Understanding Skin Types

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Caring for your skin means knowing what skin care products to buy. Cleansers, moisturizers and makeup all work best when matched with your skin type. For example, if you have oily skin and use a foundation for dry skin, it may seem as if it is sliding off your face as the day wears on. Understanding your skin type helps you better care for your skin and keeps your skin looking vibrant.

There are five basic skin types:

Characteristics of Different Skin Types

Each has specific characteristics which can help you determine which skin type you have:

Normal Skin Type

  • Neither oily nor dry

  • Very few discolorations or variances in tone/pigment

  • Blemish free

  • Appears smooth and clear- pores barely visible


  • Shiny appearance

  • Enlarged pores

  • Prone to acne and blackheads

  • Appearance of thick skin


  • Flaky, dry or red patches

  • Tight appearance with small pores

  • Looks dull or lackluster

  • Wrinkles and lines may develop more easily


  • Areas around chin, forehead and nose may be oily

  • Areas around eyes, hair and jaw lines often dry

  • Prone to blackheads

  • Large pores


  • Blotchy patches

  • Redness in spots

  • Prone to rashes and irritation

  • Broken capillaries

  • May feel itching or burning

Skin types can change, so beware that products used during one period of your life may not work during another. Skin types can change with stress, seasons and age. Hormonal changes also affect skin type. Some women find their skin oily during certain times during their menstrual cycle but dry during others. Your skin care regimen and the products you use on your face may change from day to day.

Determining Your Skin Type

To find out your skin type, first wash your face and then leave it alone for a few hours, without putting any makeup or products on. There are commercial oil blotters you can buy in the makeup section of your local grocery store or pharmacy but you can also use a piece of tissue paper. Press the blotting paper on your face, one area at a time, and then look to see if there are translucent areas on the paper. If there are, this area is probably oily.

Remember, different areas of your face are naturally more oily than others, such as around the nose and on the forehead. As you work your way around your face, you should be able to tell which areas are oily, if any, and which are dry.

Matching Products to Skin Type

Once you have determined what skin type you have, check your cosmetics, cleansers and lotions
to see if the products you have are right for your skin type. Generally, lotions and creams are better for dry skin and gels and liquids for oily skin. If you have combination skin, you may need to use several different products, targeting certain areas. We will look at specific needs for the different skin types in the coming weeks.

Remember, no matter what your skin type, you should always use sunscreen.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.