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Skin Types vs Skin Conditions and How To Spot Them Skin Types vs Skin Conditions and How To Spot Them

Posted on by Valora Abbett

While knowing your skin type is very important, it is only one piece of the skincare puzzle. Why? Because it is unfortunately not all that common to have perfectly healthy balanced skin. It is more common to have one or more skin conditions that are throwing off the balance of your natural skin type. A good skincare routine has to take these factors into consideration. For example, if you think you have dry skin, but your skin is really just dehydrated, using products that contain very heavy emollients can make your skin worse, not better. This is why you need to be able to make the distinction between a skin type and a skin condition. Especially, if you are a professional in the field of cosmetics and skincare.


What is a Skin Type?


Ah, yes! The ever-elusive thing we call "skin type". Skin type is based on your genetics and is essentially the skin you are born with. While it can change slightly over time based on hormonal changes (like when you go through puberty) and with advanced age, the overall chronic condition of your skin is what dermatologists and estheticians refer to as your "skin type". Your individual skin type is unique to you. While it is determined by your genetics and you will inherit certain characteristics from your parents and/or grandparents, the chances of your skin being exactly like theirs is slim.

There are 6 basic skin types...

  1. Normal or Balanced
  2. Dry
  3. Oily
  4. Sensitive
  5. Combination Dry
  6. Combination Oily

What are Skin Conditions?

 

Our skin can be affected by various different factors such as climate, weather, pollution, irritating ingredients, sun, hormones, food allergies, topical allergies, and even some medications. These different factors can lead to unwanted changes in our skin that are separate from our actual skin type. However, the good news is that since they are just a condition, this means they are usually temporary and can be handled through proper treatment. Certain conditions can mimic skin types, which is usually what leads to confusion. 


Examples of common skin conditions:

  • Acne
  • Dehydration
  • Rosacea
  • Sensitivity
  • Sunburn
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Dermatitis (rashes, allergic reactions)
  • pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor burn)
  • Herpes or Shingles

If you feel that you may be suffering from a skin condition then you should seek the advice of a dermatologist to get it treated. Only a dermatologist can diagnose and treat skin conditions. Some skin conditions such as razor burn, sunburn, dehydration, and sensitivity do not require a medical diagnosis. However, a dermatologist or skincare consultant (such as myself) can help to determine what may be causing your skin to become sensitized or dehydrated in the first place. 


The Six Skin Types


As a skincare consultant, I have to be able to determine a client's skin type. I do this by conducting a close examination of their skin. I either do this in person or by looking at clear close-up photographs of their skin. I also have them fill out a comprehensive questionnaire so that I can gather important details about their current routine, what products they are using, and details about how their lifestyle, diet, and/or environment may be affecting their skin.


Here are a few of the things I look for when assessing someone's skin:

  • What is the size of their pores? Are they enlarged or very small?
  • How does your skin feel? Is it dry, rough to the touch, or oily/greasy?
  • Does their skin have wrinkles?
  • Does the skin have a crepey appearance or is there any flakiness?
  • Is the tone even and clear or do I see hyperpigmentation (discoloration such as age spots, freckles, etc)?

Since you may not be a trained beauty professional, to help you out further here are clear descriptions of the six basic skin types…


The Normal Skin Type


"Normal" is used to refer to skin that is healthy and is neither dry nor oily. It is considered well balanced and to be the ideal skin type to have. Most babies and children have normal skin. If this is your skin type consider yourself very lucky. No, really. I am jealous. Haha!

Characteristics of Normal Skin:

  • fine pores
  • perfect oil/water balance within the skin tissue
  • doesn't have a tendency towards pimples, dryness, or sensitivity
  • overall even color and texture (not rough, bumpy, pigmented, sallow, or pale)

The Dry Skin Type


Let me be clear, dry skin is not the same thing as dehydrated skin. Some websites and social media posts will use these two terms interchangeably or make it seem like they are the same and that you use the same products. However, this is not true since one is a skin type and the other is a skin condition. The products you use for dry skin are quite different than what you would use to treat dehydrated skin, but more on this later... And I apologize if I sound a little serious here. I just like to make sure you are getting the correct information. :)


Now back to your regularly scheduled program... Where was I? Oh, yes! If you have dry skin this means that your skin naturally does not produce enough oil known as sebum. This lack of sebum results in a lack of lipids (your skin's natural fat), ceramides (a type of lipid), and cholesterol needed to retain moisture and build a protective shield against external influences. This leads to an impaired barrier function and transepidermal water loss or TEWL. Dry skin exists in varying degrees from mild to severe. 


