When you're shopping for skincare, one of the first things you'll need to know is what your skin type is. But as there are so many different skin types, it can be a real challenge to figure out which one you might have. And, once you do, how do you go about finding skincare products that suit your complexion?
Working out your skin type is worth the headache, as it influences every part of your skincare routine, and finding products that are formulated for your specific issues can be a game changer in improving your complexion.
So, we've created this guide to bring together all this information so that you can ascertain your skin type, and find the right routine that will bring out the best in your skin. We'll be covering:
- What does skin type mean?
- What are the different skin types?
- How to know what skin type you have
- The oil test
- The blotting paper test
- The pressure test
- Testing for sensitive skin
- Building a routine for your skin type
What does skin type mean?
Everybody's skin is different, but skin types are a way of classifying the various qualities that your skin can have. There are five main skin types — normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive — and they explain how your skin varies from someone else's. Your skin type is believed to be genetic, but it also changes throughout your life. During adolescence, changing hormones usually mean that people experience oilier skin, while later in life, skin tends to get drier — especially for women after they go through the menopause.
So, remember that it's important to keep checking in with how your products are working throughout your life, and reassess your skin type if you feel they aren't working as well anymore.
What are the different skin types?
The first obstacle to understanding your own skin type, and how to choose skincare products for it, is finding out what each skin type is and how it can affect any issues you might be having. So, before we get into how to tell what your skin type is, let's go through what the different skin types are. There are also some techniques for narrowing down which skin type you are, which we'll get to later in this guide.
Oily skin can be spotted by looking at the amount of sebum produced — an excess of sebum causes skin to look shiny or oily. This will be especially noticeable in the T-zone (which is your forehead, nose and chin area), where the face can often appear greasy.
Those with oily skin are more likely to have enlarged pores and be prone to acne breakouts. This is common in adolescence, but it can also be genetic and last throughout your life. If you are particularly prone to acne, it's worth trying a routine formulated to prevent this specifically, rather than only tackling your oily skin. Our Routine For Clear Skin Collection provides specially selected products to tackle skin that breaks out often, using antioxidants and herbs to balance sebum production and reduce bacterial growth.
This skin type can often appear dull, and might become flaky easily. People with dry skin will notice that their faces feel tighter and less elastic than those with oilier skin. Dry skin is also more likely to show fine lines and wrinkles faster, as there is not as much moisture to maintain elasticity.
Our Dry Skin Routine Collection is ideal for supporting dry skin and restoring elasticity. If you are noticing signs of premature ageing due to having dry skin, you can try the Routine for Anti-Ageing, which contains high-tech botanicals to firm and tone the skin.
The goldilocks of the skin types, normal skin is the envied one — it's not overly oily or dry, and much less prone to breakouts or flakiness. The skin is naturally very balanced, and the pore texture tends to be smoother than those with oily or dry skin. A regimen for normal skin mainly focuses on hydrating, moisturising, and brightening the complexion.
Our Routine for Normal Skin Collection is ideal for maintaining your skin and making sure it doesn't look dull. If you are struggling with dull and tired skin, then try out the Routine for Brightening Skin Collection, which contains vitamin C and grapefruit.
A complicated but common skin type is the combination kind of skin. This is where the face is oily in some places, and dry or normal in others. Typically, this means that people's skin has a tendency to become greasy in the T-zone, and then be drier in areas like the cheeks. For combination skin, you'll need to use a few different products to target various areas, so you might want to use a moisturising cream in drier areas, but have lighter hydrating products for your T-zone.
It's important to note that although sensitive skin is a category of its own, it is also possible to have oily or dry skin that is also sensitive. If your skin is oily, don't assume that it is therefore not sensitive, as it's always good to check how reactive you are to ingredients. Sensitive skin is susceptible to being red, itchy, or otherwise irritated, and often reacts to certain skincare ingredients.
