The Secret to Figuring Out Your Skin Type

Good news. This is gonna be a lot easier than you think. As confusing as it can feel navigating the skin care aisles, you have not entered a parallel universe – dry still means dry, and oily still means oily. You do know what those words mean. You’ve got this!

You probably already know what your skin type is – even if you don’t know you know. The big secret to figuring it out? Trust yourself. You can figure out your skin type just by paying attention your own skin. How does it feel? How does it look?

You have five types to choose from: 1) dry 2) oily 3) combination 4) normal and 5) sensitive. We usually group normal and combination skin together because both normal and combo skin are toward the middle of the dry–oily skin spectrum. And because when normal skin has an off day – hormones spark a breakout, super cold weather dries you out – normal skin acts like combo skin on an average day. Sensitive skin, hold on, we're going to put you on the back burner for a minute. Let’s go through 2 experiments to help you decide your skin type.

Thought experiment
Imagine yourself at the diner. Picture one dry toast, one buttered toast. Now image a Thanksgiving dinner. Picture a fresh soft dinner roll that just came out of the oven. If you had to choose one of these three beautiful bread items to describe your skin, which one would it be? If it’s the scratchy, rough and bone dry toast, you’ve got dry skin. If it’s the bumpy and visibly shimmery buttered toast, you’ve got oily skin. If you chose the moist, soft, bouncy bun with the smooth exterior, you’ve got normal skin (not normal at all, actually rarely seen perfection). If your forehead and nose – the T zone – are leaning oily and the rest of your face is normal or dry, you've got combination.

Wash and watch
One morning when you don’t have anywhere to be for a few hours, wash your face with a mild cleanser, or even just lukewarm water. Do not use a soap, anything that foams, or face cleanser with sulfates, acids or alcohol. If you’re suspicious about what you have staring back at you from the bathroom counter, fall back on that lukewarm water (add a washcloth if you want). Pass 2-3 hours your favorite way, then take a minute to notice how your skin feels and looks.

Dry skin Feels dry and tight, maybe itchy. May look dull, rough, scale-y or flakey. Pores are small or invisible, but fine lines will stand out on dry skin. Blot with a tissue. Comes up dry.
Oily skin You will have visible pores and usually some visible shine. You will not be craving for a bottle of lotion, but you may have an urge to pat dry with a towel. Blot with a tissue. Expect an impression of your face imprinted with oil on the napkin or tissue.
Combination skin Minor oil in the T zone, but you don’t have to see actual shine. You will have enlarged, visible pores, and usually some blackheads or whiteheads. Skin is not completely smooth. You may have some dryness (usually in the cheek and eye zone) that makes skin look dull, and gives fine lines a chance to pop. Blot with a tissue or two. Expect some areas with moderate oil, some dry.
Normal skin Blot test may show light oil or no oil. Feels totally comfortable, looks perfect. We’re talking dewy, smooth baby skin.

Sensitive stands out
It’s impossible not to notice when you have sensitive skin. Your skin reacts easily to the environment by stinging, burning, itching or getting red. The wrong lotions, chlorine in a swimming pool, hot water and cold wind are not your friend. Sometimes sensitive skin lasts a lifetime, and sometime its temporary. Skin that’s become sensitive because it’s been beaten up by harsh products or rough weather can bounce back when you give it a chance to heal.

Hopefully, now you’re totally confident you can nail the skin type question. Shop our top picks for your skin without wondering whether you're on the right page. If you're still not sure which skin type is you, get in touch at hello@beginswithskin and we’ll hash it out together. We never get tired of talking skin.

— Margot