Skin Type v. Condition, Explained
Skin type is the structure of our skin, largely determined by genetics. Your type is based on either pore size and unique oil production (for normal, oily, dry, and combination types) or heightened skin reactivity (for sensitive and acneic types). Your skin type will typically stay the same your whole life. Only a few factors such as chemotherapy, Accutane, and pregnancy have the potential to alter your skin type.
On the other hand, your skin condition is the state of your skin at the present moment—taking into account factors like weather, diet, stress, pollution, and response to skincare products. Skin conditions include dehydration, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, blackheads, breakouts, fine lines, rough texture, and loss of elasticity.
Skin types and conditions are often conflated, causing you to over or under-treat the problem at hand. For example, if you’re breaking out, you may think, ‘oh I must be an acneic skin type.’ But in reality, you could just be experiencing breakouts as a temporary skin condition. The key difference is that an acneic skin type will work to soothe acne on a daily basis, whereas someone with breakouts as a skin condition may only need a couple products to treat the condition as it flares up.
What Is Your Skin Type?
The first four skin types are characterized by pore size and oil production:
- Normal skin types have uniform small, yet visible pores throughout the face and may get an oily shine in the center of the face mid-day/end of day.
- Oily skin types have large pores that are visible throughout the face to the hairline. This thicker, more resilient skin typically develops an oily shine in the morning and/or shortly after cleansing.
- Dry skin types have very fine, nearly invisible pores with no oily shine to the complexion. This thin, delicate skin is more prone to flaking, rough texture, and fine lines than others.
- Combination skin types have either Oily/Normal or Normal/Dry characteristics. Their pore size may be visible through the T-zone and they may develop an oily shine through the center of the face.
The final two skin types can’t be determined by pure observation and require further investigation before categorizing someone as either one:
- Sensitive skin types have been diagnosed with rosacea or have had two or more of the following conditions since childhood: asthma, eczema, and hay fever (seasonal allergies).
- Acneic skin types are characterized by identifying with at least two of the following three (1) breakouts run in your family (2) your breakout activity started at the onset of puberty, and (3) you tend to experience breakouts on your back or chest.
If you're still unsure what your skin type is, book a facial and consult with an expert at your next treatment. Skin type and skin conditions are often conflated, which can cause you to over or under-treat what’s happening with your skin.
“Distinguishing between the two helps you select the products you’re using,” says Heyday Skincare Educator Chrissy Carrano. “Your Core Four (cleanser, exfoliant, moisturizer, SPF) should be geared toward treating your skin type, because that’s what you want to maintain. For skin conditions, you’ll want to use one or two nutrient-rich products (toners, serums, facial oils, masks). This keeps your skin balanced.”
The Core Four
To manage your skin type, focus on Core Four products that are specifically suited to it. These four products are the foundation of any good skincare routine and include a cleanser, exfoliant, moisturizer, and SPF. While each skin type needs a Core Four, the products will differ from type-to-type due to varying needs.
The Right Skincare For Your Skin Type
For a helpful place to start, think of these products as our #1 picks for your skincare starter kit based on your skin type.
For Normal Skin Types
Maintain your skin’s natural balance with this daily moisturizer that’s done some extra credit. It gives normal skin types a daily dose of hydration, plus antioxidants for a brightening glow.
For Oily Skin Types
If you’ve got a surplus of sebum, this part-cleanser, part-exfoliator buffs away congestion while restoring hydration. Your skin’s oil levels are left healthy and balanced, not stripped.
For Dry Skin Types
Upgrade your hydration regimen with this power duo as your nightly moisturizer. Combine a few spritzes of this Eminence toner with a couple drops of the Maya Chia nourishing oil to restore the skin’s oil and water levels for ultimate rejuvenation.
For Combination Skin Types
Gentle enough for daily use, this active cleanser lightly resurfaces to reveal healthy layers of skin while protecting against environmental stress for an overall clear, smooth complexion.
For Sensitive Skin Types
This mineral sunscreen provides Broad Spectrum protection while minimizing the risk of irritation thanks to physical blockers like zinc oxide—crucial for sensitive skin types.
For Acneic Skin Types
This stellar moisturizer/sunscreen combo won’t clog pores, but will restore hydration levels so skin can heal while helping prevent further hyperpigmentation
And About Those Conditions...
Still thinking about skin conditions? Check out our condition-specific guides at the “Guidance” navigation tab above. From blackheads to fine lines, we’ve got intel on why it’s happening, what you can do about it with tips from our experts.