Characteristics of Dry Skin:

  • very fine or invisible pore size
  • often feels tight, itchy, and/or uncomfortable
  • may feel rough to the touch with visible flaky patches
  • the skin may appear blotchy or uneven
  • premature aging
  • areas of the body such as elbows, knees, and heels may develop calluses and become thick, scaly, and crack or peel
  • in the case of extremely dry skin, chapping can occur

The skin does naturally become drier as we age and things such as hormones, climate, and certain medications can also contribute to dry skin. 


The Oily Skin Type


Oily skin is the exact opposite of dry skin. In this case, the skin has a tendency to overproduce sebum. This overproduction of skin oil (also known as seborrhea) can then lead to unwanted skin conditions such as pimples and acne. However, a good thing about oily skin is that it tends to age well. Unlike dry skin which tends to age prematurely. 

Characteristics of Oily Skin:

  • enlarged or clearly visible pores
  • a glossy shine
  • thicker, yet pale skin (blood vessels may not be visible)
  • a tendency towards clogged pores, blackheads, pimples, and varying forms of acne

Our skin can become oily due to hormonal fluctuations and imbalances, stress, certain medications, and by using cosmetics and/or products that are too emollient and/or comedogenic (pore-clogging). 



The Sensitive Skin Type


This is another skin type that can easily be confused with sensitized skin. Truly sensitive skin is a type whereas sensitized skin is a condition. They do share certain similarities which can make the two hard to distinguish. One very important and distinguishing factor is that people with sensitive skin tend to suffer from multiple allergies. Whether it's seasonal or food-related. Their body is just sensitive in general. 


Characteristics of Sensitive Skin:

  • has a tendency to react strongly to chemicals, dyes, and fragrances
  • is prone to inflammation and adverse reactions
  • turns red or flushes easily
  • can develop rashes or appear blotchy
  • is negatively affected by changes in weather or climate (heat or cold, dryness or humidity)

Combination Dry and Combination Oily Skin Types


Skin that is dry in some areas and normal in others or oily in some areas and normal to dry in others is known as combination skin or a mixed skin type. Sometimes combination skin is referred to as a single skin type, however, it is in fact two separate skin types depending on whether the skin tends to be drier or more oily. They are treated similarly in some ways to help bring balance to the skin, but there are still some key differences that are helpful to know. 


Characteristics of Combination Dry Skin:

  • normal t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and dry cheeks or vice versa
  • can use products designed for normal skin to help bring the skin into balance
  • if the dry areas of the face are very dry, then those areas of the face are best treated with products for dry skin

Characteristics of Combination Oily Skin:

  • oily t-zone and normal to dry cheeks or vice versa (visible shine and greasy feel on some parts of the face while others feel balanced or dry)
  • may be prone to breakouts on the oily areas of the face
  • pores will be larger or more visible on the oilier parts of the face and more refined on the normal to dry portions
  • skin may be thicker in certain areas of the face as well
  • responds well to products that are designed for normal skin
  • if parts of the skin are very oily then those areas of the face are best treated with products that are designed for oily skin

The Difference Between Skin Types and Skin Conditions


As I mentioned earlier there are certain skin conditions that are very similar to or that can mimic certain skin types. Namely, dehydrated skin and sensitized skin. These two skin conditions do not require a medical diagnosis. However, conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and shingles do. 


Dehydrated Skin vs Dry Skin


Skin that has become dehydrated is lacking moisture or water, whereas dry skin does not produce enough oil which throws off the oil/water balance in the skin. Even though dehydrated skin can appear to be dry and may feel dry, treating it as if it were dry skin with a lot of heavy emollients can lead the skin to become clogged and oily instead of bringing it back into balance. This is why I cringe every time I see an advertisement or read a blog post recommending products for dry skin to people with a dehydrated skin condition. 