Skincare for sensitive skin must be formulated to be extremely gentle, and should contain calming ingredients such as rose, aloe vera, and bilberry. An example is our Routine for Sensitive Skin Collection, which soothes and moisturises sensitive complexions. For more advice on dealing with this, check out our blog post discussing sensitive skin.
How to know what skin type you have
If you're wondering how to know your skin type, there are a few ways that you can work out what you skin type is. These are some easy tests you can do at home to get an idea of your complexion's make-up. You can also combine a few methods to get a more accurate picture of your skin.
The oil test
This skin type test is really easy to do. Simply wash your face with your usual cleanser (preferably a gentle one), and then pat it dry. Rather than applying your normal skincare routine after cleansing, leave your skin with no products on it for 30 minutes. Then, if your skin has accumulated oil in that time, you probably have oily skin, whereas if only your T-zone is shiny, it's likely combination. On the other hand, if leaving your skin without products makes your face feel tight or even flaky, it's probably dry. But, if it feels hydrated but not oily, you likely have a normal skin type.
The blotting paper test
For this test, you'll need to buy some blotting strips for skin. These are strips that can be used to blot oil from your skin throughout the day, but they can also be used to tell how much sebum your skin is producing. Again, begin by washing your skin with a gentle cleanser. Then, press the papers to your face and see which areas leave oil on the paper.
Only finding oil from the T-zone area means you have combination skin, oil throughout the paper means oily skin, while little to no oil points to dry skin. A little grease from every area of your face likely paints a picture of normal skin. This can also flag up areas on your face that might need more moisture, and areas that might need lighter products.
The pressure test
Another method that you can use for finding out what kind of skin you have, is to try out the pressure test. The idea here is to see how supple and elastic your skin is. Just apply pressure to your skin, and see how fast it bounces back — oily and normal complexions will return quickly to how the skin was before pressure was applied. The drier your skin is, the longer it will take to bounce back.
Testing for sensitive skin
Working out how sensitive your skin is can be more complex than testing for the amount of sebum it produces. There isn't a definitive method for judging how reactive your face is, so instead you'll need to analyse its sensitivity by noting down symptoms over time.
Keep a note if you notice things like redness, itching, rashes, or bumpiness, and keep track of which products you used before these reactions happened. As sensitive skin can also respond to allergy triggers like pollen, it can be useful to monitor where you've been too. If you find that symptoms like this occur regularly, you probably have a sensitive skin type, regardless of how oily your face is.
If your skin's reactions make you think that you might have rosacea, you should check in with a doctor or dermatologist to discuss how you can care for your skin. You can also shape your skincare regimen to reduce flares ups — a specialist routine like our Routine for Rosacea Collection will calm your complexion.
Likewise, you should consult a health professional if you suspect you are suffering from eczema, and a routine like our Routine for Eczema Collection combined with avoiding triggers like irritating laundry detergents and pet hair, can reduce your symptoms. For more information on managing this skin condition, you can also read through our blog post about eczema.
Building a routine for your skin type
When you have determined your skin type, it's time to construct your perfect routine based on your complexion's needs. The basic skincare regimen consists of cleansing, toning, moisturising, and then adding in a sunscreen for daytime, or active ingredients such as retinol at night.
So, how can you adapt these steps for your skin type, to maximise your skincare time?
The first step of your routine is about making sure your face is clean, and getting rid of any oil, pollution, or dirt that might have accumulated on your skin since you last washed it. Cleansing is particularly important in the evening, as you need to clean your skin of environmental impurities.
Your cleanser should be gentle no matter your skin type. You might think that your skin is oily, and therefore needs a harsher cleanser — but in fact, stripping your skin of all its natural oils just encourages it to produce more sebum. So, always choose a gentle cleanser. Drier or more reactive skin types can also benefit from more hydrating and moisturising cleansers.
