What Is Your Skin Type? Find Out With This Quiz + Expert-Approved Products
Before building a skin care routine—no matter how simple or robust—it's important to ask yourself: What is my skin type? While everyone's skin is nuanced and unique, it's helpful to address your general skin care circle—that is, dry, oily, acne-prone, combination, or sensitive.
If you're a little unsure, though, you've come to the right place: Here, a quick skin-type quiz to I.D. your complexion, with derm advice for picking the right products. Happy browsing...
Why skin type matters.
Simple: You can't craft a skin care routine without knowing exactly what your skin needs. And while everyone's skin has individual characteristics, skin types can help you navigate what kinds of formulas your skin loves—and, consequently, what you should avoid.
For example, if you know your skin runs dry, you wouldn't necessarily treat it with an oil-absorbing charcoal mask; rather, you might gravitate toward a nourishing face oil to lock in moisture. And if your skin reads acne-prone? Chances are you wouldn't opt for heavy coconut oil, as it has the potential to clog pores. BHAs are far better for keeping breakouts at bay.
Become familiar with your skin type, and you can save time (and money) discovering what works best for your skin and what can lead to acne or irritation down the line.
Our skin type quiz.
Understanding your skin type.
Let's break down those results:
If your skin runs dry, you likely experience cracks and flakes, and your skin may also feel tight post-cleansing.
Chronically dry skin is also a telltale sign you have a compromised skin barrier, as water can easily evaporate from a weakened barrier and leave the skin parched. Your skin also may become naturally drier as you age since your skin's natural oil production1 and structural components—like collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid—start to decrease and break down as you grow older; as such, locking in as much moisture as you can is a must.
Acne-prone skin is often oily, but it doesn't have to be: Acne-prone skin can also be dry, combination, or sensitive. "Whether your skin is acne-prone has to do with your genetics, your hormonal fluctuations, and your stress level typically," says board-certified dermatologist Jeanine Downie, M.D., co-host of The GIST Show. "For some people, their acne is complicated by what they eat as well as lack of sleep."
Translation: Having acne-prone skin means you're more prone to breakouts, perhaps due to factors that are simply out of your control (like genetics).
If you have oily skin, that means you have increased oil production all over—both on the cheeks and along the T-zone. "When you have oily skin, it is something you will notice all over your face, as opposed to just one restricted area," celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar once shared with mbg.
Oily skin is often also acne-prone, as sebum can become trapped in the pores and lead to breakouts, but this is not always the case. "Just because your skin is oily does not necessarily mean it is acne-prone at all," says Downie. You may just have more shine, simple as that.
"Combination skin is part oily, part dry," Downie previously told us about the skin type. "Typically, it's oily in the T-zone and drier on the cheeks." As such, your breakouts tend to crop up around your forehead, nose, and chin, where you'll typically accrue the most oil. And after cleansing, your forehead and cheeks may feel tight, whereas your nose and chin read more shiny.
Technically, there's no scientific consensus2 on the true definition of "sensitive skin," but most experts would say: Sensitive skin is associated with a compromised skin barrier. That's why "sensitive skin is characterized by skin that is not able to tolerate harsh conditions, [cosmetics products], environments, or even diets," says board-certified dermatologist Purshiva Patel, M.D., founder of Visha Skincare, as these irritants can trigger uncomfortable, sometimes painful, reactions.
And for what it's worth, any skin type can also run sensitive (be it oily, combination, or dry), but since a weakened skin barrier typically goes hand in hand with dryness, those two skin types seem to be a common pair.
Picking skin care products for your skin type.
Now that you've identified your skin type, let's craft your tailored routine and product arsenal.
If you have dry skin...
You'll want to coat the skin with ingredients like ceramides, colloidal oat, aloe, and shea butter "to lock in moisture and restore your skin barrier," board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss, M.D., explains. You'll also want to use cleansers and soaps without harsh surfactants, as these can strip the skin of its natural oils and dry it out further.
As for moisturizers, opt for a rich, butter-thick moisturizer (our favorites here) rather than a light water cream. You may even want to top your moisturizers with an oil to make sure water stays housed inside.
If you have acne-prone skin...
If you're prone to breakouts, you'll want to stick to noncomedogenic products and opt for ingredients that unclog pores, like salicylic acid. While the term "noncomedogenic" can differ for everyone (read: Some do just fine with coconut oil; others find it way too heavy), typically those with acne-prone skin should opt for lightweight confections. "They should avoid using products that have mineral oil, shea butter, and/or other heavy oils in their products," seconds Downie.
You may also want to incorporate some AHAs or BHAs to help unclog pores, as well as ingredients like tea tree oil to kill acne-causing bacteria and soothe inflammation.
Shop these products:
If you have oily skin…
If your oily skin is also acne-prone, you might want to do some mixing and matching here with the ingredients above. But for shine alone, Idriss suggests looking for oil-balancing ingredients—like niacinamide—to help regulate sebum production (bonus: Studies have found niacinamide can help with acne as well).
Mattifying moisturizers are your friends, here, as are ingredients like charcoal and clay to help draw excess oil from the pores.
Shop these products:
If you have combination skin...
To care for your combination skin, you'll want to treat both oily and dry areas simultaneously, with clarifying and hydrating products to address both needs. For example, if you want to incorporate an acid to help unclog sebum plugs (like lactic acid, which is known for being more gentle on the skin), balance it out with a soothing, calming moisturizer—see here for our favorite moisturizers for combination skin.
"Just because some areas of your face might produce excessive oil, that doesn't make your skin 'oily,' so one must make sure not to treat combination skin with harsh, overdrying skin care products," Aguilar adds. You may even want to multi-mask or multi-moisturize to treat different areas.
If you have sensitive skin...
"Patients with sensitive skin need to avoid ingredients that are irritating," says Downie, "so limited glycolic acid, limited salicylic acid, and retinols perhaps once every week."
In terms of ingredients to look for, she touts hyaluronic acid and squalane as sensitive-skin-approved players. Anything that helps support the skin barrier, like ceramides, shea butter, and colloidal oat, are solid choices, too.
Shop these products:
When learning about skin care products and routines, discovering your skin type is essential. Read: You can't give your skin what it needs without, well, knowing what it needs. And while skin itself is way more nuanced than the mere five categories above, think of these buckets as starting points. From there, you can build your personalized routine with products that work best.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.