Are you unsure what skin type you have? The truth is a lot of people are and that confusion is what can have you buying that buzzy new product because it sounds like the fountain of eternal youth and something that will most definitely, probably, sort out whatever skin issue you have. I have been there, a lot!
But, if you can identify your skin type then it will arm you with the knowledge you need to spend your money in the right places—on the products that will work for your complexion, guaranteed.
I called on Andrea Pfeffer, founder of skin clinic Pfeffer Sal (and one of the best places for facials in London) to find out how to identify your skin type like a pro.
What skin types are there?
Okay, for starters, skin types have traditionally been limited to the following:
But, says Pfeffer, “your skin is a lot more complex than that and it’s important to take other factors into consideration.”
Correctly treating your skin depends on:
Type: from dry to oily, this is a measure of how much oil your skin naturally produces.
Conditions: which include (but are not limited to) pigmentation, dehydration, sensitivity, inflammation, acne, rosacea.
As women, especially, our skin can fluctuate on a monthly and seasonal basis, so checking in with your complexion is something worth getting used to. “Don’t get too attached to one type or condition!” notes Pfeffer. “It’s very unlikely your skin will stay the same for life and subscribing to one type can mean that you’re not always treating your skin correctly.
“We can in fact be dealing with different skin conditions in different areas of the face at the same time and our skin type (essentially the amount of oil we produce) can fluctuate throughout our lifetime, too,” says Pfeffer.
Fun fact: You might think you have dry skin, but there aren’t that many people who have genetically dry skin which is prone to things like atopic dermatitis (eczema, to you and me). If you think your skin is dry - you know, that tell-tale tight feeling - it’s more likely to be dehydrated which is a skin condition.
Why does our skin change?
There are so many outside and inside factors that can cause our skin to morph. “Your skin ‘type’ and ‘conditions’ are changeable and factors such as lifestyle, diet, genes, environmental factors, seasons, and even the wrong skin care routine influence how your skin behaves,” explains Pfeffer.
“For example, hormonal fluctuations can increase oiliness, too much sugar will release inflammatory processes in tissues and affect skin sensitivity, swimming affects your lipid barrier leaving skin dehydrated, and hot activities such as steam rooms suck all of the moisture from your skin,” adds Pfeffer.
“If you’re feeling that your skin is not behaving as ‘your type’ should, then it’s time to look, feel, and listen to your skin!”—Andrea Pfeffer.
Feel: Roughness and dullness can be a sign of dry skin, this is down to lack of sebum. Whereas tightness can indicate dehydration, which is more superficial and is down to lack of water.
Look: Shine and open pores are quite often connected to increased oil production giving you a hint that your skin might be oily or combination.
Listen: Are you experiencing flare-ups of sensitivity or breakouts? What could your skin be trying to tell you—could the triggers be stress, diet, a reaction to a new product, something else?
“Building an awareness of your skin allows you to care for it properly,” notes Pfeffer.
Once you know what your skin type and conditions are you’ll find it much easier to shop for skincare and feel more confident that the products you choose are more likely to work for you. From there, you can start to build a skincare routine tailored to your complexion’s needs.
If you’re still not sure what your skin type is you can book in to see the team at Pfeffer Sal, they use an Observ machine that takes images of your skin at different layers of the epidermis (surface) and dermis (lower down), so they can accurately determine what’s going on with your complexion. The team is also incredibly knowledgeable, so they can take the readings and ascertain exactly what your skin type is and what it needs.
I’ll be following this up with a breakdown of all the skin types and conditions, plus a list of the best ingredients and products for each. But, in the meantime, if you’ve got any skin type questions feel free to drop a comment in the box below!