Before you can take any steps to adjusting your skin care routine, you need to understand your skin type and what it needs. This is the big first step in any skin care journey. I’m sure you already have an idea what type of skin you have, but this post should challenge some of your long held beliefs.
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One important take away from my journey to more natural products and my detox from all the chemicals in my life is to pay attention to my body. For so long I’ve been blind to all the messages from my body when I used certain products or ate certain foods. It’s easy enough to go through life ignoring all of these signs. But once you pay attention you open up a capacity to feel better than you’ve ever felt before. Sure it sounds a little too good to be true. But once you realize just how sluggish you feel after eating tons of cheese or how crappy it feels to have a sugar crash after some soda, you quickly discover that there’s no treat that’s worth that kind of discomfort in your life. You begin to put your body first for once.
Now that might seem like the biggest tangent in a post about skin types, but discovering the type of skin you have takes some listening to your body and recognizing symptoms. Sure, you can continue to be oblivious and keep using the products you’ve always enjoyed. But taking a break for a day or two to listen to your skin can lead you to a whole new world with products that work so much better than you have ever imagined.
The 4 Main Skin Types
Most people fall into 4 buckets for skin types. This should act as the jumping off point for choosing your skin care products. If a product isn’t optimal for your specific skin type, you shouldn’t be using it. No matter how pretty the packaging or how good it smells.
This isn’t a very common skin type and if you have it, consider yourself lucky. This skin type is characterized by a smooth texture and fine pores. There’s no visible problem areas with blemishes, greasy patches or flaky areas. This skin type is commonly found in young persons (before puberty comes along and changes everything).
This skin type is generally lucky when it comes to the products they use. They don’t usually have any reactions to different products and don’t need any extra hydration or treatment from the products they choose.
This skin type is characterized by an “increased amount of lipids on the skin surface due to overactive sebaceous glands.” That’s really just a fancy way of saying that this skin type over-produces oil and is known for it’s enlarged pores. This skin type is prone to blackheads and other blemishes but if you have oily skin, you didn’t need me to tell you that. Puberty is often the cause of this skin type, though it’s also more common in men.
This skin type is the target of so many marketing campaigns. Time and time again we’ve heard that large pores are the devil and oil needs to be eradicated from the surface of our skin. But oil is simply how our skin protects itself and oily skin simply needs help balancing their oil production to keep blemishes and high shine at bay.
This skin type is caused by a lack of moisture in its corneous layer (bet you don’t know that word). This results in tightness and flaking. Dryness causes the skin to appear dull, especially on the cheeks and around the eyes. It can lack elasticity (a collective gasp can be heard from all of the marketing departments of popular skincare brands) causing fine lines and wrinkles (an even louder gasp this time). Extremely dry skin shows signs of cracking and fissuring.
Some of the symptoms of dry skin is your skin crying out for help, and the source of many marketing campaigns. However while ads try to sell you some product based on your biggest insecurities, knowledge of your dry skin type allows you to take some real steps to solving the problem and giving your skin the nourishing moisture it needs.
As the name suggests, combination skin combines different aspects of both dry and oily skin types. Often times they’ll have an oily t-zone (nose, forehead, chin) while their cheeks and around the eyes are dry. This skin type requires a skin care routine that treats the different parts of the skin in different ways.
Let me guess..you probably have combination skin but use the same products across your whole face? You never thought to treat your cheeks differently than your oily forehead, I bet. But it’s true, combination skin needs a unique skin care routine to help balance out your skin. But don’t worry – this doesn’t make things harder for you. You only need to pay a little more attention to the products you choose.
Can Your Skin Type Change?
Of course it can! There are so many influences that impact our skin. These impacts are also something to consider when adjusting your skin care routine. If you feel like your skin is out of wack and super upset all the time, you probably need to adjust something in the following influences.
- Climate/weather – The weather you face on a daily basis will heavily influence your skin type. Be sure to keep this in mind when you’re choosing products to make sure you compensate.
- Skin care routine – This is an obvious influence on your skin type. But routines that over-exfoliate, over-moisturize or are irritating and drying can cause problems that weren’t there before.
- Sun exposure – The sun plays a major part in the quality of our skin. Even if you live in an area known for being cloudy and overcast, you should be protecting your skin against the sun.
- Pollution – You’ve likely heard all about “free radicals” (especially since there’s a current skin care fad in creating products that protect against pollution for all those city-dwellers). These free radicals do damage your collagen though and you should choose products accordingly if you live somewhere where pollution is a problem.
- Hormone changes – If you’re a female you don’t need me to tell you this. But a little time spent paying attention to your hormone cycle can help you adjust your routine and compensate for the changes in your skin.
- Skin disorders – Conditions like rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis etc obviously influence your skin and can cause changes during flare ups. Managing these conditions will cause changes to your skin.
- Genetics – Yes..the lifestyle, diet and skin type of your ancestors directly effects your skin. Having an understanding of this should help you make better decisions for your skin in the long run.
- Medications – If you take medications, it’s important to understand how it will effect your skin. Whether it’s more acute sun sensitivity or something more severe, you need to understand the influence so you can provide for your skin.
