Determining Your Skin Type

Hey guys! So today I’ll be going over a very important topic in skincare: determining your skin type!

Once you know what skin type you are, it makes it that much easier figuring out what sort of products to buy and try. It’ll streamline the building of your routine and make product selection a breeze. As skin needs change with factors like the seasons, genetics, and lifestyle, periodic re-assessments will optimize your routine. I personally like to reassess with every change of season. Skin can be really variable and products that once worked well can suddenly seem to stop working and vice versa. Hopefully this guide can be something you keep referring back to.
Let’s get started!
How to determine your current skin type:
This is really simple. Go wash your face and then wait an hour. Don’t apply any products; you want a blank, honest canvas for the most accurate assessment.
How skin type is determined:
Skin type revolves around how much oil, or sebum, skin produces. Oil is not only responsible for how oily your skin appears but is also in control of how quickly water is lost (and then how quickly skin dries out). See? Oil really isn’t so evil.
The basic types:
Alright! So the hour is up and you have a bare canvas to examine. Go look in a mirror and see what most resembles what is happening on your face.

This skin type will not appear shiny/oily and also won’t feel dry, tight, or have visible flaking. Acne isn’t too common an occurrence and when it does crop up, the breakouts are mild and tend to resolve quickly. Its important to note that all this skin type means is that your skin doesn’t produce too much oil to be visible on the face, but also enough to properly retain water (stays moist). Normal skin is not perfect skin although issues may arise less often than for other types. Proper cleansing and regular moisturization will keep this skin in its best shape.


This skin type will appear, well, oily, due to an overproduction of sebum. It will feel slick to the touch and will look shiny, especially towards the end of the day. Acne is often a frequent occurrence and pores may appear enlarged. Rigorous cleansing is not the way to solve the excess oil and acne; harsh exfoliation and over cleansing can lead to a damaged moisture barrier and cause even more sebum to be produced, exacerbating the problem even further. Oil-based cleansers, counter intuitive as that may seem, will help remove extra oil. A gentle, low pH cleanser will help balance out skin and start managing excess sebum. Hydration is also still very important. Humectants will help draw water to the skin’s surface and are the moisturizer type of choice for this kind of skin. Look for light, watery, emulsion-like products and gel-based creams over heavier, creamier formulas. There are also many great oil-blotting sheets and oil-absorbing powders to keep sebum and shininess at bay.


This skin type will feel tight and may have visible flaking, redness, and/or appear a bit dull. It will be dry to the touch and fine lines/wrinkles may seem more pronounced than other skin types. Sometimes this skin type can be confused with a skin issue known as dehydrated skin (which we’ll tackle below). The main difference between the two is that dry skin is not a temporary condition; it is a continual state where skin doe not produce enough sebum to stay comfortably hydrated. Multiple layers of moisturizing products will help keep water in. Including all three moisturizing classes in your routine (ie a humectant to draw water to the skin’s surface, an emollient to smooth, plump, and hydrate, then an occulsive to seal everything in)  will produce the biggest rewards.


This skin type gets the best of both worlds: all the joys of the oily skin type in some places (generally the T-zone) and all the wonders that make up the dry skin type in others (like the cheeks). Where oily and dry patches are on a combination skin type’s face will vary person to person, but generally it includes an oilier forehead, nose and chin, with drier cheeks and neck area. “Balancing” products (they should say this in their title) will help keep oily parts of the face at bay while still providing moisture to the drier parts. The goal is to use light layers of moisturizing products so that the dry areas can be treated while not weighing the oilier parts down and causing more breakouts, etc. If differences are extreme, using different products on different parts of the face can be a good bet. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Other Concerns:
Along with skin type, various skin concerns are bound to come and go. Have any of these appeared consistently over the past three months or longer?


We all know what this one is. It is one of the more common-and more complex-skin issues to treat. Just like skin, everyone’s acne is a little different (yay! your pimples are as unique as you are! ugh). Acne can effect any skin type and in many different ways. I’ll do a separate post on types of acne, but for now here’s the general rundown: there are blackheads, whiteheads, closed comedones (aka “cc”s), and cystic acne. They can strike in any combination, with any level of severity, and anywhere, regardless of skin type. So many different factors can affect this from genetics to medications to the seasons. Sadly, finding what kind of treatment works best for you at any given time is a total trial-and error process and keep in mind that different ingredients will affect different types of acne in different ways.

2-Signs of Aging

Wrinkles and fine lines fall under this category of skin concerns. They can be more pronounced on drier skin types (due to a lack of moisture to plump up the skin) and as aging is totally inevitable, signs of aging are probably the most common skin concern. While sun exposure (and level of protection from it) can greatly influence the onset of these signs, just like acne, a wide variety of factors are going to influence what happens where, and how much so. Most of these factors are out of our control BUT proper sun protection, regular moisturization, and a healthy diet can help prevent the onset and severity of these signs. Consistency and dedication are key. The sooner you start taking preventative steps (ideally in the teen years/early twenties), the more benefit you will see. Even if you already have signs, it is never too late to start! Despite the fact that prevention is really the best way to treat fine lines and wrinkles, there are many products that can help reduce their appearance!

