How to Tell Which Skin Type You Have—and Build Your Ultimate Routine

It doesn’t matter how great your skincare products are if you’re using the wrong products for your skin type. Understanding your skin type is key to putting together an effective skincare routine that will keep your skin looking amazing for years to come. Thankfully, determining your skin type at home is easy, fast, and free thanks to a simple test that you can do in less than half an hour. Here’s what you need to know about figuring out your skin type and choosing the best products for your skin type:

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How to Determine Your Skin Type

The main factor in figuring out your skin type is what level of oil your skin naturally produces. Much of this oil production is governed by genetics. However, many other factors come into play, including age, climate, diet, medications, and more. For instance, most people’s skin slows down oil production as they age, and pretty much everyone over the age of 60 has dry skin.

There is a very simple test that you can do to determine your skin type. First, wash your face with a gentle, non-irritating cleansing. It shouldn’t strip the moisture from your skin or leave behind a residue, but rather leave your face feeling clean and fresh. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel and don’t put anything on it. Instead, wait bare-faced for about 30 minutes, then come back to the mirror.

If your skin has an oily sheen all over, then you probably have an oily skin type. If your face has oil only in the T-zone (nose and forehead) but not anywhere else, then you probably have a combination skin type. If your entire face feels tight and dehydrated, then you probably have a dry skin type. If your skin is red or irritated, then you probably have a sensitive skin type. And if none of the above describes you, then you likely have the coveted normal skin type.

Regardless of skin type, the building blocks of any skincare routine are the same: makeup remover, cleanser, serums, moisturizer, and sunscreen. However, you will want to tailor each of these products towards your skin type to ensure that you’re getting the best results from your skincare routine.

What Products to Use for Your Skin Type

Which skin type you have is the biggest factor in what skincare products you should choose. Here is some guidance on what products to look for when it comes to each skin type:

Oily Skin

People with oily skin produce (you guessed it) too much oil, so most products for oily skin are geared around shine control. Foaming cleansers can help remove excess oils from the skin, while chemical exfoliants can help to clear out clogged pores. Lightweight, oil-free moisturizers will promote balance in the skin; if your skin dies out, that can actually cause an increase in oil production! Oily skin types typically have a very high tolerance for actives like retinol and vitamin C (which can be drying to the skin at high potencies) but they still need to introduce new products slowly so they don’t overload their skin.

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Dry Skin

In contrast, people with dry skin don’t produce enough oil, which means that they need to prioritize products for dry skin like gentle cleansers, hydrating serums, and heavy moisturizers. All of these products will help to prevent water and moisture loss and prevent their dry skin from becoming worse. Dry skin types may also find it helpful to use a gentle chemical exfoliator 1-2 times a week to remove dead skin flakes from their face. However, they need to take care not to do it too often, as over-exfoliating can seriously dry out the skin and compromise the skin barrier.

Combination Skin

Combination skin can be tricky, since they have some dry patches and some oily patches. Combination skin types usually benefit from using a gentle cleanser that is neither too drying nor too hydrating. Some people with combination skin actually use two different moisturizers on their face, a thicker one for the dry patches and a thinner one for the oily patches. If you don’t like the idea of duplicate skincare products for combination skin, look for ones that are marketed towards all skin types so they will work for both oily and dry skin.

Sensitive Skin

People with sensitive skin should avoid ingredients that are known to cause irritation, including artificial fragrance, added dyes, and denatured alcohol. Instead, they should be looking for products with short and simple lists that prioritize effective ingredients over extra additives. Labels such as “non-comedogenic” and “hypoallergenic” may be helpful, but they’re also not regulated, so always read the ingredient list closely before buying. Many sensitive skin people also suffer from dryness, and enjoy products meant for dry skin.

Normal Skin

Because they don’t have any specific skin problems they are trying to address, people with normal skin can use basically whatever skincare products they want, within reason. Since they don’t have either oily or very dry skin, they often benefit from “middle of the road” skincare products that combination skin types use, however. Most people with normal skin have a pretty good tolerance for actives as well as other ingredients such as fragrances and dyes, but they should still use these ingredients in moderation and watch their skin for signs of irritation.

Different ingredients work best for different skin types. Wondering which ingredients work best for your skin concerns? Try this personalized skincare quiz to find out.