- Diet – I know you’ve heard it time and time again and stubbornly want it to go away. But diet effects your skin. So much. If you want better skin, you need to adjust what you eat.
Do you have a Skin Condition?
One big mix up in the skin care world is treating a skin condition like it’s your skin type. Instead these conditions should be treated independently while any solutions should also cater to your skin type. If you have combination skin, it’s careless to use a harsh toner all over your skin to treat acne which will only aggravate the more dry parts of your skin. That’s why having an understanding of your skin type as a first step is so important moving forward in your skin care routine.
Sensitive skin is more common than I think most people realize. I personally didn’t realize I had sensitive skin until I was 25 years old. But once I did, I discovered that so many products I was using to cover up the redness in my skin were actually causing it. Skin sensitivity is also on a scale. If you have extremely sensitive skin, you already know it. It’s likely most products cause your skin to freak out. However, if you’re on the lower end of the spectrum and only have a slight sensitivity to products, you may not even realize that the uneven tone to your skin is being caused by your routine.
If you have any sensitivity at all, it’s important to patch test all products you hope to introduce to your routine. This way you can know if your skin will react and save yourself the discomfort of finding out later when you’ve covered your entire face with the product.
Differentiating dehydration as a skin condition versus a skin type is a hard distinction to make. However if your skin type sounds like it might be dry but doesn’t fit the description to a T, then your problem might be dehydration. This condition is likely caused by some of the products you’ve been using or your current diet. But with some simple shifts in the food you eat and water you drink can start you on the road to recovery.
Also you can correct dehydration with light exfoliation to help clear out the dead cells and help your products absorb more efficiently. I recommend enzyme exfoliation over physical exfoliation with sugar or something similar to protect your skin. Balancing harsh exfoliation with this sensitive condition is important for dehydration. You don’t want to stress out the skin in the process of trying to help it.
Sun damage is more rampant than most people realize. You’ve probably heard this warning before – you should be wearing SPF every day. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it. But incorporating a daily SPF is an important part of your skin care routine (and I’m not talking about those awful chemical sunscreen sprays). Protecting your skin is so important as the sun can break down your skin quicker and impact your skin’s health. That may not sound too bad, but if you’re concerned with lines and wrinkles, then you need to start this practice sooner rather than later.
When it comes to hyperpigmentation, there are a number of ways you can treat it. Of course, since my focus is on natural skin care solutions, I’m not going to recommend a lot of them. Instead I’d recommend a natural enzyme exfoliation to help resurface fresh new skin cells (both pineapple and papaya are natural enzyme producing ingredients). If you want to lighten some of your spots, try a Vitamin C serum but keep in mind the product is likely to oxidize if not properly contained in airless packaging.
Fine Lines and Wrinkles
The aging process of skin is complicated and effected by countless influences (see the lists above). These fine lines and wrinkles accumulate over a lifetime of life living and will happen regardless of the miracle products and creams you slather over your body.
I will always err on the side of prevention rather than treatment. I’d much rather fix the root cause of a problem than treat all the symptoms and try to cover it up. Honestly, you should want that too. Luckily, one of the easiest ways to prevent rampant fine lines and wrinkles is to be healthy. This means a healthy diet with lots of real foods that bless us with their awesome nutrients. This means less soda and alcohol and more water for hydration. If you’re interested in being a healthy individual, you’re going to have healthy skin. Which gives your skin a fighting chance against aging. It’s miraculous how everything is interconnected like that.
Ask any dermatologist and they’ll tell you the ingredients that help improve the skin’s structure – peptides, retinol, vitamin C and hyaluronic, glycolic and lactic acid. However there are so many ingredients found in nature that naturally contain these ingredients and can help support your skin. I’d much rather turn to those ingredients than anything concocted in a lab.
If you’re human, you’ve likely faced acne before. The textbook definition of acne is when the “pores of the skin become clogged, most often on the face, neck, back and chest.” Funny thing is, dermatologists and scientists actually don’t understand why this happens. So when you’re told a product will miraculously keep it from happening, it’s lying to you. These clogged pores trap your sebum inside and can cause bacteria to grow, causing inflammation. All of this causes the red angry acne spots that you’ve likely experienced before.
Everyone’s treatment of acne is going to be different based on your skin type and background. But as someone who had rampant acne as a kid and young adult, I know you need to pay attention to all of the factors that can cause it. This includes, you guessed it, your diet. Products aren’t the only way to fight acne and if you’re serious about lessening your acne you need to pay attention to all aspects of your life. This includes your hormones, your environment (my pillow case was a huge issue) and your diet. What worked for one person likely isn’t going to work for you.
Bear With Me..
I know all of this information can be a little overwhelming. After reading this you probably have 15 more things to think about every time you make a skin care decision. But it’s all important to consider if you want to get to the root of your skin care woes. You can easily keep treating the symptoms of your skin care issues with product after product. But if you want true skin health, these are all of the factors that need to be considered. And don’t worry – I’ll be here by your side for the journey. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. So we can make tearful diet changes and say good bye to the yucky product in the pretty packaging together.