by Charlotte Wood
(last updated June 1, 2018)
When I was nearing my teenage years, my mom pulled me aside one day and introduced me to the world of skin care. I had never diligently washed my face before, and this new responsibility was a little overwhelming to a twelve-year-old girl. The older I became and the more conscientious I became about how I presented myself, the more I cared about my skin and how I cared for it.
When I'd talk with friends about various skin care routines, I quickly realized that not all skin care regimens are the same and that different types of skin require different treatment. If you're a little (or a lot) overwhelmed with the variety of skin care products and techniques out there, I'm here to help you understand the force driving skin care products: skin types. Once you understand your skin type, you'll be able to better sort through the skin care aisle at the store.
Skin care products are geared to skin types, and there are five primary skin types out there: oily, dry, sensitive, "normal," and combination. I singled out normal, because normal seems like such a relative term; in the skin world, however, normal simply refers to skin that produces oil at a rate that doesn't increase the oiliness of the skin or dry it out. Normal skin is balanced skin.
Most people, however, have combination skin, with certain areas being prone to different skin types. Here's a quick run-down of the rest of the skin types: oily skin is skin that produces more oil than is necessary; dry skin doesn't produce enough oil to hydrate the skin; and sensitive skin, whether oily or dry, can respond more dramatically to skin care products, necessitating special treatment (the reactions are usually because of allergies).
Many teenagers are plagued with especially oily skin (a factor that contributes to acne), and so they often use products that help dry the skin. These products usually contain benzoyl peroxide, an agent that dries the skin. This substance is also the base for many direct contact acne products. Those with dry skin want products that hydrate their skin, adding water and oils when the skin itself doesn't provide them. If you have sensitive skin (and sensitive skin can be accompanied with oily or dry characteristics as well), you should look for hypoallergenic products that work with whatever other skin types your sensitive skin has.
With combination skin, like what most people have, you have to "get to know" your skin, in a manner of speaking. Maybe sometimes your skin could be termed normal, and so you use a mild face wash and moisturizer; but then at other times, your skin could start acting up and get oily, and then you'd want to pull out a more intense scrub wash to clear out your pores. The key to best using the products that you buy for your skin is paying attention to your skin and what it needs on any given day. Some days it may need more hydration, and other days it may need to be cleared out more. Also remember that finding the best skin care products is often a process of trial and error. The more you test products with your skin, the more likely you'll find something that works for you. Good luck!
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