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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • Is Your Skin Type Oily, Dry, Sensitive, Combination or Normal? Here’s How to Find out

Is Your Skin Type Oily, Dry, Sensitive, Combination or Normal? Here’s How to Find out

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Main image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy

When choosing any skincare product, the first thing you’ll need to know is your skin type. Is it dry? Oily? Bit of both?

Knowing the answer is key to getting the balance just right for your skin. Because choosing an oil-free moisturiser for very dry skin (for example) just wouldn’t make much sense.

But how can you tell what yours is? And once you’ve figured it out, how should you look after it

According to skincare experts Faye Purcell, Dr Geeta Yadav and Dr Jodi LoGerfo, there are lots of ways to identify your skin type. And apparently, once you know it, you’re already halfway to a healthier, improved complexion. 

I’ll be giving some of my personal tips on how to know which skin type you have too, so keep scrolling to discover yours and learn how to keep it in tip-top condition.


What are the main different skin types?

“There are five main skin types,” says Purcell. “Normal, combination, dry, oily, and sensitive and all of these come with their own needs and challenges.”

Understanding which one you have will help you to build the ideal skincare routine to improve your skin’s behaviour and ongoing appearance. Glowier skin here you come!


Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy


How to identify yours 

Here are a few ways to decide which skin type is yours. And don’t worry, if you’re still confused, each skin type has a breakdown of how it typically behaves to help you crack your skin’s code.

As a beauty editor for over 17 years, I’ve tried and tested lots of methods to identify your skin type and this expert-approved one is the most effective.

  • Cleanse your face with water and a gentle face wash so that you have nothing on your skin.
  • Don’t apply any products onto your clean skin, leave it completely free of makeup and creams/serums.
  • Wait 30 minutes.
  • Assess how your skin is naturally behaving once your 30 minutes is up.

“If it feels uncomfortable or tight and appears dull throughout, you’re likely dry,” says Dr Yadav. “If it’s feeling comfortable despite the lack of moisturiser or other products and has a sheen, it’s oily,” she adds.

If you’ve got an oily t-zone but you’re dry everywhere else, you could be combination. If it’s irritated, itchy or comes up a little red, it’s sensitive. And if your skin hasn’t changed or it feels neither greasy nor dry, it’s normal.

Purcell has a few other methods you could try. “If you’re a makeup wearer, a good way to make a judgement on your skin type is based on how your makeup wears throughout the day,” she says. 

“A shiny look or makeup that appears to be separating can be an indicator that your skin is producing too much oil. On the other hand, textured or cracked makeup, particularly on the under-eye area, could be a skin that your complexion is dry.”

Or if you want to know on-the-spot, you can also take a quiz. “Use an online tool like Q+A’s Skin Type Quiz,” she recommends. “It takes just two minutes to complete and gives you personalised results and product recommendations ideally suited to your skin type.” 


Oily or acne-prone skin

Purcell says you’ll know it when you see it. “You overproduce sebum which can lead to clogged pores, blemishes and even acne,” she says. 

“Your skin will have a visibly shiny appearance and you may find your makeup just doesn’t want to stay put.” There’s good news though! “Your skin is less like to show the visible signs of ageing.” Every cloud…!


natural skincare

Image – Kalengankonge/Stocksy


Looking after your oily or acne-prone skin:

Thankfully with oily skin, how you look after it is pretty straightforward. Starting with avoiding rich, heavy products that still provide moisture. “Go for lightweight formulas that will hydrate the skin without overloading it,” she advises.

“An oil-free moisturiser is oily skins’ best friend as it provides essential hydration without further congestion.” Try Paula’s Choice Oil-Free Moisturiser (£31 from Paula’s Choice UK /$32 from Paula’s Choice US) which absorbs quickly and has been created for oil and acne prone skin. 

“Use a face wash specifically developed for oilier types, followed by a balancing toner like Q+A Niacinamide Daily Toner (£8) that helps calm redness, ease blemishes and minimise the appearance of congestion,” Purcell explains. 

Ingredients to look out for include, “salicylic acid [to] decongest the pores deeply and zinc PCA [which] can reduce the appearance of blemishes and balance [the skin].”

You can take a look at our full affordable skincare routine for oily skin here


Dry skin

“Dry skin is caused by a lack of natural oils and moisture within the layers of your skin,” explains Purcell. “Without sufficient moisture, the skin barrier can’t work as effectively and is much more prone to sensitivity.”

So how do you know if you’ve got dry skin? “If you experience rough skin texture, flakiness, and a feeling of tightness along with dullness, you probably have dry skin. It’s common for your skin to become drier as you age, particularly during the menopause when many women can feel their skin becoming increasingly dry or uncomfortable.”


