The early 20th century was marked by a boom in the industrial manufacture of cosmetic products, resulting in a collective agreement on the four main skin types based on skin morphology and behaviour. These four main types were defined as oily, dry, combination and normal. But how adequately do those four basic phenotypes really describe the skin’s actual needs? A much more clear and concrete classification would be one that interprets the skin’s needs through four dichotomies: is skin normal, oily, combination or dry; is it resistant or sensitive; is it unevenly pigmented or even-toned and finally, is it textured or smooth.
If we look at things this way skin is not described as just dry or oily, in other words, it’s not classified as simply one of the four main types. It is classified as one of the many possible permutations, giving us a lot more key information that will help us in finding the direction skincare needs to take. One person’s skin may be oily, resistant, unevenly pigmented and textured, while another person may have equally oily skin while at the same time being sensitive, even-toned and smooth in texture. Can we honestly say both of them need the same skincare? Most certainly not.
Also, one must take into account the endogenous and exogenous factors that affect skin type. These factors include stress levels, pregnancy or menopause as well as changes in climate conditions, just to name a few.
Dry or oily?
Skin which has sufficient moisture, produces adequate amounts of freely discharged sebum and has almost invisible pores, is considered ideal or normal skin, falling into the middle of the spectrum between dry and oily. Unfortunately, the greatest majority of people belong somewhere in the dry or oily category, especially if we divide and observe the face by zones, with the T zone usually being oilier than the rest of the face.
Dry skin is characterised by rough texture, a feeling of tightness, flaking and a signature tired, lifeless skin tone lacking in luminosity. Such skin does not produce adequate amounts of sebum which is supposed to penetrate the hair canal or follicle and reach the skin’s surface and lubricate it. As a result, skin chronically lacks lipids. The crucial error that owners of this skin type make is that they don’t understand that their skin doesn’t lack just moisture but needs to be saturated with both moisture (hydration) and fat or lipids (nourishment).
Dry skin has a compromised hydrolipidic barrier of the surface layer of the skin which is made up of ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol. That disturbed balance is the most frequent reason for dry skin being more susceptible to negative environmental impacts such as dehydration and sensitivity. Dryness of the skin caused by the use of alkaline products (such as soap) also results in increased desquamation or shedding of dead cells, which we notice as flakiness, resulting in a rough appearance of the skin.
Contrary to dry skin, oily skin is characterised by excessive activity of the sebaceous glands which overproduce sebum (fat). Excess sebum, depending on other factors such as the individual’s specific genetics and their lifestyle (dietary habits, hygiene and care, stress levels) may or may not lead to the development of acne, but oily skin is definitely always at the risk of developing comedones or undergoing inflammatory processes.
Oily skin is identified by characteristic enlarged pores and greasy shine which is hard to control throughout the day. Owners of oily skin most frequently make the mistake by going overboard with skincare, using too much too frequently, or abusing products in the false belief that more frequent use of more aggressive products is the only way to “eradicate” excess oil and imperfections. This, of course, is not the right way to go. It only leads to a frustrating vicious circle since improperly treated oily skin has the tendency to get even oilier and react by even bigger inflammation.Products for reducing sebum mustn’t be based on strong astringents such as denaturated alcohol which in the long term will only cause surface dehydration and one mustn’t expect skincare to turn oily skin into dry skin. It is important to work towards balancing the amount of sebum produced, regulating the flow of sebum from the follicle and normalising the speed of desquamation so that pores don’t become clogged. Once they do, this is the perfect fertile ground for acne to develop.
Combination skin is morphologically identifiable by its dry or normal cheeks and oily T zone. This is the most common skin type. This type of skin has a drastically varying number of active sebaceous glands depending on where they are found on the face, with the highest number being in the area of the chin, nose and forehead in comparison to the number of glands in the cheek area. For this skin type it is crucial to take a combined approach which most often includes layering skincare and adding products rich in lipids only where necessary.
