Skin conditions

1. What type of skin do I have?

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

Find out more about how skin works.

2. What is eczema? What’s the difference between eczema and dermatitis?

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.

Find out more about eczema.

3. What is psoriasis?

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.

Find out more about psoriasis.

4. What if my dry or itchy skin is being caused by an allergy?

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.

Find out more about what affects your skin.

5. Is it contagious?

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.  

Find out more about how dry or itchy skin works.

6. Can skin conditions be hereditary? If so can the risk be reduced?

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.

Find out more about how dry or itchy skin works.

7. What can make dry or itchy skin worse and how can this be improved?

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.

Find out more about what can affect your skin.