Characteristics of Dehydrated Skin:

  • the skin feels itchy, and or uncomfortable
  • rough to the touch (usually all over the entire face)
  • may have flakey patches in some areas or all over the face
  • is often dry and oily all over at the same time (fun!)
  • skin will appear crepey (especially around the eye area)
  • pore size may be visible or enlarged (as opposed to people with a dry skin type who have very fine or invisible pores)

Causes of Dehydrated Skin:

  • using overly harsh products that are very drying and strip the skin of moisture
  • hard water
  • washing and bathing with water that is too hot
  • long-term exposure to chlorine
  • weather (cold or hot dry wind)
  • sun exposure
  • air conditioning or central heat
  • living in a dry climate
  • hormonal fluctuations or imbalances
  • certain medications

Using products that contain hydrating ingredients that draw water to the skin such as, glycerine and hyaluronic acid is best for bringing balance to dehydrated skin. Of course, removing any harsh products and minimizing any contributing environmental factors is key as well. 


Sensitized Skin vs Sensitive Skin


Another somewhat confusing skin condition that is often mixed up with a skin type is sensitized skin. Anyone can be subject to or experience sensitized skin at one time or another in their life. However, this is not the same thing as having a sensitive skin type. There are multiple contributing factors that can lead your skin to become sensitive and inflamed. One key difference though is that you probably don't also suffer from multiple life-long chronic allergies, while people with truly sensitive skin usually do. Also, sensitized skin is something that turns on and is not how your skin has been long-term either. Since it is a condition, addressing the underlying cause or causes will clear it up. Boom! Magic. Well, not really but it can feel that way at times. 


Characteristics of Sensitized Skin:

  • redness, itching, and/or burning sensation
  • irritated patches or portions of the skin
  • may also be dehydrated
  • skin may appear flushed or blotchy

Causes of Sensitized Skin:

  • using overly harsh and stripping products
  • products that contain high amounts of drying alcohols, harsh chemicals, and fragrances
  • exposure to chlorine
  • over-exfoliating the skin (using harsh physical or chemical exfoliants and using them too often)
  • weather (dry hot or cold wind)
  • hormonal fluctuations or imbalances
  • certain medications
  • food allergies

Just as with dehydrated skin, it is important to identify the cause of the sensitivity. For example, if you are over-exfoliating or using products that are too harsh then you would want to stop doing that. 


I hope the above information has helped to clarify the differences between skin types and skin conditions for you. When putting together a skincare regimen and choosing products it is important to know your skin type as well as the current condition of your skin. Conditions or imbalances of the skin have to be addressed and treated with the right products in order for you to get real lasting results. 

I do provide Online Skincare Consultations, so if you are having trouble figuring out your skin type and what products work for you. I can help.

While knowing your skin type is very important, it is only one piece of the skincare puzzle. Why? Because it is unfortunately not all that common to have perfectly healthy balanced skin. It is more common to have one or more skin conditions that are throwing off the balance of your natural skin type. A good skincare routine has to take these factors into consideration. For example, if you think you have dry skin, but your skin is really just dehydrated, using products that contain very heavy emollients can make your skin worse, not better. This is why you need to be able to make the distinction between a skin type and a skin condition. Especially, if you are a professional in the field of cosmetics and skincare.


What is a Skin Type?


Ah, yes! The ever-elusive thing we call "skin type". Skin type is based on your genetics and is essentially the skin you are born with. While it can change slightly over time based on hormonal changes (like when you go through puberty) and with advanced age, the overall chronic condition of your skin is what dermatologists and estheticians refer to as your "skin type". Your individual skin type is unique to you. While it is determined by your genetics and you will inherit certain characteristics from your parents and/or grandparents, the chances of your skin being exactly like theirs is slim.

There are 6 basic skin types...

  1. Normal or Balanced
  2. Dry
  3. Oily
  4. Sensitive
  5. Combination Dry
  6. Combination Oily

What are Skin Conditions?

 

Our skin can be affected by various different factors such as climate, weather, pollution, irritating ingredients, sun, hormones, food allergies, topical allergies, and even some medications. These different factors can lead to unwanted changes in our skin that are separate from our actual skin type. However, the good news is that since they are just a condition, this means they are usually temporary and can be handled through proper treatment. Certain conditions can mimic skin types, which is usually what leads to confusion. 


Examples of common skin conditions:

  • Acne
  • Dehydration
  • Rosacea
  • Sensitivity
  • Sunburn
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Dermatitis (rashes, allergic reactions)
  • pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor burn)
  • Herpes or Shingles

If you feel that you may be suffering from a skin condition then you should seek the advice of a dermatologist to get it treated. Only a dermatologist can diagnose and treat skin conditions. Some skin conditions such as razor burn, sunburn, dehydration, and sensitivity do not require a medical diagnosis. However, a dermatologist or skincare consultant (such as myself) can help to determine what may be causing your skin to become sensitized or dehydrated in the first place. 