Level of sensitivity
Another important factor in determining ones skin type and the direction a skincare routine will take is the level of natural resistance of the skin. Resistant skin is characterised by a robust surface layer that adequately protects the skin against allergens and endogenous environmental irritants. People who have resistant skin very rarely have acne or inflammations or general redness (erythema). These individuals have a high tolerance threshold to numerous cosmetic products in general, yet at the same time they also exhibit a high level of resistance to deep penetration of certain cosmetic products into the skin, meaning they don’t reap their full benefits. As a result, individuals with a resistant skin barrier have a hard time telling which of all the various types of products they are applying to their skin are actually being effective.
As opposed to resistant skin, sensitive skin is becoming a more and more common problem, especially in women in the reproductive age. Sensitive skin may be divided into four subtypes: acne-prone skin (with a tendency towards acne and comedones), skin developing rosacea(with a tendency towards facial redness accompanied by enlarged capillaries and papulopustular changes), skin developing reactivity(characterised by prickling sensations and temporary erythema) and skin developing allergies(characterised by pronounced erythema, itching and flaking). The one thing in common to all these subtypes is that the skin responds by inflammationand adequate treatment must be found in accordance with this response.
Skin inflammation response is a complex problem with numerous etiologies which need to be addressed in a targeted and specific manner. When it comes to selecting skincare products, the problem may be addressed by avoiding irritants and incorporating into our routine soothing ingredients with amazing anti-inflammatory effects, such as aloe vera, oat extract, cucumber extract, niacinamide, salicylic acid, zinc PCA, camomile etc.
Reactive skin should avoid fragranced products and essential oils. Essential oils contain irritating and allergenic properties. Similarly, harsh surfactants such as SLS / SLES and delivery agents like propylene glycol are also best avoided.
Evenness of skin tone
This parameter does not refer to general skin tone but to the tendency towards developing marks and discolorations on the skin such as post-inflammatory pigmentation and melasma.
The darker the skin, the greater its tendency towards accumulating melanin and developing changes in pigmentation. On the other hand, lighter-skinned individuals usually don’t develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation at all, but get post-inflammatory erythema or pink macules which need to be treated entirely differently than classic marks and discolorations. Post-inflammatory pigmentation, melasma and post-inflammatory erythema usually have a hormonal component to them, especially in women.
The term post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is used to describe darkened, most often brown coloured spotsremaining after acne and the etiology of these changes is almost identical to that of melasma. They both develop due to melanocyte activity and exposure to UV radiation. On the other hand, post-inflammatory erythema is residual redness (usually left after acne and small wounds) which signalises that the body attempted to heal some kind of inflammation.
Post-inflammatory erythema and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are not treated the same way. In the case of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma it is necessary to inhibit the tyrosinase enzyme and the most effective ingredients for achieving this result are hydroquinone, vitamin C, kojic acid, niacinamide, arbutin, mulberry and liquorice extract. Apart from them, exfoliating agents, such as glycolic and salicylic acid, are good for prompting shedding of problematic keratinocytes. Avoiding UV radiation is also a must.
The best medicine for post-inflammatory erythema is to avoid products that cause skin irritation. These pigmentation changes will disappear by themselves over time. How long this will take will depend on how deep the initial inflammation was; it may take a mere couple of days to as long as several years. Lasers that target red pigment in the skin are one of the potential solutions for this problem, but usually multiple treatments are needed and recovery is gradual (lasting several months).
From the aspect of skincare, skin texture can be divided into visible pores and wrinkles. The appearance of wrinkles for the most part depends on chronological factors (natural aging) and exposure to UV radiation. Chronological aging is genetically conditioned, by the speed of telomere shortening. The epidermis or surface layer of the skin is one of the rare soft tissues that display the effects of the functioning of telomerase, the enzyme that regulates the shortening of telomeres. Chronological aging is impossible to prevent or postpone, but preventive action can be taken against extrinsic, environmental factors.
