Understanding Your Skin Type and Creating a Routine

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Your skin type influences the products you use and how your face responds to certain treatments. Board-certified dermatologists Aanand Geria, MD, Christina Chung, MD, Hadley King, MD, and Geeta Yadav, MD share expert tips to identify your skin type.

Normal skin looks smooth and feels supple. It is balanced in its oil production and pores, and doesn’t sting or irritate.


This skin type is the most common and typically has a nice balance between oily and dry. People with normal skin can use light products and tend to avoid breakouts, flakiness or a greasy appearance.

The best way to determine whether your skin is normal is to observe it after cleansing and leaving it bare for half an hour. You can also buy a pack of blotting sheets and press them to your nose, cheeks and forehead to see how much oil is picked up.

Remember, however, that our skin can change based on the season, diet, location and more. And that is ok. Your skin is like your personality – it can be wishy-washy and exist on a continuum. It might be oily one day and dry the next.


Oily skin is characterized by a greasy appearance and the production of excess sebum. It can be caused by genetics, hormonal changes (particularly during puberty and perimenopause), diet or certain medications.

You can identify your skin type by cleansing it and waiting for half an hour, then using a blotting sheet to see how much oil is on the surface of your skin. Feeling your skin’s texture and a soft pinch test can also help to gauge hydration levels.

It’s important to remember that our skin is always changing and can go through dry, oily or combination spells for many reasons including lifestyle, weather, hormone changes and stress. The good news is that with the right skincare and routine, you can help keep your skin healthy and radiant.


When people have dry skin, their pores are small and they often feel tight. This type of skin can have a flakey appearance, be rough and itchy. It can also show premature wrinkles and have a dull, lifeless appearance.

To test your skin’s moisture levels, try ripping up pieces of tissue and sticking them to your face. If the tissue sticks, you have normal skin and if it falls off then you have oily skin.

Another way to check your skin is by observing how it reacts after washing and then pressing blotting sheets against your face. If your skin looks shiny or has enlarged pores, you have oily skin. If the blotting sheets reveal no shine or only a small amount, you have normal skin.


People with combination skin have oily areas but dry parts of the face. Typically, the T-zone is very oily while the cheeks and jaw area are very dry.

Genetics plays a major role in determining your skin type, but your diet, weather and lifestyle can all influence how oily or dry your skin is. It’s important to know your skin type so you can avoid products, ingredients and routines that could disrupt your healthy balance.

One of the easiest ways to find out what your skin type is is to wash your face with a gentle cleanser and apply nothing else. If you notice that after 30 minutes your face is shiny, then you’re likely an oily skin type. You may also have large pores that get clogged easily.


Sensitive skin is prone to reacting to stimuli that normal skin does not, which can cause redness, itching, burning or stinging sensations. These triggers may be soaps, detergents, fragrances, perfumes, skincare or household products, as well as environmental elements such as cold and wind.

Symptoms include objective signs that can be seen by your healthcare provider, like redness and swelling, as well as subjective symptoms that you experience, such as burning or itching. Regardless of your skin type, elevated sensitivity can be a sign of an underlying condition, including rosacea, eczema, or an allergy. All skin types can benefit from regular cleansing and moisturizing, as well as avoiding irritants. However, if your sensitivity is severe, you should speak to a dermatologist or skincare professional for recommendations.

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