The other day a patient actually came back to me stating that “I have combination skin and yet you have prescribed me a moisturizer suitable for dry skin. I think you have made a mistake!” This ofcourse led to a very long conversation with the patient and eventually this article. A lot has been written on how your skin type plays into your skincare routine. This in my opinion is a half truth at best. While your skin type may be important there are a plethora of other factors that play into establishing a skin care routine that works for you. A good dermatologist or skin specialist knows this and hence does not always prescribe any medications or skin care products based only on your skin type. However it’s important to start with the basics:
Know your skin type
Knowing your skin type is a simple affair. Here is how you do it.
- If your T-zone, that is your forehead, nose and chin and also your C-zone, that is the outer area of the face, are oily to touch or shiny in the morning then you have oily skin.
- But if your entire face feels stretched or taut in the morning you have dry skin.
- But most people have combination skin which is when your T-zone feels oily but the C-zone feels taught or stretched.
And what causes this difference in skin types? Well the simple answer is that it depends on your genes. While there may be a few things that you may be practicing on a regular basis which may be affecting your skin to become dry or oily, there is practically nothing that can be done to change your skin type.
Dry Skin V/s Dehydrated Skin
While there are a lot of blogs online which like to differentiate between dry skin and dehydrated skin, most of these so-called blogs by beauty experts get it wrong.
The easiest way to understand this differentiation in popular culture is that dry skin is something that occurs naturally in a person. A person may have dry skin from birth or it may occur as one ages. However there is no external aggravating factor that generally causes dry skin.
As against this some people develop dry dehydrated skin as a result of their profession or activities, like people who need to keep their hands immersed in water for long periods of times due to activities like washing clothes, washing dishes, washing hair etc. or people who may work outdoor in harsh environments like farming, masonry etc.
However for all practical purposes this differentiation does not really change the way treatment is carried out. A dermatologist will generally treat the current condition of the skin with proper medications and prescribe at home skin care products in a similar manner irrespective of whether it is dry skin or dehydrated skin.
What other factors are important in establishing a skin care regimen?
While there are hundreds of factors that are considered by skin doctor, here are the top few that truly matter the most.
Seasonality: For obvious reasons your skin care cannot remain the same weather it is summer, rains or winter.
Profession & Activity Undertaken Regularly: If you work more with your hands like a chef or an artist, your hands will be generally dry. If you work outside like in sales or farming your skin will be different from if you mostly remain indoors. If you go swimming regularly, your skin will need different care from if you go to the gym and so on.
Hormonal Changes: Your skin type can undergo change based on your hormones. As an example when women hit menopause their skin becomes extremely dry because of the depletion or hormones or when women become pregnant they often develop a glow.
Age: As a natural part of aging your skin tends to undergo changes like becoming thinner. This causes it to also generally become quite dry and stretched.
Sex: Men generally have thicker skin which also ages differently and hence may sometimes need different types of skin care products to tend to their skin.
So should you change your skincare routine based on your skin type?
Well absolutely, but it is best to speak to a dermatologist who may be able to help you identify other issues with your skin also before prescribing the correct set of skin care products. However here are a few basic tips for creating a good skin care routine for your skin type.
For Dry / Dehydrated Skin
Moisturizer: Make sure your moisturizer is generally of a thick consistency like a heavy cream. This ensures that it stays longer on your skin and also it creates a shield which does not allow the moisture from your skin to escape (This is called improving the barrier function of the skin) Also make sure your moisturizer is rich in ingredients like humectants like glycerine and PCA which actually attract moisture from the outer surface of the skin to the deeper layers. Lastly make sure the moisturizer is rich in ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Lecithin, which help moisture penetrate better into the skin.
Sun Screen: Your sunscreen should be of thick cream like consistency with adequate moisturizing properties. Avoid gel type sunscreens and natural sunscreens.
Antioxidants: The most common antioxidants are vitamin c derivatives which have a tendency to dry out your skin. You may need to avoid these or at least use it in much lower strengths or for much lower amounts of time and frequency.
Collagen Boosters: These are generally called retinoids or retinols which are nothing but derivatives of vitamin A. These are ingredients that encourage cellular turnover and stimulate collagen and elastin production in your skin. These too should be used in a manner such as they do not harm your skin by drying it further, that is they should be mild and be used infrequently for shorter time durations.
Emollients and Anti-inflammatories: These are ingredients like squalene which help soothe the skin and reduce any inflammation. If you have dry skin, you may need these in your skin care routine.
Toners and Cleansers: These you need to be extremely careful about. These can do the most harm by causing excess dryness and also causing irritation. As a thumb rule use non foaming, hydrating cleansers and avoid toners.
For Oily Skin
Moisturizer: While most people may avoid moisturizers if they have oily skin, this is absolutely wrong. Every person needs moisturizer after they take a shower. The consistency of the moisturizer can be much thinner, like a lotion which spreads easily. No specific ingredients are needed. However it is better to avoid ingredients that do not allow your skin to breathe and block your pores, as these can cause acne breakouts.
Sun Screen: Look for a sunscreen that has a gel-like consistency. Sun screens advertised as non comedogenic work well as they are formulated to not block your pores.
Toners, Cleansers, Acids (AHA and BHA): You can use these more freely. However please note that keeping your skin absolutely dry, devoid of oil can be very unhealthy for your skin. You need to modulate the usage of these such that your skin does not become devoid of essential oils that are necessary for its functioning.
Collagen Boosters and Antioxidants: Again here too while you can use these more freely, it is best to speak to a skin doctor who can advise you on the correct strength, duration and frequency.
What about normal skin and combination skin types?
This is exactly where the expertise of a skin specialist comes in. A skin doctor will not only consider your skin type but all the other parameters mentioned above to help you create the correct skin care routine for you. Please note that skincare routines should not be based on what is tending and what your friend may be using. It needs to be based on medical knowledge and expertise of a doctor of human physiology and the active pharmacological ingredients that may work for your specific condition.