What’s your skin type?
It’s like knowing your star sign, your Hogwarts House or your favourite Spice Girl – but, like these, do skin types matter at all? Most of us gained the knowledge from teen magazines on our bedroom floors in the nineties or noughties, and have proudly paraded that knowledge forward in our lives since then! Whether or not skin types matter, we are certainly bombarded with information about them – to the point where you could easily be mistaken in thinking they are the primary question in all things skin. They are definitely useful as a means of helping brands educate clients as to what products might suit them, but spoiler alert: we do not necessarily agree they are the first step in the tango that is skincare.
What Are The Four Skin Types?
There are many ways in which we could characterise skin type, which is a result of your genetics. However, if we stick to the classics, (a nerdie speciality), then there’s four skin types to consider. Which means technically we could sort skin types into Hogwarts houses (a bit of homework for you, there).
This is the holy grail of skin types. If you have normal skin, then your sebaceous gland secrete oil at a normal rate. Your pores are pin-prick small and your skin texture is good. You will have a natural glow as a result of light reflection rather than an oily sheen, no flaky patches, and your skin will look nearly the same at the close of the day as at the beginning. You are lucky ducks but having normal skin does not mean that you don’t need to protect it, or that there is nothing else going on with your skin…
If you have dry skin, it means that your sebaceous, or oil-producing , glands do not produce enough oil to sufficiently lubricate the skin. Dry skin can be flaky or easily irritated. It might feel very tight, particularly after cleansing. It can be easily irritated, as it can be quite thin. We tend to become naturally drier as we age as our sebum production is essentially defined by hormone levels – this is the same reason we are chip pans in the height of our teen years!
The film of oil, or sebum, on your skin is not your enemy, although it may seem that way to those hoomans among us who identify as oily-skinned. If you have oily skin, you may find that you overproduce the substance. This can mean that your skin might appear shiny, and might be more prone to blackheads or skin congestion, as the excess oil can block pores. Oily skin can actually appear dull too – it’s a common misconception that you’ll at least always be glowy if you’re oily!
This might sound like a bit of a misnomer, as it suggests skin which is oily and dry at the same time – inconceivable, and yes, that does mean what we think it means. Skin can be oily and dehydrated at the same time, but more on that in a mo. Combination skin as we know it might manifest as an oily T-zone (forehead and nose) and normal cheeks, chin and neck. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a dehydrated forehead with oily cheeks, but it is possible!
Can You Be Oily and Dry Skinned?
This is the issue with combination skin – in a word, no. You can be oily and dehydrated, but you can’t be both oily and dry. It doesn’t really make sense, does it? If you find yourself bemused with ‘combination’ skin, it could be worth upping your hydration. We’re big fans of ‘eating your water’, á la Dr. Murad.
Skin concerns are a little more accurate when assessing skincare or supplement routines. These can occur as a result of circumstance or lifestyle, and they can be intermittent, while your skin type is genetic. Do any of these sounds like your skin?
Is My Skin Dry or Dehydrated?
Dryness is genetic, but dehydration is situational – there’s a difference between them, and therefore different ways of tackling them. Dry skin lacks oil; dehydrated skin lacks water.
Dehydrated skin can result from lifestyle choices, not drinking enough water, a low intake of essential fatty acids, or can occur when the barrier of your skin is compromised, and is a concern which would be addressed differently than if you present with dry skin. Are you following so far?
You can test for dehydrated skin easily with the pinch test – pinch the skin on your cheek lightly. If you see wrinkles appearing, or the skin doesn’t bounce back immediately, then your skin is likely dehydrated.
Is My Skin Sensitive or Sensitised?
Sensitive skin is also genetic. It’s skin which is sensitive to products and is liable to react. It’s very reactive to any stimulus and might become red, itchy or irritated easily.
Sensitised skin is that which might be reacting to external factors such as neglect, sun damage, misuse of product, or over-exfoliation. It can be caused by an impaired skin barrier, and might become red, inflamed, bumpy or scaly after cleansing.
Is My Skin Ageing Prematurely?
Ageing is part and parcel of life, and our skin is no different. However, premature or accelerated ageing might be a concern of yours. In nerdie terms, we would refer to this as Accelerated Collagen Degradation vs. Collagen Degradation. Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the bod, but it begins to decrease in abundance post-25, and this is what causes our skin to appear aged. Accelerated collagen degradation could mean that your skin might appear to age at a faster rate. You can help to slow the rate of collagen degradation by avoiding smoking, applying SPF religiously every single day, and avoiding over-exfoliation!
Are My Freckles Sun Damage?
This is a question regarding pigment and non-pigment. Freckles as the hot button here, and they are wonderful things, if true freckles (called ephelides) – i.e. the freckles you’ve had your whole life, since you were in pigtails, or short trousers, which fade after sun exposure. There are other forms of pigmentation, which we might colloquially call sun spots, liver spots or even, mistakenly, freckles. These are, in fact, sun damage, called solar lentigos or lentigines. Freckles are genetic and occur in those particularly who don’t possess a lot of melanin naturally in their skin, meaning that they’re not well-protected from the sun, but other pigmentation is a result of over-exposure to sun.
Be sure you’re applying enough broad-spectrum SPF every single day in order to limit sun damage and hyper-pigmentation – remember, sun damage is a sure-fire way to speed up the appearance of ageing skin.
Is My Congested Skin ‘Problem’ Skin?
This is a term which we don’t use around Nerd HQ. Unless you have the perfect skin of an babe-in-arms, you probably can think of a few issues that you have with your skin. Congested skin is not a life-sentence, it’s just another skin concern.
Congested skin could be prone to breakouts of whiteheads, blackheads or under-the-skin lumps and bumps. It is likely oily, and possibly acne-prone. However, there is much hope to be had. A combination of diet, a supplement routine, and the correct products applied topically can banish breakouts, and ease congestion. If congested skin continues to get you down, it might be time to consider the medical options and seek the advice and care of your doctor or specialist.
Your skin type doesn’t define you forever – the hooman nerd is more multifaceted than a four-pronged choice. Certainly, four can be the magic number – the number of our core four, the directions on the compass and again, importantly the amount of Hogwarts Houses, but it doesn’t have to pigeonhole you.
Now, admit it – normal skin is a Gryffindor, combination skin is a Slytherin, oily skin is a Ravenclaw and dry skin is a Hufflepuff. Are we right, or are we right?