It's useful to know your skin type so you can make the appropriate choices for your skincare routine.
Different skin types are genetically determined, but choosing a suitable skincare routine for your face and body is essential to care for your skin's health.
There are five common skin types: normal, oily, dry, combination and sensitive. Blotting a clean tissue on your face in the morning is an easy way to find out your skin type.
- A normal skin type has good circulation and there won’t be any trace of sebum (or oil) on the tissue. Normal skin is soft, with a smooth, even skin tone
- An oily skin type can leave blots of facial oil on the tissue, particularly from the cheeks, nose and forehead. This type of skin has overactive sebaceous glands, producing more oil than necessary. Oily skin can be caused by hereditary factors, diet, hormone levels, pregnancy, unsuitable cosmetics and stress, leading to acne flare ups and enlarged pores. It’s important to regularly clean the skin thoroughly with gentle, soap-free cleansers
- A dry skin type has a low level of sebum and does not maintain oil easily. Dry skin is often flaky and feels tight after being wiped. Gentle cleansing and a moisturising emollient for dry skin is essential to relieve that tight, uncomfortable feeling. It may be necessary to adjust your dry skin emollient for the changing seasons
- With a combination skin type, oil is produced around the T-zone of the nose and forehead but not on the cheeks, mouth and eye areas. The best skincare for combination skin can involve treating each region differently
- Having a sensitive skin type can mean different things to different people. It can be caused by skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema or allergies. Sensitive skin can become inflamed and irritated easily. It’s important to choose the appropriate skincare for sensitive skin as many cosmetic products contain ingredients that can cause an adverse reaction
There is no ‘best’ when it comes to skincare products – everybody’s skin is different. Different people’s skin will react to skincare products differently, and you might prefer to use certain types of products at certain times of the day or year.
However, there are some types of products which work well for many people. Emollients are a key product that can usually be built into your skincare routine. Not only do they help restore moisture to dry or itchy skin, they also help form a barrier over your skin to help keep moisture in and protect your skin from irritants.
A complete skincare routine is most effective when your emollient cream is used alongside soap-substitute products, as normal soap products can make your skin more dry. In some cases a healthcare professional can also advise eczema sufferers to use topical steroid creams to help manage their skin during flare ups (when their skin is particularly red or itchy).
The terms ‘eczema’ and ‘dermatitis’ are often used interchangeably by GPs and pharmacists to describe a group of common inflammatory skin conditions where areas of skin can become dry, red, rough and blistered. This can result in itching, bleeding and sometimes infection. There are lots of factors which might play a part in developing these conditions.
Although these symptoms can range from mild to severe, they can be treated with a complete skincare routine.
When used properly, topical steroids can be an effective treatment for conditions such as eczema. Your healthcare professional will only advise you or your child to use a topical steroid that’s appropriate for specific needs.
Whilst topical steroids can have some side effects, if they’re used properly as directed by a healthcare professional there’s no reason to worry.
Psoriasis is a common inflammatory skin condition. About 2% of the UK population have psoriasis: it affects men and women equally and can develop at any age.
There isn’t just one cause of psoriasis – it can have a complex mix of different causes. Psoriasis can be inherited, but environmental factors can also play a part.
Psoriasis ranges in severity from person to person, but it can often be helped by using a complete skincare routine.
Lanolin is used in lots of emollient products. The oils in lanolin have a similar chemical composition to those found in your skin and can help your skin retain water.
Lanolin is derived from sheep’s wool, where it acts as a natural water repellent. Many decades ago there was an issue with Lanolin because it wasn't sufficiently purified, which caused some people to be sensitive to creams that included the ingredient.
Still, evidence has shown that very few people in the normal population are sensitive to Lanolin. Certain people can be allergic to Lanolin, but they often have a related allergy e.g. people who are allergic to wool.
Some creams, including E45, contain an ingredient called Medilan™. This is a purified form of Lanolin with the same moisturising properties – but it’s also a hypoallergenic, medical-grade Lanolin, which means it’s less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
In many cases of dry or itchy skin, it’s not an allergy that’s causing the condition, but it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide you with advice about your skin condition.
Contact eczema or contact dermatitis is caused by a reaction to a material in contact with the skin. The first contact with this material doesn’t always lead to an allergy: sometimes you can touch the same thing for many months or years without having a reaction.
In the majority of patients diet does not appear to aggravate skin conditions.
In a few patients, diet may aggravate eczema – these patients tend to be under three years of age and have moderate to severe eczema, which may be associated with certain problems, such as with breathing or the bowels.
For all of the above cases it’s best to get advice from a healthcare professional.
For eczema sufferers it’s important to use emollient around 2–4 times a day (depending on instructions from emollient manufacturers), even if you feel your skin’s improving. Adults with eczema should use at least 500g every week (about one handful every day) while children with eczema (under supervision) should usually use at least 250g a week (about half an adult handful every day or as indicated by a healthcare professional).
Some dry and itchy skin conditions like eczema aren’t contagious – you can’t catch eczema from being in contact with someone who has it.
But if your condition is due to a fungal or bacterial infection or even parasites it could be contagious.
If you aren’t sure what’s affecting your skin, talk to a doctor or pharmacist.
Some skin conditions have an element of genetics, which means they can run in families. This can help explain why some people are more prone to them than others.
It’s very hard to predict whether skin conditions will be passed onto children. You can’t control the genes you pass on, so there isn’t anything you can do to control whether your child will have a skin condition if you have one.
Dry or itchy skin can become more irritated for many reasons. It can be affected by your home or office environment, as well as external factors – like the weather or the season. Effects of some conditions can be mitigated by using a complete skincare routine, but it can be hard to control your skin’s reaction to triggers like the weather.