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Before you reach for skincare products, getting acquainted with your skin’s needs and behaviors will inform your entire skincare routine. From choosing the right sunscreen or cleanser, it’s up to you to become an expert on your own skin. In the words of world-class makeup artist Bobbi Brown, “Find a routine that works for you, making your skin look healthy, smooth, and clear.” The first step in anyone’s journey toward healthy skin is figuring out your skin type.

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What Are the Most Common Skin Types?

The four most common skin types are normal, dry, oily, and combination:

  1. Normal. In the skincare market, a “normal” skin type means that your skin is balanced and doesn’t have any uncomfortable issues. Balance is generally the goal for all skin types, but even balanced skin sometimes experiences breakouts or dullness. A proper cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing routine will usually keep things in check.
  2. Dry. Dry skin looks and feels rough and dull, sometimes also appearing red or flaky. If you have a dry skin type, your skin may feel tight, and you may see fine lines right after washing your face. Hydrating and protective skincare products are ideal products for this skin type, this includes gentle cleansers, hydrating serums, rich moisturizers, and face oils to fight flakiness.
  3. Oily. If your skin produces excess sebum year-round, you’re likely in the “oily” skin type group. One of the benefits of oily skin is that your skin’s natural oils protect and moisturize, naturally staving off fine lines and maintain elasticity longer. On the downside, oily skin is acne-prone, and excess oil can easily lead to breakouts. Make sure you have a good exfoliating non-comedogenic toner or serum to keep your pores clear. The ideal skin-care products for this skin type are oil-free.
  4. Combination. As the name implies, combination skin has oily and dry characteristics. For example, some people have an oily T-zone—the forehead and nose—and dryness on their cheeks; others may have dehydrated skin that’s also breakout-prone. Learning the skincare requirements for every part of your face can help you address issues most optimally. For example, if you identify that your cheeks are prone to dryness, you can address this issue by moisturizing them during your daily routine.

What’s the Difference Between Normal Skin and Sensitive Skin?

In addition to the four basic skin types, your skin can also range from normal to sensitive:

  • Normal skin is a term that describes well-balanced skin. Normal skin is generally more resilient to a wide variety of products, including products with chemicals, strong fragrances, or dyes.
  • Sensitive skin is a term that describes skin that is more prone to negative reactions, redness, blemishes, or inflammation. While there are several diagnosable types of sensitive skin (like rosacea), most people with sensitive skin simply react stronger to certain products than those with normal skin. If you have a sensitive skin type, be especially careful about trying new products, especially when it comes to certain chemical products like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinol, which can cause irritation. Consider consulting a dermatologist to find out how to select the right products for sensitive skin.
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