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How to determine your skin type (and why it matters)

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One of the most common questions I hear from patients is: "How do I know what my skin type is?"

It's a great question. Knowing your skin type—oily, dry, normal, combination, or sensitive—helps you know how to take better care of your skin and helps you find the right products to use on your face and body. 

Here's what I recommend when determining your skin type and crafting your perfect skincare routine: 

1. Observe what your skin does when left alone

The next time you have time to relax at home, wash your face using a gentle cleanser, pat it dry with a towel and then simply let it be without putting any added product on it. After about thirty minutes, take a look at your skin and see what you notice: 

  • Oily skin will look and feel shiny and might feel slick
  • Dry skin will look and feel flaky, finely scaly and dry
  • Combination skin will look shiny only in the T-zone (forehead, nose), but may look and feel dry on your cheeks, chin and around jawline
  • Normal skin should look and feel neither too shiny, slick, flaky or dry
  • Sensitive skin might look a little pink, or may it look like normal skin, but you notice it reacts or gets red easily with change in environment, weather conditions or use of products 

2. Take the blotting sheet test 

Oil blotting sheets (you can find them at your local drugstore or superstore) can help you see how much oil your skin naturally produces. After cleansing and letting your skin be for 30 minutes, press the sheets to different parts of your face and then check how much oil, if any, is picked up.

If the sheets pick up a lot of oil from all over your face, you probably have an oily skin type. Oil in your T-zone only indicates a combination skin type, while minimal to no oil suggests a normal or dry skin type.

3. Consult with a dermatologist

If you’re really unsure about your skin type, or if you have specific concerns or pesky problem areas, consider scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist. Your dermatologist can review your health history, perform a skin assessment and make specific recommendations based on your needs and goals. 

Choosing the right skincare products based on your skin type

No matter what type of skin you have, you don’t have to spend big bucks to take good care of it. You can find high quality products right at your local drugstore or superstore (that’s where I usually get mine). 

Just make sure the products you choose are designed with your skin type in mind, aren’t expired and are free of added fragrances or dyes, as these can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. 

As a general rule, here’s what to look for in a daily moisturizer based on skin type: 

  • Oily: lightweight moisturizers that are non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
  • Dry: slightly heavier moisturizers that form a more protective nourishing barrier
  • Normal: can use either moisturizing creams or lighter lotions, depending on the season and humidity level 
  • Combination: consider using different types of moisturizers on different areas of the face, such as a lighter, oil-free option on the forehead and nose and a more moisturizing  option on the dryer areas of the face, such as the cheeks, jawline and chin
  • Sensitive: while I think fragrance-free products containing minimal ingredients are beneficial for all skin types, they’re especially important for people with sensitive skin that is prone to irritation and redness


I also like to remind my patients that how they use their skincare products matters, too! Avoid excessive rubbing, exfoliation and over-cleansing, as this can make your skin more prone to dryness, oiliness, irritation and breakouts. 

Are you looking for a dermatologist? 

If you'd like to consult with a dermatologist about your skin, or if you need help finding the right products for your skin type, contact SIU Medicine now at 217-545-8000 to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist in Springfield. 

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