To know your skin type, the first thing is to understand how it is formed.
The skin is an organ organized in many layers of cells that protect it. It is the first defense barrier against water loss and external factors such as microorganisms, in addition to thermoregulation.
It is composed by two main layers:
The epidermis, which the first layer and protects us from sun, insects, pollution, cold and heat. It retains water, vitamins, minerals and proteins. It is composed mostly by keratin-producing cells, a protein that provides stiffness and resistance.
The dermis is the structure that is below the epidermis and that makes up more than 90% of the skin. Made mostly of collagen fibers, that is resilient and elastic, known as elastins.
Four skin types are currently recognized: normal, dry, oily and mixed. These categorizations are based on different factors, such as pores sizes, genetics, hormones, sebum production, exposure to external factors, medications and stress.
1 – Normal skin basically means that it is a well balanced in all aspects: protection, temperature regulation, sensations, water balance, synthesis of vitamins, hormones and nutrient absorption.
The control of the sebum volume produced is essential to understand how the skin works. Sebum is a natural oil produced constantly by the sebaceous glands that take it to the surface of the skin. Its function is to lubricate and protect.
The sebaceous glands can be and be normal, hyperactive and produce excess sebum or hypoactive and produce little sebum. The largest pores are associated with more active sebaceous glands and the smaller ones with less active glands.
We always find the question ‘genetics vs care’. The balance of healthy and beautiful skin is a subjective factor, because it can change due to internal and external factors. An example is that with age normal skin tends to dry out.
Normal skin would be ideal, with a lot of elasticity, softness, poor sensitivity, small pores, with a good texture and uniform appearance. Achieving a balance between sebum and moisture, neither too fat nor too dry, that is, normal.
2 – Oily skin is more shiny, with enlarged pores, blackheads and prone to acne. This skin type is more likely to develop seborrhea. These signals are given by too active sebaceous glands that produce an excess of sebum, which clogs the pores, increasing the proliferation of bacteria and causing skin imperfections.
The cause oil excess can be related to the increase of hormonal levels, such as at puberty, as well as during some parts of the menstrual cycle of women, pregnancy and menopause, as the sebaceous glands become more active during these times . Also stress, certain medications such as steroids and makeup that clog pores.
3- Mixed skin is usually the most common, it is a combination of two skin types, dry and oily. Sebum-producing glands are more concentrated in the central part of the face, forehead, nose and chin, so the pores in these areas look larger. The cheeks and skin around the eyes are usually drier than the rest of the face, due to lipid deficiency in this area.
The oil gets trapped in the pores in the central part, mixed with dead skin cells and other debris, causing a plug. In contact with the air it causes a black dot and, when it is closed, forms a white dot.
4 – Dry skin is a skin type that produces less sebum, has a rough texture, small pores, and is prone to irritation, redness and itching.
As we age, skin tends to become drier and more fragile, because the production of natural skin oil inevitably decreases. Also, women have much more predisposition to dry skin than men.
Dry skin is an uncomfortable condition that occurs for a variety of reasons. It is possible to have naturally dry skin, but external factors are often the key in this condition. Extreme weather (too hot or too cold) removes moisture from the skin leaving it drier and cracked. Very astringent soaps and detergents, over washing and very hot water deteriorate the skin’s lipid barrier, the shield that protects against external factors and retains moisture.