Sun | May 29, 2016

What's your skin type?

Published:Wednesday | November 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

By Arusha Campbell-Chambers

Your skin can be classified into various basic types depending on how it usually looks and behaves. We tend to have a basic type which becomes drier as we age.

Our skin type is affected by internal factors such as genes and hormones, and external factors such as our lifestyle and the environment. The common types include: normal, dry, oily, sensitive and combination.

Normal skin is actually common in children but uncommon in adults. It is smooth, has even texture, isn't shiny, has no or minimal lines, no blemishes and the complexion is even. Dry skin lacks moisture in the outer layers of the skin. It is usually due to a defective skin barrier in the outer layer of skin causing excessive water loss. This defect may be caused by the genes we inherit or by harsh soaps and detergents, hot water, air conditioning, friction from clothing, frequent air travel, pollutants and other chemicals. Dehydration can also worsen the appearance of dry skin. The features of dry skin include:

  • Dull, rough appearance
  • Fine lines
  • Stiffness, flaking, cracking
  • May get irritated, inflamed, itchy
  • Usually worse on arms and legs

Oil is produced by the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin and secreted to the skin's surface through the hair pores. These glands are most numerous on the face, chest, back and upper arms. The oil secretion is controlled by hormones and is therefore greater during puberty, pregnancy and pre-menstrually. Individuals with oily skin have a greater chance of getting acne. 'Comedogenic' products can block the hair pores, leading to acne, and so should be avoided. The features of oily skin include:

  • Coarse texture
  • Excess shine, enlarged pores
  • Blackheads, whiteheads possible

Combination skin is very common. As the name suggests, it's a combination usually of oily skin on the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) and dry skin on the cheeks. Sensitive skin is a widely used term which has not been clearly defined. It usually refers to a tendency to develop irritation which may occur after using certain skin-care products, harsh soaps or detergents, extreme climates or air conditioning. In some cases, there is no known exposure triggering sensitive skin. Sensitive skin may also be caused by some skin diseases such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, atopic eczema, rosacea, contact dermatitis or urticaria. The skin around the eyes and sides of the nose tend to be the most sensitive areas of the face.

Individuals with sensitive skin should eliminate any likely causes of their symptoms. They can start by eliminating all skin products that they are currently using and gradually re-introduce gentle products. A special skin test may be needed to exclude an allergy to a product.

The features of sensitive skin may include:

  • Fine texture
  • Redness, flaking
  • Skin swelling
  • Tightness
  • Fine lines

Understanding how your skin usually behaves can help you discover how to best take care it. In our next article, we will look at various skin-care products to help you maintain a healthy skin care routine.

Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: