If you are anything like me, you probably feel totally overwhelmed when you walk into your nearest pharmacy or cosmetics shop. So much choice, fancy language on the packaging and long lists of ingredients make it difficult to decipher what kind of product you are actually looking at. I am a trained beautician (I went to beauty school, did a three year apprenticeship at a luxury hotel, worked as a self-employed beautician for two years, before focusing on make-up) and buying products can still be challenging!
In my experience, the biggest problem most women/men have, is not knowing their skin type. Not everybody has the money to go and see a beautician to find out this vital piece of information and then there is the hard task of actually finding a good beautician who really knows his/her stuff. That’s why I decided to write this post. My aim is to arm you with the basics you need to know, so that you are better equipped to buy the right products, without having to see a specialist. I am going to keep it really simple (and non-scientific, so back off science boffins), in the hope that you don’t feel overwhelmed – yet again!
Very, very simply put: skin needs oil and moisture. Some skin needs more oil, some more moisture, other skin types need more of both.
Below are five of the easiest ways to test your skin type yourself. These tests should NOT be done directly after you have washed your face or with full face make-up on. The best time to test your skin is in the morning, before you wash your face – provided you cleansed the skin the night before. You will need a packet of facial blotting paper, which is sold in most pharmacies, for test 5.
How to tell if your skin is hydrated enough:
1. Stand in front of your mirror and push the skin of your cheek upwards, slightly with a finger. If you see very fine wrinkles, then these are a sign that your skin could be a bit thirsty (this does not necessarily mean that it needs extra oil, though). If your skin doesn’t pucker at all, then your skin is probably well hydrated.
2. Check to see if your skin is flaky, as flaky skin can be a sign of lacking moisture.
3. This next test can be done after washing your face, but make sure you do test 4 & 5 (below) first! Wash your face and then wait for a few minutes before applying your day cream. Pay attention to how your skin feels. Does it feel tight? Itchy even? If so, your skin probably needs a good stiff drink! (N.B.: This could also mean that your face wash is too harsh, stripping your skin of oils and moisture, so make sure you use a very gentle cleanser.)
How to tell if your skin has enough oil:
4. Look at your skin. Does it appear shiny in places? If not, then it probably isn’t too oily. If it is shiny, touch the skin in the shiny areas (with clean dry fingers) and then look at your fingertips to see if they are shiny. Then check if they feel greasy. If you fingers are just a little shiny and they don’t feel overly greasy, then chances are your skin has enough oil. If your fingers are particularly shiny and feel quite greasy, then your skin may be producing too much oil.
5. With clean, dry fingers, take a piece of facial blotting paper, press different parts of the paper, for a few seconds, against different areas of your face. In places where your skin produces too much oil the paper will become almost see-through.
Some specialists also look at the size of skin pores to identify a skin type. I have consciously avoided this in this article, as the size of pores can be influenced by other factors, such as smoking. I have also experienced clients who had very oily skin and yet their pores were small and tight – so the basic rule of thumb: small pores = dry skin / large pores = oily skin, in my opinion, doesn’t always apply!
Not all cosmetic companies use the same jargon and no two skin types are exactly the same but because we somehow need to describe our skin type and find the right products, skin types are mainly split into these categories:
This basically means your skin has enough moisture and enough oil, and that it doesn’t regularly suffer from any anomalies, such as skin irritations.
Most of the time ‘dry skin’ means that your skin is in need of extra hydration and extra oils. If you have this skin type, you may have very fine dehydration wrinkles when you put pressure on your skin, your skin may feel ‘tight’ after washing, be flaky in places and predominantly have tight pores.
This means your skin has enough of one thing, but not the other. So, basically speaking, it has enough oil, but not enough moisture or vice-versa.
This means the skin has adequate hydration, but it produces too much oil.
Sensitive skin will be one of the above skin types but it will also be sensitive to certain ingredients in products. The skin may have a little redness on the surface or become irritated after applying products. If you have sensitive skin, avoid perfumed products and those with a list of ingredients that are a mile long. They need not be all natural, as natural ingredients can irritate just as much as synthetic ones. If you are having real trouble finding anything to suit your skin, then perhaps see a skin specialist and do an allergy test, so that you know what ingredients to avoid.
In addition to oil and moisture, mature skin also needs extra nutrients – although I have to admit I am very skeptical as to how well nutrients in creams and the like are absorbed and processed by the skin. I personally believe, that the skin is nourished from within and that beauty products need not have a long list of rare and expensive ingredients in order to be effective. In my experience, keeping the skin balanced with adequate oil and hydration is essentially what most people need.
I should add, that all of these skin types can suffer from acne, spots impurities etc. It is an urban myth that dry skin will not suffer from spots, but sometimes the skin is so dry that the oils and sebum in the pores cannot be expelled successfully and this can result in impurities.
And last, but not least, bear in mind the skin is an organ. It’s working all the time and therefore it is always changing and it doesn’t necessarily behave the same way every day. So, pay attention to how your skin feels, before you go on slathering cream that it may not need today, but might need tomorrow!
If you have any questions, just pop them in the comment box below and I will get back to you asap!