Why You Should Stop Buying Skincare According To Your Skin Type
The key to meeting your year-round skincare goals.
It’s likely the first thing you learned about skincare is how to determine your skin type. Understanding it is, presumably, the most important aspect of building a routine or making a new purchase. Entire product websites are categorized around skin type, yet adhering to its rules and regulations often falls short of your skin goals.
Skincare basics approach skin type like a rigid truth that orients everything else. However, contrary to popular belief, skin type changes — often. Age, weather, and medication are only a few factors that can contribute to how your skin presents. Doing away with limitations about your skin type can be the difference between continued frustration and a healthy, glowing complexion.
What Are The Different Skin Types?
Skin types are a categorization tool that can generally help you address your skin concerns. The human brain loves order, making skin type feel deceivingly easy and straightforward. However, many of the same concerns, like acne, manifest across skin types for different reasons. Consequently, tackling skin conditions becomes more complicated than skin typing alone.
This is arguably the most common skin type, but not because of genetics. Overuse of certain products and skin care techniques as well as successful marketing from acne brands have led most consumers to wrongfully believe they have oily skin.
Oily skin overproduces the natural, lubricating oil called sebum. Excess sebum sits on the skin’s surface causing dead skin cells to become “heavy” and preventing them from shedding off properly. The buildup of oil, dirt and dead skin block pores (think blackheads and whiteheads) and also serves as both a food supply and breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. If left untreated, the bacteria multiply and trigger an inflammatory response that leads to acne.
Oily skin types are often told to avoid all oils, skip moisturizing and apply mattifying or drying products. In truth, certain oils can correct imbalances inherent to oily skin. All skin types desperately need both hydration and moisture and overly drying out the skin encourages more oil production.
This skin type is often strictly associated with cold climates and an aging population. While the skin does become drier with age, the incidence of dry skin is higher than one might think. In a 2014 study of over 6,000 European participants, over 50% of people reported having dry skin. Moreover, recent studies found darker skin types have the lowest levels of critical moisturizing elements and are prone to dry skin concerns such as eczema.
Dry skin lacks moisture and, more importantly, has a deficient moisture barrier that interferes with the skin shedding process. Consequently, tightness and flakiness are common symptoms of dry skin.
Although acne is usually considered an oily skin problem, dry skin sufferers are also vulnerable. The damaged moisture barrier of dry skin types is laid bare to bacteria. This can cause redness, sensitivity and inflammation that results in acne. Treating dry skin acne involves repairing the moisture barrier and restoring hydration while traditional acne treatments lean on exfoliation and avoiding oil.
Combination skin is another highly self-reported skin type, likely due to this category’s broader description that better captures the nuances of skin.
Combination skin simultaneously experiences symptoms of multiple skin types. The most common combination is oiliness along the “T-Zone” (the forehead, nose, chin and inner cheeks) while experiencing dryness elsewhere.
This skin type is encouraged to customize treatment by applying different products to each zone. While some are naturally prone to this skin type, combination skin may be a sign of overall imbalance that is best addressed by treating the entire face with appropriate products.
Balanced, or “normal”, skin is exactly that. This skin type experiences fewer issues one way or another and has the luxury of toying around with different products and routines.
However, balanced skin can be misleading. Circumstantial changes like switching medications, pregnancy or even taking up a new sport can land you in a new skincare concern bracket seemingly overnight.
Honorable Mentions: Sensitive and Dehydrated
Neither of these conditions are skin types but are often discussed that way. Sensitivity is almost always induced, typically by over-exfoliation and improper barrier maintenance. Dehydration occurs when there isn’t enough water in the skin. This is a common consequence of over-active acne regimens or allergic reactions.
How You Should Shop For Skincare Instead
The best way to shop for skincare is to consider your concerns as a whole. Shopping exclusively for oily skin will leave you without the proper tools to soothe the dryness you experience during the winter months or after using your acne cleanser one too many days in a row.
Ask yourself what your biggest skincare concern is and the relevant symptoms. If you’re planning to tackle breakouts are you simultaneously feeling dry or excessively oily? Breakouts coupled with dryness may call for a barrier maintenance routine over traditional, acne-fighting ingredients. These considerations will help you better determine a plan that addresses the root cause of your concern as well as its effects.
Above all, develop a personal relationship with your skin. While influencer co-signs and raving reviews are great ways to discover new products and help you make a purchasing decision, there’s nothing better than your personal experience. Pay attention to how your skin feels after using certain products and monitor progress over several weeks. Change out individual products to continue learning your needs and how to address them.
Don’t be afraid of using products that aren’t listed for your skin type. Building an arsenal of effective skincare products that can address the changing needs of your skin is the key to meeting your skin goals year-round.