Understanding Skin Types: A Guide to Normal, Combination, Oily, Dry, and Dehydrated Skin

Posted by Kathleen Flanagan on

People are born with their skin types. Genetics and ethnicity determine the type of skin they have. An individual's skin type is primarily based on how much oil is produced in the follicles from the sebaceous glands and the amount of lipids found between the cells. The T-zone is the center area of the face corresponding to the forehead, nose and chin. All skin types need proper cleansing, exfoliating, and hydrating. The following is a description of the five skin types.

Normal Skin

Normal skin has a good oil/water balance. The follicles are a normal size and the skin is usually free of blemishes. The follicle size change from medium to smaller just on the edge of the T-zone.

Description: Cheeks feel comfortable with occasional imbalances to oily or dry. Skin feels moist to touch, is supple and evenly pigmented

Combination Skin

Combination skin can be both oily and dry at the same time. The T-zone is oilier. This area has more sebaceous glands and larger pores. The outer areas of the face can be dry and even appear flaky. The pore size change from larger to medium just outside the T-zone on the cheeks.

Description: Cheeks feel comfortable with occasional T-zone oiliness. Skin feels moist to touch is supple and evenly pigmented. Water-based products work best for this skin type.

Oily/Blemished Skin

Oily skin is characterized by excess sebum/oil production. The follicle size is larger and contains more oil. If the pore size is larger over most of the face, this indicates an oily skin type. Oily skin requires more cleansing and exfoliating than other skin types. Blemishes and blackheads are common. Over cleansing can make matters worse by stripping the skin and irritating it. If the skin is over dried, the body's protection mechanism tries to produce additional oil to compensate for the dryness on the surface. Oily skin ages more slowly. Oily skin is more prone to acne.

Description: Skin is shiny, congested, blemish prone or slightly blemished. (From my experience, many people think they have oily skin. If you are a true oily skin type, there is a simple test to determine it. If you wash your face at 8:00 a.m., when do you notice shine on your face? If it is within 2 hours, you have oily skin. If not, then you don't.)

Dry/Sensitive Skin

Dry skin does not produce enough oil. Alipidic skin lacks oil (lipids). The follicles are usually small and the sebum is minimal. If you can barely see the follicles or they are small, this indicates a dry skin type. The natural oil secretions in our follicles help protect us from environmental damage and aging. Dry skin needs extra care because it lacks this normal protection. Stimulating oil production and protecting the surface is imperative to taking care of dry skin. Occlusive products also protect the skin's top barrier layer and hold in moisture, which helps to combat dryness.

Description: Skin is tight, flaky, dehydrated or easily irritated. Irritation can take on the form of redness, blotchiness or inflammation.

Dehydration is a condition that can be seen on all skin types. Dehydrated skin lacks water. Drinking plenty of water and hydrating the skin with moisturizers and humectants can help minimize the negative effects of dryness and dehydration.

Occlusive is a heavier product such as an emollient cream to keep moisture in the skin.

Humectants are ingredients that attract water/moisture to the skin and soften the surface, diminish lines caused by dryness; glycerin is a humectant used in creams and lotion.

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