Skincare 101: How to determine your skin type?

Skincare 101: How to determine your skin type?

Your skin type is arguably the most important factor to consider when building a skincare routine. Misunderstanding your skin type has real, visible results. For example using cleansers and exfoliating scrubs that are too harsh, even if they are recommended for excessive oiliness, may send the signal to your skin that more oil is actually needed. Conversely, applying a face moisturizer that is too thick or heavy can result in decreased natural oil production, resulting in even drier skin. Taking the time to learn your skin’s specific needs will help you to choose the right options that will balance your skin resulting in a healthier, more radiant complexion.

There are five main skin types—oily, normal, combination, dry, and sensitive—and each comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. While everyone needs the essentials (think cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF), the best formulas for each skin type can vary immensely. Understanding where your skin falls on the skin type spectrum is therefore key if you want to build a routine that truly works for you.


What Are The Five Basic Skin Types?

We will give you a quick rundown on each.

Oily Skin: Oily skin is characterized by a higher-than-average production of sebum, skin’s natural oil. This excess oiliness can make the skin appear shiny or greasy and is often accompanied by skin concerns like blackheads and enlarged pores. As clogged pores are a major contributor to breakouts, those with oily skin may also be prone to breakouts.

Dry Skin: Dry skin is the opposite of oily skin—it’s skin that doesn’t have enough oil. It may look dull or feel tight, while severe dryness can cause the skin to crack, flake, or peel. Dry skin and dehydrated skin are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing—dehydration is a lack of water, and that can happen to anyone, regardless of skin type.

Combination Skin: Combination skin displays two or more defining characteristics—like dryness and oiliness—in different areas. Oftentimes, people with combination skin will have an oilier T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin), while their cheeks will be drier.

Sensitive Skin: Sensitive skin is characterized by a heightened sensitivity to stressors, including some skincare products. Degrees of sensitivity can vary: Some people only experience mild irritation when exposed to stressors, while others struggle with redness, itching, and discomfort regularly. That being said, sensitivity isn’t always visible—sometimes, it’s just about how the skin feels.

Normal Skin: While we’d argue all skin is normal, in skincare, normal refers specifically to skin that’s well-balanced and displays no persistent skin concerns.

Now that we understand the basic of the different skin types. Let’s figure out how to actually determine your skin type.


There are two main methods we will discuss:

The Bare-Faced Method

An easy way to determine your skin type is to carefully study your bare skin. You can start by washing your face with a gentle cleanser such as our Gentle Daily Cleanser. When you’re done lathering up, gently pat your face dry with a clean towel and refrain from applying any skincare products. After 30 minutes, examine your cheeks, chin, nose and forehead for any shine. After another 30 minutes, evaluate whether your skin feels parched, especially if you smile or make any other facial expressions. If it feels tight, dry, and uncomfortable, you probably have dry skin, while those with excessive shine typically fall into the oily skin category. If your skin exhibits both oily and dry areas, you likely have combination skin. Irritation indicates sensitivity and having none of these concerns probably means you’re blessed with normal skin (congratulations!).

The Blotting Sheet Method

Another simple way to determine your skin type at home is to press a clean blotting paper against different areas of your face. This method is much faster and often an excellent differentiator between oily and dry skin types. Gently pat a blotting paper on the different areas of your face. Then, hold the sheet up to a light to see how much oil was absorbed: The more oil on the paper, the oilier your skin is likely to be. Similarly, if you see little to no oil, you may have dry skin. Finally, if the blotting sheet reveals minimal oil from your T-zone only, you probably have a combination or normal skin type. For best results, we recommend doing this test around midday or evening—blotting your skin too soon after cleansing can skew the results.


Can Your Skin Type Change?

Here’s where it gets complicated—your skin type can change (and probably will, at some point). When you’re a teenager, for example, it’s pretty common to have oily or blemish-prone skin. However, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have oily skin forever. In fact, as you get older, your skin gets drier (along with a host of other changes we’re not going to get into here). It’s therefore not uncommon to have oily skin when you’re young and drier skin as you get older.

