Your skin type matters You may suspect you have dry, oily, or sensitive skin, but do you really know your skin type? Knowing your true skin type can help the next time you’re in the cosmetics aisle. In fact, using the wrong products — or even popularized Internet hacks — for your skin type could worsen acne, dryness, or other skin problems.
Read on to learn:
how to build your own skincare routine
how to treat specific skin concerns like acne or scars
which DIY skin hacks aren’t healthy, even if they seem to work
Building a daily skincare routine
No matter what your skin type is, a daily skincare routine can help you maintain overall skin health and improve specific concerns like acne, scarring, and dark spots. A daily skincare routine has four basic steps you can do once in the morning and once before you sleep. 1. Cleansing: Choose a cleanser that doesn’t leave your skin tight after washing. Clean your face no more than twice a day, or just once, if you have dry skin and don’t wear makeup. Avoid washing for that squeaky-clean feeling because that means your skin’s natural oils are gone. 2. Serums: A serum with vitamin C or growth factors or peptides would be better in the morning, under sunscreen. At night, retinol or prescription retinoids work best. 3. Moisturizer: Even oily skin needs moisturizer, but use one that is lightweight, gel-based, and non-comedogenic, or doesn’t block your pores. Most brands will label their products as gel or cream on their packaging. 4. Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF 15 minutes before heading outdoors, as it takes a while for sunscreen to activate. Darker skin tones actually need more sun protection because hyperpigmentation is harder to correct.
Choose products that fit your skin type and sensitivity, and remember to read the labels. Some products, such as retinol or prescription retinoids, should only be applied at night. For all skin types
Change pillow cases at least once a week.
Wash or wrap up hair before bed.
Wear sunscreen every day and apply 15 minutes before going out.
Start with a basic and simple routine to see how your skin reacts. Once you’re comfortable, you can then add extra products such as exfoliants, masks, and spot treatments to boost your skin’s health. And don’t forget to patch test new products, especially if you suspect you have sensitive skin. This can help you identify potential allergic reactions.
To patch test a new product:
Apply a small amount of product on your skin in a discreet area, such as the inside of your wrist or your inner arm.
Wait 48 hours to see if there’s a reaction.
Check the area at 96 hours after application to see if you have a delayed reaction.
An allergic reaction may include irritation, redness, small bumps, or itchiness. If you notice these symptoms, wash the area you tested with water and a gentle cleanser. Then return the product and try another that better suits your skin type. How to treat skin problems
There are ways to tackle skin problems without damaging your skin. Just remember the number one rule of skincare: Don’t pick! Picking at acne, blackheads, scabs, or other skin problems can cause open wounds or darker skin spots known as hyperpigmentation. Open wounds can lead to infections, more acne, or scars. The deeper the wound, the more likely your skin will scar. Here are some scientifically-backed ways to treat problem areas.
Acne Acne treatment depends on how deep or serious your acne is. Overall skincare is the most important step in treating acne, but for mild acne you can use nonprescription products from your local drugstore such as:
alpha hydroxy acids
tea tree oil
Always apply sunscreen after using these products in the morning, since they can cause extra skin sensitivity. For immediate, inflamed, and individual pimples, you can also try acne patches or stickers. These are clear, thick patches that work as spot treatments to help promote blemish healing and prevent infections. Like blister bandages, acne patches pull out the fluid, sometimes overnight. It’s best to use these before you sleep as makeup can’t cover them.
Sebaceous filaments Sebaceous filaments are tiny, cylinder-like tubes in your pores that are whitish-yellow. These are often confused with blackheads, but blackheads are actually a type of acne that’s oxidized. Sebaceous filaments can make your pores look bigger, and you may be tempted to remove them by pinching your skin or using pore strips. But these methods may have more side effects than benefits for your skin, especially if you don’t do them properly. Over time, you can also cause:
open pores and infection
Topical preparations containing retinol or retinoids can help keep pores clear and clean. You may also find benefits from massaging your face with mineral or castor oil for one minute. Another way of removing sebaceous filaments is with an extraction tool. This is a small metal instrument with a tiny circle at the end. The safest method is to have an esthetician or dermatologist remove them for you, but you can also do this at home:
Start with a clean face and instrument.
Gently press the circle around the bump to see if the filament comes out. Be careful as excessive pressure can cause bruising and scarring.
Treat the area with toner and moisturizer after.
Always sanitize your instrument with rubbing alcohol before and after use to prevent infections.
You may also see extra benefits by applying benzoyl peroxide after washing before extraction.
Blemishes, scars, and hyperpigmentation
Blemishes, scars, and dark spots can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months to heal and fade. Immediate treatment for scars and blemishes include using makeup and sunscreen to avoid further sun damage and hyperpigmentation. Other ingredients known to help fade scars include: Silicone: Studies show that topical silicone can improve scar thickness, color, and texture. You can apply silicone gel for eight to 24 hours per day. Look for products with silicone dioxide listed as an ingredient. Honey: Preliminary studies show that honey can heal wounds and scars. You may want to use honey if you’re looking for home treatment. Vitamin C: Look for this ingredient when shopping for creams and moisturizers. Vitamin C works better when combined with other lightening ingredients like soy and licorice. Niacinamide: Niacinamide can help reduce blemishes and dark spots, especially from acne. Topical two percent to five percent niacinamide is effective for people with lighter skin tones. Retinoic acid: One study found that acne scars improved in 91.4 percent of people who applied a combination of retinoic acid and glycolic acid. Look for products with these ingredients and add them to your routine after washing your face. Don’t forget to always wear sunscreen after application to avoid sun damage and hyperpigmentation. How to test your skin type at home If you aren’t sure about your results from the quiz, you can also do a physical test to check your skin type. A home test measures sebum production. Sebum is a waxy, oily liquid that comes from your pores. The amount of sebum your skin produces can determine if your skin is:
Testing sebum production on a clean face is the most accurate way to determine what kind of skin you have. Follow these steps:
Wash your face and pat it dry. Wait 30 minutes.
Gently press oil blotting paper or tissue on your face. Press the paper on different areas of your skin, such as your forehead and nose, cheeks, and chin.
Hold the sheet to the light to see how transparent the paper is.
Along with the above skin types, you can also have sensitive skin, which doesn’t follow the sebum criteria. Sensitive skin depends on:
how fast your skin reacts to product application
how well your skin protects itself
how easily your skin turns red
likelihood of skin allergy
When to see a doctor or dermatologist
You should see a dermatologist if your skin problems don’t go away with over-the-counter products. More severe acne, scarring, or other problems may need prescription treatment such as oral antibiotics, birth control, or topical prescription retinoids. Your dermatologist may perform an extraction for deeper cysts or acne spots that are stuck underneath your skin. Remember that your skin type can affect how products work. Using the wrong product, even when natural, can cause breakouts, worsen blemishes, or cause redness. It’s best to find out what skin type you have and build your skincare routine around that. You can also take notes on product ingredients to see if specific ingredients are causing unwanted skin reactions.