What skin type do I have? Discover how to know your skin type with our skin types guide

19th February 2024 | Author: Jenny Tai

Not sure which skin type you have? We explain the differences and show you how to know your skin type with our skin types guide

It doesn’t matter if you spend £7 or £70 on skincare, if you’re not buying the correct products for your skin type then you’ll likely not be getting the full benefit. Knowing which of the skin types category you fall into, though, is a very different matter.

If your skin is to the extreme in terms of dryness, or oiliness, then it’s an easy-ish task. But if you have a mixture of dry patches, redness, and oily zones then things can get a little tricky.

In this guide, we help you discover how to know your skin type, give you a simple skin type test you can do at home, and recommend products designed to suit all skin types, and (hopefully) budgets.

Skin types

Your skin type is largely determined by your genetics. If your parents suffered from breakouts as teenagers, chances are you will as well. If they struggle with dry skin in the winter, you will too. The best place to start is by asking them, if possible, what their skin types are.

This obviously isn’t a foolproof method, but it may help narrow things down.

In simple terms, there are six common skin types and three major skin types. Click on each one to jump to the relevant section below:

These are the main skin types you’ll see written on the side of skincare bottles, serums, and even makeup. As you can read in our What’s really in your foundation? guide, if you have oily or dry skin, it’s better to look for certain ingredients that will work best with both the primer you use and your skin type.

Some skincare will cover a number of these types – so they might be labelled as dry/normal, or oily/combination. Sensitive skincare is typically fragrance-free, or at least free of harsh chemicals so if it doesn’t expressly say it’s for sensitive skin, these are things to look out for.

What skin type do I have? The skin type test

Basic skin types chart line vector illustration.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Now you know the different skin types, how well do you think you know your skin type? It can be slightly daunting when faced with a number of skincare products and not knowing what to buy that will meet your exact needs.

How to know your skin type

There is a simple method that can be done at home. All you need is a gentle face cleanser and 30 minutes of your time. Below is the step-by-step guide on how to know your skin type.

  1. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and pat dry
  2. Don’t use toner, serum, moisturiser, or SPF
  3. Wait 30 minutes

After the 30 minutes are up, check for the following:

  • Is your skin feeling tight and flaky all over? Then you have dry skin
  • Is your skin looking red, tight, itchy, or is stinging? You have sensitive skin
  • Has your skin remained how it was before you cleansed, without any noticeable changes? You have normal skin
  • Is your skin shiny on your T-zone (your forehead, nose and chin) but do your cheeks feel tight or feel comfortable? You have combination skin
  • Is all of your skin looking shiny and feeling greasy? You have oily skin 

Many of us can suffer from sensitive skin from time to time if we have disturbed our natural skin barrier through exposure to the sun, chemical exfoliants, pollution, and so on.

Combination skin is often mistaken for oily skin, due to the presence of oily and shine in T-zone but it can be important you don’t buy products for oily skin if you have combination skin. This is because oily skin products are designed to dry out your skin and remove excess sebum.

If you have combination skin, your cheeks will be normal (or dry) which means that drying them out further could leave them red, irritated, flaky or itchy.

Always look out for any skin changes, it could mean you need to give your skin the extra TLC it needs. This is particularly key as the seasons change, for example.

What skin type do I have? The skin type quiz

Alternatively, you can take the skin type quiz put together by The Body Shop.

It starts off by asking you about your skincare routine, how sensitive it is to the sun, and what skincare products you use.

In then finds out a bit more about whether you suffer from spots, if you ever suffer from redness, the size of your pores, and how shiny your skin is before revealing your skin type.

Skincare for different skin types

We regularly test skincare for a range of different skin types and needs and have included many more in our Best Buy guides.

Below we’ve broken each skin type down and given you options for the best cleanser, best toner, serum, and best moisturiser for each one. Scroll down to your particular skin type to see our recommendations.

Dry Skin

The golden rule for any cleanser is that it shouldn’t leave your skin feeling dry. This is regardless of what skin type you have because even if you’re skin is oily, using a harsh cleanser that dries and tightens can actually make things worse. It’s better to treat oily skin more effectively with serums and moisturisers.

