which should only be used by people with very oily skin.
Knowing what your skin type is very important for skin care – both in developing your skin care regime and in battling skin disorders. You can take first measures against skin disorders on your own if you know your problem and skin type, but it is best to consult a dermatologist in this case.
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