If you live in a polluted area, or have oily, normal, or combination skin, it can also be useful to use an oil cleanser. An oil cleanser sticks to oil-based impurities in your pores, and you can then wash off the cleanser. This often works best when followed by a foaming or a cream cleanser.
The next step that you'll need in your regimen is toning. Toning products are formulated to hydrate the skin, and slough away dead skin cells to expose brighter, clearer skin. Whether you have dry, oily, combination, or sensitive skin, there is a toner that can improve your complexion.
A good go-to toner is a gentle formula like our Herbal Toner, which is formulated to hydrate your skin ready for applying moisturiser, and to soothe and balance whatever your skin type is. It also minimises the appearance of pores, which can be very useful for those with oilier skin types. If you have sensitive skin, you might use the toning stage of your routine to intensely soothe and moisturise. Our Rose and Bilberry Toning Gel is made with this in mind, and it is a unique formula that can even reduce redness and repair broken veins.
If you want to add any active or more intense ingredients, these should be applied after your toner and before your moisturiser. This allows these ingredients to penetrate deeper into the layers of your skin, and therefore have more of an effect. Serums and active formulas might include hydrating products like a Hyaluronic Acid Serum, or a brightening agent like a Stabilised Vitamin C Serum. This stage is the place in your regimen to identify any issues with your skin and address them.
When you've cleansed, toned, and moisturised your skin, it's time seal all those great ingredients in with a good moisturiser. Factors in the environment like cold weather, dry air caused by central heating, and even frequent use of hand sanitiser, can all make skin drier.
To combat this, moisturisers use substances called humectants to attract water to the skin and keep it from drying out. They also use elements called occlusives to lock in moisture and keep the skin plumped up. If you have oilier skin, it's a good idea to use a lighter moisturiser, but drier and more sensitive complexions need a thicker cream, such as the Double Rose Ultra Face Cream.
The last stage in any good skincare routine is sun cream. It's important to use a sun cream that protects against the UVA and UVB rays from the sun, as this will help prevent photo-ageing as well as sunburn. While it can seem unnecessary to wear much sun protection in the UK, the sun's rays do still have an impact on our skin, so you should choose a sun cream that suits your complexion and wear it daily if possible.
You should look for a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or above, such as a Cellular Protection Sunscreen SPF 30. Mineral formulas are also very gentle to avoid aggravating more sensitive skin types. There is more detailed information on sunscreen types in our blog post about sun protection in skincare.
After working your way through building a routine, you might be wondering where face masks fit in. These are treatments that you should be giving your skin at a maximum of a few times per week, rather than as a regular part of your daily routine.
Face masks can serve a variety of purposes, including hydrating tired skin, fighting fine lines, and cleansing your face thoroughly. The reasons you will use face masks — and the kinds of masks that work well for your skin — will vary depending on your skin type. Oily skin can be cleansed effectively by a Purifying Seaweed Cleansing Mask that can clean out the pores and balance sebum production. Drier skin types will benefit from either a mask containing hyaluronic acid, or a mask with honey and jasmine. These can offer extreme hydration, and calm skin that is tight or sensitive. For more information on this, head to our guide on choosing the right face mask for you.
Usually, you'll be using face masks once or twice per week, as they are more intense treatments that don't require daily application. However, those with dry skin, sensitive skin, or areas prone to eczema and rosacea, could apply hydrating and calming masks more frequently. This can be especially helpful in the winter months when the combination of cold weather and dry central heating can cause irritating or flaking.
When you're trying to build a skincare routine, identifying your skin type is one of the most important steps. This information provides a starting point for you to find products that will suit your needs. By trying one of the tests above, you can begin to get an idea of what to target with your skin, and how to keep your complexion balanced.
At The Organic Pharmacy, you can shop by skin type to see curated routines and products for your kind of skin. Or, to find the right sunscreen to finish off your daytime skincare regimen, try our suncare section. By building a regimen that is specific to your complexion, you can target your skin issues and get that glow you've been looking for. For more skincare tips, check out our blog.