With dry skin the best type of cleansers are:

  • Milk cleansers: These won’t irritate dry skin and won’t leave your skin feeling greasy, just soft.
  • Oil cleansers: Great for removing makeup. Many oil-based cleansers turn a little milky when you add water to it. Due to the fact oil and water don’t mix, removing all traces of oily cleansers can be tricky so we recommend using a reusable face cloth with warm (not hot) water. The face cloth will remove the cleanser, and with it any dirt and makeup. You can then go back and rinse the cloth, and repeat.

♥︎ CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

£7.10 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

This Hydrating Cleanser from CeraVe is very gentle for dry skin. It refreshes dry skin while gently removing dirt and grime along with traces of makeup.

It’s a non-foaming gel and has a milk-like texture when wet, which won’t leave your skin feeling dry or tight.

This is largely because it contains hyaluronic acid which helps replenish hydration levels.

Just massage into wet skin and rinse with warm water. Pat dry.

If you’re interested in learning more about this cleanser, and the wider CeraVe range, head on over to our best CeraVe products guide. 

FURTHER READING: How to make cheap homemade cleanser with everyday items

Buy now from Lookfantastic

♥︎ The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter

£11 | Buy one from The Body Shop

We love this buttery cleanser because it’s both rich and incredibly soothing.

It’s gentle enough to be suitable for all skin types but is particularly great for dry skin when you don’t want to pull the skin and irate it.

This butter melts into the skin to dissolve makeup.

To use, rub a small amount of the balm in your hands so that it melts to an oily consistency.

Apply this to dry skin and work around the face. Then, either rinse with warm water or use a wet face cloth and wipe off the cleanser.

FURTHER READING: Best cleansing balm: From Elemis to The Body Shop

Buy now from Lookfantastic

♥︎ The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

£5.90 | Buy now from Boots

Maintaining high levels of hydration is key for dry skin.

The Ordinary has created an amazing serum that is oil-free yet still delivers long-lasting hydration to the skin thanks to the inclusion of 2% hyaluronic acid.

With the help of Vitamin B5, this serum also helps moisture retention and leaves the skin look plump and smooth. All for a little over a fiver!

If you’re not familiar with The Ordinary, it’s a super affordable brand that punches well about its weight in terms of ingredients and results.

We’ve put together a guide on how to choose the best The Ordinary products for different skin concerns, from redness to enlarged pores, acne, and more. You can read that guide here.

FURTHER READING: What is hyaluronic acid and what does it do to your skin? 

Buy now

♥︎ CeraVe Moisturising Cream

£6.75 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

A great hydrating moisturiser that doesn’t cost the Earth is a sweet find. But that’s exactly what we’ve found with this CeraVe Moisturising Cream.

If your skin feels uncomfortable, CeraVe Moisturising Cream is a rich and nurturing cream that gives dry skin a much-needed boost.

It has a non-greasy feel which is rare for a moisturiser that’s as thick as this.

What else is rare is getting such a nourishing cream for under a tenner. It’s also great for soothing eczema.

What’s more, this cream is a great alternative for Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Rescue cream and costs a whole lot less.

FURTHER READING: How to layer your skincare: Knowing the best skincare order will help make the most of your products

Buy now from Lookfantastic

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin can be reactive so keeping the skin calm and less irritated is key. Milk cleansers will do wonders for you, or a very gentle face wash will do just as good a job.

Avoid fragrances or any harsh chemicals. Also, be careful about introducing any new product to your regime – try using it once a week before upping the frequency so you can make sure it doesn’t cause you any problems.

♥︎ Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser

£27.20 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

This soothing cleanser has a gel/cream consistency.

It cleanses and calms skin instantly and also helps alleviate redness. This is a good cleanser for people with rosacea, in particular.

It contains ingredients like cucumber and lavender, which both provide a cooling and calming effect.

