11 min read

How to determine your skin type

a clear start guide to the 5 skin types, plus tips for taking care of your skin type. 

how to determine your skin type

so what are the 5 skin types?

Ah yes, the age-old question… what’s my type? And no, I’m not talking about what makes you want to swipe right or slide into the DM’s. That’s not exactly my area of expertise, though I have been known to give some very unsolicited dating advice.  I’m talking skin types. What are the 5 skin types? There are quite a few different skin types out there, and sometimes (similar to dating ;) ), it can be challenging to figure it out. This is major when it comes to choosing our skincare routine and treating our precious skin, which we work oh so hard on. Chances are if you’ve been using every product under the sun for your type and nothing seems to work, you probably don’t actually know your type and a lot like dating, it can take a bit to figure it out. Let’s talk the 5 types.

Typically speaking, there are 5 main skin types: balanced skin, oily/acne-prone skin, dry skin, sensitive skin & combination skin. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re just one skin type. Your profile can also change over time - based on things like environment, diet, hormones, or significant life changes (emotional changes definitely count). If you’re seeing major changes in your skin, it’s important to take that into consideration. For instance, if you’ve lived in a humid environment your whole life and move to a drier climate, this would likely have an impact on your skin type for sure. Our skin will usually talk to us and tell us what it likes and doesn’t like. We just have to listen.

balanced skin types

If you think you fall under this category, feel free to start using #blessed as often as you’d like because this is quite rare (and your friends probably despise you for it). Balanced skin types rarely ever break out and don’t really deal with issues like excess oil or large pores. Also, balanced skin can use almost anything on their skin without getting irritated and really don’t have to deal with dryness. Yup, they win. But even if your skin is balanced, you still need to take care of it. Many of my balanced-type clients don’t go the extra mile to take care of their skin, because they don’t think they have to. The truth is, it’s important to stick to a regimen even if your skin behaves itself. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t skip washing your face at night. Don’t pass on the moisturizer and always wear SPF.

oily/ acne prone skin types

Oftentimes people with oily skin feel they have been dealt the worst hand. This is the type I fall in, and being oily and acne-prone, I would never argue that it has its challenges, but there is a silver lining my fellow oil slickers! Being oily will keep your skin looking younger for longer. You’re far less likely to develop fine lines and wrinkles because your skin is naturally moisturized, but make no mistake; you still need to moisturize even if you're oily and dealing with breakouts. 

telltale signs you're truly oily

1: your pores appear larger

2: you're shiny all the time, especially by the end of the day (and not in the "goddess of the glow, master of dew" kind of way)

3: your makeup "melts" off within a few hours.

4: prominent blackheads and breakouts.

5: thick or heavy products make your breakouts worse. 

It’s important to find the right balance for oily/ acne-prone folks. Nothing is worse than being dry and irritated and still dealing with breakouts. Skincare lines like Dermalogica have cracked the code when it comes to finding this delicate balance. The Clear Start line is chock-full of non-comedogenic products like the Skin Soothing Hydrating Lotion (a lightweight moisturizer that will ease irritated skin) and the Clearing Defense SPF30. You can rest assured that your skin is in good hands with these vegan, cruelty-free products.

dry skin types

Dry skin types don’t produce enough natural oil in their skin and need a little extra TLC to stay healthy. If you think you fall under this category, it’s important to know the difference between being truly dry, or if the products that you’re using may be drying you out. If your skin feels “tight” after cleansing, you’re probably stripping it of its natural oils and should consider switching to a creamy cleanser.

telltale signs you’re the dry type

1: dull complexion

2: fine lines and wrinkles

3: redness, or rough patches

4: small or sometimes invisible pores

sensitive skin types

Similar to being dry, sensitive skin can frequently be confused for something else. Over exfoliating can lead to sensitizing our skin. If you're dealing with any type of sensitivity, take a break from physical and chemical exfoliants for a few weeks and see if your skin starts to repair itself. If it does, this means you're most likely just over-sensitized from over-exfoliating (once or twice a week is plenty), and it is not the same as being sensitive. Truly sensitive skin types have most likely been dealing with it from a young age and are usually sensitive in other areas on the body, not just the face. Our sensitive types often struggle with synthetic ingredients like sulfates and parabens and have difficulty using any sort of strong chemical such as salicylic or lactic acid.

telltale signs you're the sensitive type

1: easily irritated by products

2: prone to burning or stinging sensation

3: very susceptible to redness

combination skin types

Last but not least, the combo type. In my experience, this is the most common of all 5 types. Combo’s deal with oiliness mainly in the t-zone, but tend to feel dry along the cheeks and jawline. There are not many “one size fits all” products for this type, so combo’s have to become a sort of mastermind when choosing products. I usually recommend the Breakout Clearing Kit when my clients are struggling to find answers. It’s a great way to test out the line because it will clear and hydrate at the same time.

telltale signs you’re a combination type

1: shiny in t-zone area only

2: larger pores on nose, chin, and forehead but nowhere else

3: dry, or red patches around cheeks or jawline

So, to sum it up, getting to know your skin can be tricky and a bit time consuming, but remember- this is a crucial step to treating your skin's specific needs. No one knows your skin better than you, so pay attention to the signs, whether they're big or small. Our skin will tell us what is needed, and it's important we're giving it exactly that. It is, after all, our body's largest organ, and with all that it does for us on the daily, the least we can do is give it what it needs to stay healthy. Here are some skincare tips to help you achieve healthy skin.

the 5 skin types and how to address their needs


1: cleanse am & pm
2: exfoliate 1 or 2 times a week
3: always moisturize & protect. apply spf 30 or higher every morning

oily/acne-prone skin 

1: reach for a clay cleanser or a cleanser that aids in oil absorption
2: use a chemical exfoliant vs. a physical. aha's and bha's are great chemical exfoliants to help with blemishes
3: don't skip the moisturizer! it's extremely important to continue to moisturize even when oily. look for a light, oil-free moisturizer to decrease sebum production

dry skin

1: look for a creamy cleanser to help retain moisture
2: get familiar with hyaluronic acid. usually found in a serum form, this ingredient helps to stop your skin from losing too much water
3: serums before moisturizer. moisturizer is thicker than serum, so if you're using your moisturizer first, your serums may not be able to absorb correctly. always apply your serums before to allow for maximum product penetration

sensitive skin

1: steer clear of any products that contain sulfates, parabens, synthetic dye's or fragrance
2: may only need to exfoliate once a week or less
3: "pat" on products as opposed to rubbing
4: use a jade roller for ultimate product penetration and calming of the skin
5: cleanse and rinse with cool water

combination skin

1: usually does best with a gel or foaming cleanser
2: add a toner to your regimen to help balance ph level
3: apply a charcoal clay mask to oily t-zone area's only 1-2 times a week