3-Skin Sensitivity

Sensitive skin is no joke; it can make a skin care routine a living nightmare! This issue is very complex and can either be a natural condition or be brought on by other skin conditions like a damaged moisture barrier, allergies, and prescription medications (especially topical skin ones like retinoids) to name a few. With this skin concern there is a lot of trial and error, figuring out what works best (and/or figuring out what ingredients may be causing sensitivity or worsening it). Low pH cleansers, avoiding alcohol, fragrance, and other potentially irritating ingredients can help in addition to a regular, gentle, moisturizing routine. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

4-Dehydrated skin

I have uncomfortable close experience with this skin condition. For me, it was a total lack of proper skin education. I brought this on through harsh over cleansing with high pH products and a passionate love affair with 10% benzoyl peroxide that was my only defense against a sudden start-up of adult acne that would not kick the bucket. This treatment of my skin led to a (very, very, very) damaged moisture barrier, which led to my skin drying out, then it producing more oil, which led to more breakouts that got over-scrubbed and benzoyl-ed. My skin was a wreck. I looked amazingly old despite just starting my “turbulent twenties” adventure due to the dryness, yet was completely acne-ridden and an oil slick only a few hours into my day. Almost a year  of pancake makeup and I was desperate…cue sappy music as I discover CosRX and Memebox and Korean beauty saves my life.

But the facts of the matter are: a compromised moisture barrier is a horrible place to be in, BUT within 4 weeks or so, it can heal and repair itself. The moisture barrier comprises of the outermost layer of skin (a whole bunch of dead skin cells, sebum, fatty acids, and the like) which protects the other layers (and your insides).  This layer’s composition makes skin water-proof, keeping water and such in while keeping dirt, bacteria, and other nasty, disgusting stuff out. Skin’s pH can range anywhere from 4.0-7.0, but anything beyond 5.5 is going to lead to acne, sensitivity, and other not-so-fun things (low pH cleansers everyone, low pH cleansers).

So when this layer is compromised by over cleansing/exfoliation, high pH products, things burn-related (like sunburn), or harsh products (like prescription retinoids), skin can seem both oily AND dry (looks oily but is super dry underneath), which is a telltale sign of a damaged barrier. Other symptoms include extreme dryness, flakiness,and pronounced wrinkles, skin sensitivity, acne (so much acne…), all generally with a sudden onset.Skincare products and makeup may also be harder to apply (not only due to a crepe-paper-like texture, but also products become harder to absorb…think of a dry vs damp sponge trying to absorb more water). With time and patience, a combination of gentle cleansing and religious layering of moisturizing products, the barrier can and will heal itself. Due to the need for layers of moisture, the Korean skincare approach works very well for this skin concern and I can personally attest to that. Many, many skin issues listed here may just be because of dehydration. After about two months of religious Korean skincare use, all those fine lines I was seeing disappeared, my acne pretty much vanished, and both my dryness and oiliness were back under control. I was back to normal. It is a frustrating but treatable condition and should be addressed as soon as symptoms are noticed. Please let me know if you have any additional questions about this…I’ve had a lot of experience with this problem!

5-Dull Skin and Tone Issues

These skin concerns usually come as a pair and are luckily treated in pretty much the same ways.

Dull skin is no fun and often plagues those with drier skin types. It makes skin look tired, aged, and definitely not “lit from within.”  Uneven skin tone will often show up to the party with dullness as well. But fear not! A little sunscreen, exfoliation, and some brightening products (look for niacinamide) will get skin glowing in no time.

Very few people are blessed with a perfectly even skin tone, not to mention acne can lead to red marks and hyperpigmentation  which stem from melanin-overproduction. Sun damage aging, and hormones can also play a big part in unsightly spots and patches. If a spot was cause by acne it is know as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH. This can be brought on and made worse if the pimple was picked at or popped. So keep away from it and use hydrocolloid bandages instead! What is nice is that treatments for dull skin often can help treat PIH and other tone-related issues (which is wonderful as they usually go hand in hand).


Well, there you have it! If you’ve read all the way this far, give your self a round of applause, or slap on a sheet mask or something. This list is by no means comprehensive, but I hope I’ve covered the biggest main concerns. If you have any questions, comments, or know of something I might have missed and would like to see it added, let me know I’m the comments below! Thanks for reading!
What’s your skin type? Do you have seasonal skin wardrobes?
What have you found works best for addressing your skin concerns?


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