The Six Skin Types


As a skincare consultant, I have to be able to determine a client's skin type. I do this by conducting a close examination of their skin. I either do this in person or by looking at clear close-up photographs of their skin. I also have them fill out a comprehensive questionnaire so that I can gather important details about their current routine, what products they are using, and details about how their lifestyle, diet, and/or environment may be affecting their skin.


Here are a few of the things I look for when assessing someone's skin:

  • What is the size of their pores? Are they enlarged or very small?
  • How does your skin feel? Is it dry, rough to the touch, or oily/greasy?
  • Does their skin have wrinkles?
  • Does the skin have a crepey appearance or is there any flakiness?
  • Is the tone even and clear or do I see hyperpigmentation (discoloration such as age spots, freckles, etc)?

Since you may not be a trained beauty professional, to help you out further here are clear descriptions of the six basic skin types…


The Normal Skin Type


"Normal" is used to refer to skin that is healthy and is neither dry nor oily. It is considered well balanced and to be the ideal skin type to have. Most babies and children have normal skin. If this is your skin type consider yourself very lucky. No, really. I am jealous. Haha!

Characteristics of Normal Skin:

  • fine pores
  • perfect oil/water balance within the skin tissue
  • doesn't have a tendency towards pimples, dryness, or sensitivity
  • overall even color and texture (not rough, bumpy, pigmented, sallow, or pale)

The Dry Skin Type


Let me be clear, dry skin is not the same thing as dehydrated skin. Some websites and social media posts will use these two terms interchangeably or make it seem like they are the same and that you use the same products. However, this is not true since one is a skin type and the other is a skin condition. The products you use for dry skin are quite different than what you would use to treat dehydrated skin, but more on this later... And I apologize if I sound a little serious here. I just like to make sure you are getting the correct information. :)


Now back to your regularly scheduled program... Where was I? Oh, yes! If you have dry skin this means that your skin naturally does not produce enough oil known as sebum. This lack of sebum results in a lack of lipids (your skin's natural fat), ceramides (a type of lipid), and cholesterol needed to retain moisture and build a protective shield against external influences. This leads to an impaired barrier function and transepidermal water loss or TEWL. Dry skin exists in varying degrees from mild to severe. 


Characteristics of Dry Skin:

  • very fine or invisible pore size
  • often feels tight, itchy, and/or uncomfortable
  • may feel rough to the touch with visible flaky patches
  • the skin may appear blotchy or uneven
  • premature aging
  • areas of the body such as elbows, knees, and heels may develop calluses and become thick, scaly, and crack or peel
  • in the case of extremely dry skin, chapping can occur

The skin does naturally become drier as we age and things such as hormones, climate, and certain medications can also contribute to dry skin. 


The Oily Skin Type


Oily skin is the exact opposite of dry skin. In this case, the skin has a tendency to overproduce sebum. This overproduction of skin oil (also known as seborrhea) can then lead to unwanted skin conditions such as pimples and acne. However, a good thing about oily skin is that it tends to age well. Unlike dry skin which tends to age prematurely. 

Characteristics of Oily Skin:

  • enlarged or clearly visible pores
  • a glossy shine
  • thicker, yet pale skin (blood vessels may not be visible)
  • a tendency towards clogged pores, blackheads, pimples, and varying forms of acne

Our skin can become oily due to hormonal fluctuations and imbalances, stress, certain medications, and by using cosmetics and/or products that are too emollient and/or comedogenic (pore-clogging). 



The Sensitive Skin Type


This is another skin type that can easily be confused with sensitized skin. Truly sensitive skin is a type whereas sensitized skin is a condition. They do share certain similarities which can make the two hard to distinguish. One very important and distinguishing factor is that people with sensitive skin tend to suffer from multiple allergies. Whether it's seasonal or food-related. Their body is just sensitive in general. 


Characteristics of Sensitive Skin:

  • has a tendency to react strongly to chemicals, dyes, and fragrances
  • is prone to inflammation and adverse reactions
  • turns red or flushes easily
  • can develop rashes or appear blotchy
  • is negatively affected by changes in weather or climate (heat or cold, dryness or humidity)

Combination Dry and Combination Oily Skin Types


Skin that is dry in some areas and normal in others or oily in some areas and normal to dry in others is known as combination skin or a mixed skin type. Sometimes combination skin is referred to as a single skin type, however, it is in fact two separate skin types depending on whether the skin tends to be drier or more oily. They are treated similarly in some ways to help bring balance to the skin, but there are still some key differences that are helpful to know. 