Image – Studiofirma/Stocksy


Looking after your dry skin:

Think moisture, moisture, moisture! “Focus in on super hydrating and nurturing ingredients like collagen and thirst-quenching hyaluronic acid which penetrates deeply into the skin, rather than just sitting on the surface,” Purcell says. 

Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C are brilliant sources of hydration. “Products that contain hyaluronic acid should be applied to damp skin for maximum effectiveness,” advises Purcell.

I personally love La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 Serum (£45 from La Roche Posay UK /$39.99 from La Roche Posay US) which hydrates the skin to max and leaves it feeling comfortable and plump until your next cleanse.

“Ceramides are another great ingredient that works perfectly on dry skin to strengthen the skin barrier, preventing moisture from escaping,” says Purcell. “Oils like squalene (natural squalene, not squalene) are brilliant for locking in moisture.”

And what to avoid? “Products that contain alcohol, fragrance and salicylic acid as these can further dry out skin,” she warns. 


Combination skin

Just what it says on the tin, your skin is a confusing, er, combination of oily and dry. “Dry on the cheeks and chin with an oily t-zone that’s susceptible to blemishes and shine, combination skin can be a minefield to manage,” says Purcell.  


Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy


Looking after your combination skin:

Go on, try us. “Balancing and hydrating products with a lightweight texture are a safe bet, containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, amino acids and niacinamide,” she explains. “The latter is a multi-talented ingredient to calm, even out skin tone minimise pores and add a boost of hydration.”

Skin + Me Soothe + Smooth Light Moisturiser (£21.99 from Skin + Me UK) is a good one to try for its mixture of hydrating and lightweight ingredients. 


Sensitive skin

“Sensitive skin is skin that is red, irritated, reactive and uncomfortable,” explains Dr LoGerfo. “Some of the symptoms of sensitive skin include burning and stinging. Sensitive skin can be dry, flaky and scaly and may feel itchy and tight. Most individuals with sensitive skin complain of their skin being oversensitive and they are intolerant to certain skin care products.” 

Purcell adds, “sensitive skin is easily upset, particularly by harsh products and ingredients or changes in the environment or weather.”


Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy


Looking after your sensitive skin:

“This skin type needs a little more TLC,” warns Purcell. “I’d suggest using products with mild formulations that include soothing ingredients like oats, aloe, chamomile and mushroom extracts.”

I swear by Aveeno Face Calm and Restore Rehydrating Night Cream (£8.70 from Look Fantastic UK) when my skin is having a meltdown! This is usually during my period or if it’s been particularly cold outside and I have a bit of an eczema flare up. I also highly recommend the hand cream from the same range as it works wonders for very chapped knuckles caused by too much washing.


Normal skin

“Normal skin is just that…normal!” says Dr LoGerfo. Lucky you. So what does normal actually look like? 

“That means it imitates skin that occurs naturally or is typically free of any issues like breakouts, skin sensitivity, disease, dryness,” she adds. “Normal skin feels ok, not too dry and not too oily. I would consider it the type of skin that requires the least amount of maintenance.”

Purcell agrees, “Overall you have happy skin (so that’s a good balance of natural oils without feeling dry or oily).” 


Image – Juno/Stocksy


Looking after your normal skin:

“Follow a daily cleanse and moisturise routine with a deep exfoliation at least once a week using moisturising and protecting ingredients,” Purcell advises. “When it comes to serums, opt for ingredients like retinol to minimise the signs of ageing, or vitamin C for additional brightness.”

Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum (£65.48 from Sephora US /$92 from Sephora US) is expensive but if you’ve got the budget you can afford to risk spending more as your skin type has a low chance of reacting negatively. And this is the best retinol serum I’ve tried. 


Can your skin type change?

Purcell says it depends on our age. “Our skin goes through stages,” she says. “We might experience oilier, blemish-prone skin as a teen or as we reach the perimenopause, skin becomes drier, unpredictable and more sensitive. But these are generally life phases and we can’t really ‘change’ our skin type.” 


The takeaway

Using one of the methods above, you’ll be able to find out which of the five listed is your skin type. Trust me, once you know your skin type, you’ll feel a sense of empowerment!

Having confidence in the products you’re choosing, knowing they contain the right ingredients for your skin can honestly be a game-changer when it comes to looking after your skin. 


Meet the experts

Faye Purcell is a development chemist and the head of research and development at Q+A Skincare, a natural, affordable and ingredient-led skincare brand.


Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology


Dr Jodi LoGerfo is a skincare expert, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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