Premature skin aging is primarily caused by smoking and other forms of pollution, a nutrient deficient diet, excessive alcohol consumption and chiefly UV radiation exposure. To a greater or lesser extent all these factors obstruct collagen synthesis and prompt an inflammatory response from the skin. Since we know that the levels of the main structural components of the skin (such as collagen, elastin and naturally present hyaluronic acid) decrease with time, preventing their substantial degradation is the key to maintaining the skin looking youthful. Topical products that contain vitamin C, copper peptides and vitamin A derivatives as well as chemical peels significantly contribute to collagen synthesis, while the subject of prompting elastin synthesis in the skin through use of skincare products still remains insufficiently explored.
The next major issue that needs to be addressed when anti-aging skincare is concerned is the skin’s inflammatory response since it is the greatest contributor to degradation of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. Anti-oxidants reduce oxidative stress, at the same time reducing the skin’s inflammatory response. Vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10, botanical extracts such as coffee, green tea, resveratrol, grape seed and pycnogenol extracts and ferulic acid are just some among the many great anti-oxidants that have a proven anti-aging effect. More on the skin aging process and appearance of wrinkles can be found HERE.
Enlarged pores which give the skin a specific porous appearance represent the second biggest issue when skin texture is in question. This problem occurs in persons with very oily skin as well as in persons with dry and mature skin, although the etiology of development of enlarged pores in these two cases is completely different. In the case of persons with oily skin, sebum production is increased, which in itself enlarges pores in order to enable the excess sebum to be discharged from the hair canal as effectively as possible. In the case of persons with dry and mature skin enlarged pores are a sign of a weakened epidermis and dermis. With the degradation of collagen and elastin the surface of the skin begins to lose its plumpness and smoothness, it becomes saggy and pores become visible, or rather, they appear to be enlarged.
Interestingly enough the solution for both visible wrinkles and pores amounts to one and the same. In the case of combination to oily skin with enlarged pores, regular use of chemical peels, especially those based on glycolic and lactic acid, is particularly important, since their continuous use significantly retextures the skin. Use of retinoids and other anti-oxidants already mentioned, as well as adequate SPF protection, represent long-term aid for all skin types with these problems. The appearance of skin marked by enlarged pores and wrinkles can be improved significantly, but at the same time it is important to have realistic expectations and not to expect complete reversal of the skin to its prior state.
One mustn’t forget that chronological aging is impossible to repair by non-invasive, non-chirurgical methods and that topical products can serve only to repair the damage resulting from extrinsic factors. A middle-aged person cannot have the flawlessly smooth and moist skin of a toddler and that’s perfectly fine. Nurturing a positive outlook towards one’s skin is just as important as nurturing the skin itself.
So, which type do I belong to?
Which skin type your skin belongs to and what kind of care suits it best can be easily uncovered by answering four simple questions:
Your skin is:
Your skin texture is:
- Textured (prominent pores or wrinkles)
Your skin’s level of sensitivity is:
- Type 1 – prone to inflammatory processes (acne, seborrhoea or rosacea)
- Type 2 – very reactive (instantaneously reacts to external stimuli such as scented products, essential oils, alcohols etc. but doesn’t exhibit other imperfections)
- Type 3 – very allergic (often suffers from reactions to stimuli in the form of prolonged itching, redness and flaking)
- Type 4 – combined inflammatory and reactive phenotype
- Type 5 – resistant skin that seldom has any kind of reaction
Your skin tone is:
- Even and without imperfections
- Uneven – brown spots and melasma
- Uneven – red spots
Once you understand what specific issues your skin is dealing with, then it’s easy to identify the ways in which those issues can be addressed. To make it easier for you to choose the skincare products that will adequately cover all your skin’s specific problems, each product on Skintegra’s web shop is followed by a detailed description of the skin type the product was designed for. We also recommend that you read all about the ingredients used in our products.