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Skin and Hair Health

What’s Your Skin Type: A Short Guide 

The first step to getting healthy skin is identifying your skin type. From figuring out the best ingredients to understanding specific routines, deep dive into a world where you can spoil your skin.

May 27, 2024

5 min read

Written by Ishani Chatterji
Medically Reviewed by 

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On the table lie four different types of leaves, each exhibiting its own unique shape, size, and texture.

 “It can’t just be sensitive; it needs to be something more, right? What is my skin type?” It had been over an hour. I had walked through multiple brightly lit aisles to find the perfect moisturiser. I was confused: there were over a zillion bottles, and the store representatives insisted that their product was all the rage. To make matters trickier, everything looked so pretty, with their minimal designs and pastel colours. How in the world was I to find the perfect moisturiser without knowing anything about skin types?

How would I build my beauty brigade, one product at a time, and still stick to everything that works for our largest organ? 

Decoding Your Skin

Understanding your skin type is the first and most crucial step to figuring out your skincare routine. Dr Sanjana Shivashankar, chief dermatologist and director at Theory of Skin, Bangalore, said, “Each person is as unique as their skin. Your skin type will change with seasons, but your skin will always tell you what it needs, so as soon as it starts feeling uncomfortable, visit your dermatologist, and you can change products.”

Other factors that can impact your skin type include changes in diet, lifestyle, rise in stress levels, quality of sleep, medications and supplements.

Some different scales and indicators help determine skin types. The Baumann Skin Type Indicator (BSTI), developed by Dr Leslie Baumann, categorises individuals into 16 skin types based on factors like oiliness, sensitivity, pigmentation, and propensity to wrinkle. By assessing traits such as dryness, sensitivity, pigmentation, and susceptibility to wrinkles, the BSTI helps individuals understand their skin better and select suitable skincare products and treatments. With BSTI, individuals can tailor their skincare regimens to their unique skin type, ensuring effective care and maintenance. 

But BSTI isn’t the only way to understand one’s skin. In a tropical country like India, where temperatures shoot up every summer, the Fitzpatrick scale comes into great use as it categorises skin by UV response, aiding in sun protection and skincare. This scale gives you seven skin types based on how likely your skin is to get irritated or develop dark spots when exposed to the sun. It helps dermatologists choose the right treatments for you.

Dr Shivashankar said, “From the Fitzpatrick scale, Indians fall under types III, IV and V, which is very good; we get minimally burned, and we only get tanned.” Having said that, we still need to use sunscreen daily.

How to find out your skin type

With different scales and different ways to understand our largest organ, we should start with the basics. Dr Shivashankar tells us about the three basic kinds of skin types: dry, oily and combination.

Dry skin: Dr Shivashankar says, “Dry skin is flaky and has a lot of burning and itching” It’s worth noting that dry skin can sometimes be unmasked when a person uses certain products and develops dryness as a reaction to them. This would mean that they have normal skin that is prone to dryness. 

Oily skin: Dr Shivashankar says, “You know you have oily skin when your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) is oily often, has more acne or is prone to excessive sweating.” Other common signs may include large pores and shiny-looking skin.

Combination skin: Skin that has both dry and oily areas is known as combination skin. For example, you may experience an oily T-zone but a dry chin or cheeks. 

Sensitive skin: This skin type is often marked by redness or flushing when exposed to the sun. You might experience tightness and dryness after being exposed to new products or environmental elements.

Doctor-recommended skincare routines for each skin type

Once you have identified your skin type, the next step is to build a routine that suits it. Dr Shivashankar explains skincare routines based your skin type from a layperson’s perspective. It’s imperative that you consult your doctor before changing your existing routine to ensure you do not experience any unpleasant side effects.

Dry skin: Invest in a gentle cleanser that leaves a moist film on your face, a more ceramide-based moisturiser, and a light water-based or cream sunscreen.

Oily skin: Get a salicylic, glycolic or mandelic acid-based face wash, a light moisturiser and a non-comedogenic sunscreen. It’s important to try not to go above 1-2% salicylic acid, and not use multiple products with AHAs and BHAs.  Stick to one product with an AHA or BHA per day.

Combination skin: Since your skin can tolerate either of these, try cleansers and AHA or BHA-based face washes to see what suits you best and stick to it. 

  • Sensitive skin: This skin type may sting or burn after product use, so it is best to use a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen; avoid experimenting and avoid any kinds of actives. Sensitive skin benefits from products that aid barrier repair and strengthening. Once this is achieved, consult with your dermatologist before using actives. It’s not that sensitive skin types can never use actives; it is simply safer to add actives to your routine under professional guidance.

What about toners?

For a long time, one believed the conventional skincare routine to be CTM—cleansing, toning and moisturising. But in 2024, things are not the same. Dr Mihika Noronha, dermatologist, said, “There are two types of toners: an astringent which has been replaced by gentle cleansers and micellar water, and a moisturising pH balancing toner which was used when people used soap and unbalanced washes. Dermats today recommend pH-balanced washes; you can just skip the toner; it is superfluous.”

Factoring ageing into your skincare routine

Ageing is a natural phenomenon that occurs due to the fold, ridge, and crease in the skin, which occurs due to loss of body mass, poor hydration, and disintegration of the dermis and epidermis junction. Skin ageing involves several changes that occur due to both endogenous factors (gene mutation, cellular metabolism, and hormonal factors) and exogenous factors (UV exposure, pollutants, chemicals, and toxins).

Once you know your skin type, Dr Shivashankar recommends following the skincare routine and including some additions depending on your age.

If you’re below 30

  • Add glow-inducing ingredients like vitamin C and niacinamide
  • If you have pigmentation and acne, treat that first and then move on to everything else.

If you’re above 30

  • Add retinol and hyaluronic acid to your daily routine (under a doctor’s guidance).
  • Hydration is very important because your skin gets drier and loses elasticity with age.

Step into your skincare era

The moral of the story is that while the internet is flooded with different types of products, each claiming to be better than the next, it is important to first figure out what your skin type is before you jump into routines.

Dr Noronha always asks her patients to check labels and ingredients before jumping on the skincare wagon. “It all depends on the concentration of the product, and very often that isn’t even mentioned. If you want to use a reputable brand, buy a tester sample, use it on a less conspicuous area of your body first before applying it to your face, see if you can tolerate it and then buy the bigger product.” Or, as Dr Shivashankar recommends, “Look into that mirror, figure out those specific concerns and book an appointment with your dermatologist”

A visit to a dermatologist is a great way to start investing in your skin, understanding it better, and providing it with the care it deserves.

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Apoorva Raghavan, Dermatologist and Aesthetician

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