Characteristics of Combination Dry Skin:

  • normal t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and dry cheeks or vice versa
  • can use products designed for normal skin to help bring the skin into balance
  • if the dry areas of the face are very dry, then those areas of the face are best treated with products for dry skin

Characteristics of Combination Oily Skin:

  • oily t-zone and normal to dry cheeks or vice versa (visible shine and greasy feel on some parts of the face while others feel balanced or dry)
  • may be prone to breakouts on the oily areas of the face
  • pores will be larger or more visible on the oilier parts of the face and more refined on the normal to dry portions
  • skin may be thicker in certain areas of the face as well
  • responds well to products that are designed for normal skin
  • if parts of the skin are very oily then those areas of the face are best treated with products that are designed for oily skin

The Difference Between Skin Types and Skin Conditions


As I mentioned earlier there are certain skin conditions that are very similar to or that can mimic certain skin types. Namely, dehydrated skin and sensitized skin. These two skin conditions do not require a medical diagnosis. However, conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and shingles do. 


Dehydrated Skin vs Dry Skin


Skin that has become dehydrated is lacking moisture or water, whereas dry skin does not produce enough oil which throws off the oil/water balance in the skin. Even though dehydrated skin can appear to be dry and may feel dry, treating it as if it were dry skin with a lot of heavy emollients can lead the skin to become clogged and oily instead of bringing it back into balance. This is why I cringe every time I see an advertisement or read a blog post recommending products for dry skin to people with a dehydrated skin condition. 


Characteristics of Dehydrated Skin:

  • the skin feels itchy, and or uncomfortable
  • rough to the touch (usually all over the entire face)
  • may have flakey patches in some areas or all over the face
  • is often dry and oily all over at the same time (fun!)
  • skin will appear crepey (especially around the eye area)
  • pore size may be visible or enlarged (as opposed to people with a dry skin type who have very fine or invisible pores)

Causes of Dehydrated Skin:

  • using overly harsh products that are very drying and strip the skin of moisture
  • hard water
  • washing and bathing with water that is too hot
  • long-term exposure to chlorine
  • weather (cold or hot dry wind)
  • sun exposure
  • air conditioning or central heat
  • living in a dry climate
  • hormonal fluctuations or imbalances
  • certain medications

Using products that contain hydrating ingredients that draw water to the skin such as, glycerine and hyaluronic acid is best for bringing balance to dehydrated skin. Of course, removing any harsh products and minimizing any contributing environmental factors is key as well. 


Sensitized Skin vs Sensitive Skin


Another somewhat confusing skin condition that is often mixed up with a skin type is sensitized skin. Anyone can be subject to or experience sensitized skin at one time or another in their life. However, this is not the same thing as having a sensitive skin type. There are multiple contributing factors that can lead your skin to become sensitive and inflamed. One key difference though is that you probably don't also suffer from multiple life-long chronic allergies, while people with truly sensitive skin usually do. Also, sensitized skin is something that turns on and is not how your skin has been long-term either. Since it is a condition, addressing the underlying cause or causes will clear it up. Boom! Magic. Well, not really but it can feel that way at times. 


Characteristics of Sensitized Skin:

  • redness, itching, and/or burning sensation
  • irritated patches or portions of the skin
  • may also be dehydrated
  • skin may appear flushed or blotchy

Causes of Sensitized Skin:

  • using overly harsh and stripping products
  • products that contain high amounts of drying alcohols, harsh chemicals, and fragrances
  • exposure to chlorine
  • over-exfoliating the skin (using harsh physical or chemical exfoliants and using them too often)
  • weather (dry hot or cold wind)
  • hormonal fluctuations or imbalances
  • certain medications
  • food allergies

Just as with dehydrated skin, it is important to identify the cause of the sensitivity. For example, if you are over-exfoliating or using products that are too harsh then you would want to stop doing that. 


I hope the above information has helped to clarify the differences between skin types and skin conditions for you. When putting together a skincare regimen and choosing products it is important to know your skin type as well as the current condition of your skin. Conditions or imbalances of the skin have to be addressed and treated with the right products in order for you to get real lasting results. 

I do provide Online Skincare Consultations, so if you are having trouble figuring out your skin type and what products work for you. I can help.