How to Determine Your Skin Type - Dr. Nikoleta

How to Determine Your Skin Type

Have you ever wondered what your skin type is or what skincare routine you should be following? These are essential questions to ask and have answers for because, in order to achieve glowing, healthy skin, you must do two things. Number one, you need to understand and recognize your specific skin type. And secondly, you need to individualize your skincare routine to match your specific skin type perfectly!

Tribe, if finding the answers to those questions feels overwhelming, you’re in the right place. Today, I’m going to teach you what you need to know so that you can find answers without drowning in information you’re not sure you can trust. 

For starters, these questions aren’t as complicated as they may feel. There are actually only five different skin types. Better yet, there are two simple processes you can do at home to figure out which skin type you have! I’m going to share those processes with you today and break down the best skincare routines for each skin type. 

I’m really excited for you to have all this information so that you can start working toward healthy glowing skin. Let’s get into it!

What are the Five Different Skin Types?

There are four things involved in every skincare routine: sunscreen (protection from harmful UV rays), daily cleansing, daily moisturizing, and seeing a dermatologist. However, some skin types require more specific cleansers and moisturizers. That’s why you need to know your skin type. Here are the five different skin types:

  • Skin Type #1: Normal. Normal skin is typically clear without much oil and is not very sensitive. 
  • Skin Type #2: Sensitive. Sensitive skin may sting or burn when you use certain products.
  • Skin Type #3: Oily. Oily skin is very shiny and greasy. Sometimes I’ll refer to oil or oily residue as sebum. This is just a medical term for oil excreted by the skin. 
  • Skin Type #4: Dry. Dry skin is flaky and can feel itchy or rough in texture. 
  • Skin Type #5: Combination. Combination skin is dry in some areas and oily in other areas. 

Now, on to identifying which skin type you have! My two favorite methods are the Blotting Paper Method and the Face Wash Method.

  • Blotting Paper Method

Take a piece of blotting paper and gently press it on to your forehead, nose, and cheeks. Then hold it up to the light. Normal skin will have a line of oil from the forehead or nose. Everyone has oil on their nose and the forehead because we have a lot of sebaceous glands there that produce oil. Now, if the blotting paper is completely saturated with oil, you have oily skin. If there’s little to no oil at all, you have dry skin. And, lastly, combination skin will show oil mainly from the forehead as well as from the nose and chin. Every other area will be dry. 

Personally, I think the blotting paper method is somewhat tricky to assess. It’s just a bit more subjective, in my opinion. So, I prefer the “Face Wash Method.”

  • Face Wash Method

The first step for the Face Wash Method is to wash your face with a very gentle cleanser. Next, take a towel and lightly pat your skin dry. Be careful not to scrub or rub with a towel. Just pat it dry, then wait about 30 to 60 minutes. While you wait, don’t apply anything else to the skin. Leave it as it is. 

After you’ve waited for 30 to 60 minutes, look at your skin in the mirror. If you don’t see much oil or flakes, then you have normal skin. Oily skin will have a noticeable shine all over your forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks. If your skin feels tight and you can see a flaking presence, that’s a dry skin type. Finally, with the face wash method, you’ll know you have combination skin if, after waiting, you see the T-zone, which is the forehead and the nose area, being shiny and oily while everywhere else is dry or normal. 

The Best Skin Care Routine for Each Skin Type

I’m a firm believer in simplifying your skincare routine for the best results! Most people have too many products, and half-empty bottles stashed in their bathroom cabinet. Not only do too many products take up a lot of space, but they drain your mental energy every time you have to choose which one to use. 

Even if you have dry or oily skin — skin that takes a few more steps to care for — you really don’t need that many products. You just need the right products. So, now that you know how to identify which skin type you have, I want to walk you through skincare routines for each kind of skin. Be sure to pay attention to the oily and dry skin sections. They have a few more details, but I think you’ll get a lot of value out of them!

Normal Skin Care Routine

The key to a normal skincare routine is using a mild cleanser one or two times a day. It’s also a good idea to use a moisturizer that is either cream-based or gel-based. Either one would be fine! Normal skin types can usually tolerate retinol or retinoids. However, just like any retinol, you want to start slow. When I say slow, I mean use the retinol every other night for the first two weeks and then gradually increase to every night before bed.

Don’t be afraid to change up your skincare products continuously. Typically, the normal skin type can tolerate different products, so, if you like adventure and variety, try a new product every time you use up your previous one. Lastly, prioritize your sunscreen and antioxidants. They are so, so important!

Sensitive Skin Care Routine

The most important thing you need to know about sensitive skin is to avoid gel-based moisturizers. Gel-based moisturizer usually has an alcohol base. People with sensitive skin typically won’t handle the alcohol ingredient well. This is why sensitive skin should be hydrated with a cream-based moisturizer that includes calming ingredients. 

In addition, sensitive skin types may not be able to tolerate high strength retinoids. You may be able to handle a super low-strength or over-the-counter retinol, but you shouldn’t try the high strength ones. You should also avoid products with fragrances and essential oils. Those can be very damaging, frustrating, and irritating to your skin. Finally, look for products with niacinamide, which is a special active ingredient that your skin responds well to.

Oily Skin Care Routine

Oily skin tends to be acne-prone and produce more sebum than other skin types. Basically, you have an overproduction of oil that leads to clogged pores. So, you always want to look for products that don’t clog pores but, at the same time, contain ingredients for treating acne. 

The type of cleanser that will benefit you the most is a foaming cleanser. My favorite is La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser. