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Skin Types: Do You Have Combination, Oily, or Dry Skin? Get Skincare Tips Specifically for Your Type

There are five basic skin care types: oily, combination (normal), sensitive, dry, and sun-damaged. Which one are you?

Discovering what type of skin you have can help you choose products that help it look and feel healthy. There's a simple test to help you out and different approaches to skincare you'll want to follow once you find your match.

What Determines Skin Type?

Your skin type is determined by how much—or how little—oil your skin produces.

Genes, diet, stress level, hormonal fluctuations, medications, and your skincare regimen all determine how much oil your skin produces.

You may find that your skin type changes frequently—from dry to oily to normal—all in the course of months. This is normal. Women are especially prone to changes throughout life because our hormones are continually shifting.

A Test for Your Skin Type

In her book, "Beauty: The New Basics," Rona Berg suggests you take the "skin test" to tell what skin type you have. To do this, wash your face, pat it dry, then take a few pieces of rice paper or lens-cleaning tissue paper and press it on different spots on your face.

If your skin is oily, the paper will stick, pick up oily spots, and become translucent. If the paper doesn't stick or pick up any oils, your skin is dry. If it sticks only in your T-zone (forehead and down your nose to your chin), then you have combination (or normal) skin.

Most women actually have combination skin.

Oily Skin

Oily skin is shiny skin, especially in the T-zone. You may have enlarged pores and may be prone to blackheads and breakouts due to overproduction of the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands.

The good thing about oily skin is that it ages better than dry skin.

That's because the oils keep the skin plump and this allows fewer wrinkles to form. Oily skin is common in young women but as they age, many find that their skin becomes drier, especially after age 35.

To take care of your skin:

  • Wash with a cleanser formulated for oily skin before you go to bed.

  • Exfoliate twice weekly with a gentle scrub.

  • Only use light—rather than heavy—moisturizers.

  • If you suffer from breakouts, an astringent such as Biore Blemish Treating Astringent may help.

  • For blush and bronzers, powdered blends work better than liquid ones.

  • Look for oil-free options when shopping for tinted moisturizers or foundations.

Combination/Normal Skin

Most women (some experts say up to 70 percent) have combination or "normal" skin. Combination skin means you may have a slightly oily T-zone with drier cheeks and patches of dry spots here and there. You may also have larger pores on your cheeks and possibly your forehead.

This skin type has medium pores, a smooth and even texture, good circulation, and a healthy color.

To take care of your skin, you may need to treat the T-zone in a different manner than your drier spots.

  • If your T-zone tends to be oily, try an astringent on those areas only after you've washed your face.

  • Make sure to exfoliate twice weekly using a facial scrub or a Clarisonic Mia to remove any dead skin cells.

  • It's okay to use a heavier facial moisturizer on your dry spots as needed.

Dry Skin

Dry skin feels tight, especially after cleansing. You may notice that your skin becomes drier the older you get. This skin fluctuation can be attributed to hormones.

With dry skin, you will have a tendency toward fine wrinkles, flaking, and red patches. In women of color, the skin may appear ashy or dull from dead skin buildup.

Dry skin requires special care:

  • Try creamy cleansers and moisturizers formulated for dry skin.

  • Exfoliate weekly to remove dead skin cells.

  • Slather on primer under your foundation to plump up the skin as much as possible.

  • A mineral water spray such as Evian will help moisturize your skin as the day wears on (keep one in your purse).

  • If you live in a dry environment, use a humidifier in your office and bedroom to keep the skin from drying out.

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin tends to be thin and delicate, with fine pores. If you are easily irritated by the sun or certain cosmetic products and are prone to redness, itchy patches, or blotchy skin, you likely have sensitive skin.

Finding the right cleansers and moisturizers for your skin type can be tricky. The good news is that many companies have developed products specifically for sensitive skin. You may just have to try a few before finding the right one.

Look for mild products that contain no scents. Many drugstores and department stores allow you to return products, so check out the return policy before you buy. You can also ask if the store carries freebies so you can try before you buy.

Aging or Sun-Damaged Skin

This type of skin also feels tight and it's a natural experience as we age or enjoy spending a lot of time in the sun. You may notice visible wrinkles, slack skin tone—especially around the cheeks and jawline—with a leathery texture and broken capillaries.

To care for aging skin:

  • Though everyone should apply sunscreen daily, it's vital to protecting this type of skin and prevent further damage. Reapply it as needed for even more protection and look for beauty products with SPF.

  • Consider using moisturizers and heavy creams to plump up your fine wrinkles.

  • Retin-A can do wonders for your skin tone and can smooth some fine wrinkles.

  • If you are really upset about your deeper lines, they can be fixed with Botox or other injectables.

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