Last Update: September 29, 2022
After years of waking up with an oil slick on my face, it seemed obvious that my skin type was oily. But every time I’d wash my face—flakes. Could it be that I’d been getting skin care wrong all this time?
If you’re unsure of your own skin type, there’s a simple way to figure it out. Wash your face. Don’t apply any product at all for at least two hours—then take a close look at your skin. Is it flaky? Is it shiny? When you press a finger onto your forehead or nose, does it feel greasy?
The details and symptoms you notice will reveal your skin type—and your ideal skin care routine—once and for all.
If you see most of the above when you look in the mirror, you’re pretty much genetically blessed. Most likely, you’ve never had to figure out the best way to blend in foundation. You might not even know what concealer is. Do you even wash your face every day? (Sorry, we’re trying not to be jealous.)
Keep doing whatever you’re doing! Just make sure you cover up with SPF (30 or higher, ideally) every day to protect against free-radical damage. If you do want to add a little more into your routine, it’s important to stick to natural, mild ingredients so that you don’t disrupt the status quo with harsh chemicals. For extra moisture, try applying a little rosehip oil at night. It’s lightweight yet provides antioxidants to help keep skin youthful and supple.
A couple hours after washing your face, is your skin still completely tight and parched? Do you have a habitual urge to pick flakes off with tweezers? Don’t fret. You can fix this!
While genetics play a hand in skin type, dryness can also be exacerbated by a lot of factors, including cold weather, excessive sun exposure, long, hot showers, and certain cleansers, cosmetics, and medications. Minimize the flakes and parched patches by first opting for a mild (unscented if possible) cleanser free of sulfates like sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate, which tend to strip skin of natural moisture. Wash your face only once a day—at night is best.
And now, coconut oil is your new best friend. A word of caution though: some people may experience clogged pores and breakouts from coconut oil, so it might be good to ease into it and see how your skin reacts first. If you remain acne-free, start moisturizing with it religiously—morning and night, and sometimes in between. If your skin is not down with coconut oil, try jojoba or grapeseed oil instead.
Of course, don’t forget the sunscreen! It’s a must for everyone, but since you may be more wrinkle-prone, you might want to go with an SPF of 30 or higher to keep your skin safe.
You may not even need two hours—your skin might turn into an oil slick within minutes of washing your face. Oily types are often also acne-prone. So. Frustrating.
Sometimes hormones play a role in producing extra oil. (Read: it happened to this girl after swearing off hormonal birth control.) In order to keep hormone levels in check, eat plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocado, olives, fatty fish, flaxseeds, and nuts. It’s also a good idea to avoid refined sugars and estrogen-rich soy.
On the skin’s surface, you might actually be able to fight fire with fire with this one—or more literally, oil with oil. After being told for years that oily skin calls for “oil-free” formulas, it sounds like sacrilege to do just the opposite. But when skin has been stripped of its natural moisture (from say, over-washing with harsh cleansers), it can go into overdrive and produce excess sebum. Oils can actually help rebalance the complexion. You just have to be discerning of which ones touch your face. Here’s the test: if an oil or moisturizer hasn’t been fully absorbed by skin within five minutes, it’s too rich. In most cases, you’ll want to steer clear of coconut oil. Instead, try rosehip or marula. These lighter, dry oils won’t clog pores. Try it for at least two to four weeks and you’ll probably see oil production settle down.
Your face may feel like a war zone at times, with annoying conditions like flaking, shine, and acne dropping bombs daily. Oil can be your best ally in this case, too. With skin care, there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution, so test a few different ones to see which gives you the best multitasking results.
Our recommendation: Try a two-week test with rosehip oil. If you like what you see, stick with it. But if certain areas are still thirsty for more moisture, try jojoba oil for a couple of weeks. If that’s too greasy, grapeseed or argan may be a good middle ground. Sure, it might be a pain to have to drop cash on multiple products, but once you find the one most compatible with your skin, you’ll be golden.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho
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