It also helps balance pH to maintain the skin’s protective barrier – the most important thing about keeping sensitive skin safe from the elements.

FURTHER READING: How to clean beauty blenders

Buy now from Lookfantastic

♥︎ Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

£6.26 | Buy now from Superdrug

Cetaphil is renowned for producing mild, non-irritating products and this cleanser is no exception.

We love it because it leaves skin feeling soft and smooth.

It removes dirt and makeup easily but it doesn’t strip your skin because it’s soap-free and fragrance-free, which is great for sensitive skin.

This cleanser doesn’t block pores and it matches the pH value of the skin which is great for daily use.

FURTHER READING: Clean beauty: What are clean beauty products and how can I shop more consciously?

Buy now from Lookfantastic

♥︎ La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluid

£13.85 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

We love how this fluid doesn’t irritate sensitive skin.

It is specially formulated for reactive skin prone to dryness, tightness, redness, itchiness, or burning.

It helps instantly soothe and relieve your skin and it’s clinically proven to make skin less sensitive day after day.

FURTHER READING: Best toner: Discover which toner best suits your skin type and budget

Buy now from Lookfantastic

Normal skin

If you have a normal skin type, not much will irritate your skin and you don’t need specific ingredients to tackle specific woes. However, it’s always good to keep your skin hydrated and cared for and avoid messing with the perfect balance through the use of extreme chemicals.

♥︎ Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

£11.50 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Fresh is all about mixing good skin ingredients and centuries-old cultural beauty rituals.

Its Soy Face Cleanser is packed with healthy proteins to help maintain overall healthy skin.

This is a great daily cleanser that removes dirt and makeup from your complexion.

FURTHER READING: Skin food: The best foods for clear, healthy skin – and why they work

Buy now from Cult Beauty

♥︎ Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

£52 | Buy now from Feelunique

Normal skin types don’t escape the ticking of time and you’ll still want to maintain the firmness of your skin, as well as get a natural glow.

Serums are an important part of your skincare routine because they penetrate the lower layers to provide that extra little boost you may need.

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate contains 12.5% Vitamin C along with hyaluronic acid to keep the skin radiant while reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

We’re such fans of this concentrate that it features in our list of best Vitamin C serums.

FURTHER READING: Vitamin C: What does Vitamin C do and which is the best Vitamin C serum for skin?

Buy now from Feelunique

♥︎ Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

£26 | Buy now from Feelunique

Even with normal skin types, keeping your skin hydrated and protected is important.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream is a fast-absorbing moisturiser that replenishes throughout the day by absorbing moisture from the air.

This may sound like science-fiction but we can’t fault how well this moisturiser works, creating soft but never greasy or oily skin.

FURTHER READING: The science of moisturiser: Which ingredients actually work and which are marketing BS?

Buy now from Feelunique

Combination skin

Combination skin is one of the most common, but it’s also one of the most tricky to tackle because you’re looking for a product that’s capable of tackling two different skin types in one. It’s so tricky that some skincare experts don’t actually believe combination skin exists.

“Your ‘skin type’ is determined by your genetics – your skin will either under or overproduce oil, which means your skin type will be either dry or oily – nothing in between. A ‘combination’ skin type doesn’t exist,” said Katherine Daniels co-founder and skincare expert, Kirsti Shuba said.

“If you experience signs of ‘combination’ skin – an oily t-zone, ‘shine’ developing throughout the day, congestion and/or open pores, this is most likely down to dehydration, a skin condition, which varies depending on your lifestyle, environment, and climate.”

Dehydrated skin tends to overproduce oil to compensate for the lack of moisture, which is why you might experience oily skin in certain areas, Shuba continued. You may also have open pores and experience congestion on your chin, jawline, and cheeks, caused by dehydrated cells that don’t contain enough fluid to efficiently flush out toxins.

“If this sounds familiar step away from harsh, oil stripping products, which can damage your natural skin barrier allowing the healthy oils and moisture escape, exacerbating the issue. Instead, implement a simple cleansing and hydrating skincare regime to restore moisture levels, protect the skin’s barrier, and improve overall skin function for a hydrated, healthy, clear, glowing complexion.”