Other factors, like the climate you live in, may also influence your skin type: Hot weather and humidity can be linked to oilier skin, while cold, dry air is often associated with dryness.


How To Care For Your Skin Type

Knowing your skin type is only part of the equation: You also need to know how to meet your skin type primary needs. Ahead, we’ll give you the details so you can be better equipped to build a skincare routine that suits your skin.

Oily Skin

Oily skin is especially vulnerable to oil-related concerns, such as blemishes, shininess, and clogged pores. Caring for this skin type can seem tricky because it still needs moisture—but it doesn’t need any more oil. If you have oily skin, you want to reach for products that provide lightweight hydration like our Moisture-Boost Gel Moisturiser and help absorb excess oil without stripping your skin’s natural moisture barrier, which serves as the first line of defense between you and the outside world. Daily enzymatic exfoliation is essential to promote cell turnover and prevent sebum buildup in pores. A gentle physical exfoliator (that does not use abrasives such as crushed nuts or seeds that can cause tiny tears in the dermis) is also useful for balancing the tone and texture of your skin.


Dry Skin

While dryness and dehydration are two different things, the lack of oil present in dry skin makes it less able to retain water. Without sufficient moisture, the skin’s natural moisture barrier can’t work as effectively as it needs to. This leaves the skin vulnerable to a host of concerns, from minor irritation to visible signs of premature aging. The key to caring for dry skin, therefore, is to reach for products that help nurture and protect the skin’s natural moisture barrier. How to best care for dry skin? Daily exfoliation with gentle, non-abrasive ingredients helps promote skin cell turnover without removing skin’s natural oils. Without an additional layer of dead skin, serums and treatments will be absorbed more easily.

The best moisturizers for dry skin are those containing hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Also, and marine actives, are wonderful because of their ability to attract water and deliver it directly to skin cells. Additionally, emollients, including squalane and camellia oil, help smooth and hydrate your skin evenly and effectively. Products we recommend:


Combination Skin

Combination skin can be tricky to care for since it’s not just a single concern you’re contending with but several conflicting concerns (at the same time). Typically, we recommend those with this skin type reach for gentle treatments that provide lightweight moisture without weighing down or drying out your skin. Balance is key. People with combination skin often experience dryness on the cheeks, making it important to find a moisturizer that is not too heavy but also substantial enough to retain moisture where needed most. Those with combination skin are not prone to breakouts on their cheeks, and tend to have a well-moisturized t-zone (which includes the forehead, chin, and nose).

Caring for combination skin can feel tricky – but it's quite simple. Gentle, daily exfoliation is also important to keep the t-zone and cheek areas balances. For hydration, moisturizers with a gel-like texture are absorbed more quickly and less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts. Start with a small amount and increase as needed to avoid over-moisturizing and stressing the skin.

Sensitive Skin

Experts generally agree that sensitivity ultimately stems from a disruption in the skin’s natural moisture barrier. When the barrier doesn’t work properly, stressors that it should be able to resist can get past your skin’s weakened defenses and wreak havoc, causing redness and discomfort. To help keep your skin feeling comfortable, we recommend reaching for mild products made specifically for stressed skin. Look for ingredients such ceramides, soothing ingredients and hydrators.

Managing sensitive skin can be challenging, as it takes considerable time and effort to determine which ingredients cause inflammation and irritation. To make this process easier, introduce only one new formula or product at a time. This rule applies to both skincare and cosmetics. Patch testing a new formula on your inner forearm is an excellent way to minimize potential reactions on the face. If your skin shows no sign of flaring up, apply the formula to the area behind one of your ears before using it on your face.


Normal Skin

Last but not least is normal skin—the easiest skin type to care for. Since those with normal skin don’t have any major concerns to address, your priorities should simply be maintaining your skin’s natural balance. Your routine should include, at a minimum, a cleanser, a lightweight moisturizer, and a broad-spectrum sunscreen to help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.




Our skin’s needs can change over time, and taking steps to best identify its needs is essential for it to function and look its best. Keeping the health of your skin in mind and “checking in” regularly to determine whether any adjustments to your current ritual are needed will keep it balanced and beautiful.

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