♥︎ Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

£15 | Buy now from Glossier

Glossier can be a little pricey but we love the fact that this cleanser is a multitasking, 2-in-1 product.

You can use it on dry skin to remove makeup or use it with water to give the skin a refreshing feel.

The texture is a creamy gel and it’s great for combination skin types.

It won’t leave the skin irritated or feeling tight, while also tackling areas of oiliness. We love how gentle this is because it has the same gentle cleansing agent found in contact lens solution.

This also means it’s safe for effectively removing mascara and other eye makeup.

FURTHER READING: Glossier UK: The best Glossier products from across its makeup and skincare range

Buy now from Glossier

♥︎ Q+A Peppermint Daily Cleanser

£7.50 | Buy now from Feelunique

Q and A Peppermint cleanserQ+A

This refreshing daily peppermint cleanser is a gentle cleanser that won’t upset the natural oil balance of your skin.

The peppermint oil has antibacterial properties which are great at fighting acne and blemishes from oily skin.

It also contains coco-sulfate which won’t cause dryness and irritation. The coconut oil leaves the skin feeling soft and clean.

FURTHER READING: Spotlight on…Q+A Skin’s affordable, natural and highly effective skincare bundles

Buy now from Feelunique

♥︎ The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

£5 | Buy now from Beauty Bay

A fantastic serum that seems even more impressive because of its low price tag, The Ordinary’s Niacinamide serum helps combat blemishes, congestions, and sebum overproduction.

This is a light serum that helps reduce breakouts as well as the appearance of existing blemishes.

Pores remain clear and decongested and it also calms the skin. Perfect for tackling various skincare woes caused by combination skin.

Niacinamide also boosts the skin’s immunity and improves moisture retention by strengthening the natural barrier, while Zinc supports skin structure by healing damaged skin and encourages the production of collagen and elastin.

So it’s a great anti-ageing product as well. For a fiver!

FURTHER READING: The best The Ordinary products for all your skincare concerns – from large pores to redness, wrinkles and acne

Buy now from Beauty Bay

♥︎ The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

£4.90 | Buy now from Boots

This moisturiser from The Ordinary is packed full of skin-protecting skincare ingredients.

It’s oil-free, which is great for both combination and oily skin types.

The ingredients are packed with amino acids, fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid, many of which are actually found naturally in our own skin.

We love this formula because it’s non-greasy and keeps skin hydrated without looking shiny.

FURTHER READING: Spotlight on…The OrdinaryBest moisturiser for combination skin UK

Buy now from Lookfantastic

Oily skin

Oily skin can cause a whole host of knock-on effects including blemishes, acne, and enlarged pores. Not to mention it can cause makeup to slide off the skin.

Tackling the overproduction of sebum without stripping the skin of other essential oils can be difficult so you need to look for products without harsh chemicals. Foaming products are a good place to start because they’re light enough to not cause clogged pores.

♥︎ La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel

£9.35 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

This is one of our absolute faves here at mamabella and it’s ideal for oily/combination skin types.

Oily skin at times can be sensitive and the best thing about this cleanser is that La Roche-Posay tests all its skincare products on sensitive skin types.

This gentle cleanser helps eliminate impurities and excess sebum and leaves the skin feeling clean and fresh.

This gel cleanser works into a lather it only takes a small amount of gel to work up that lovely foam.

FURTHER READING: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Cleanser review: Simply the best cleanser we’ve ever used

Buy now from Lookfantastic

♥︎ Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance

£23 | Buy now from Glossier

This wonderful gel-cream moisturiser is a cult favourite.

It helps control shine and refines the look of pores and because it’s a lightweight product, it balances oil without drying skin out.

It doesn’t leave skin looking flat, which a lot of mattifying creams can do.

Elsewhere, it contains niacinamide to help improve the look of pores, and balance uneven skin tone.

FURTHER READING: Best foundation for oily skin, acne, spots and blemishes

Buy now from Lookfantastic

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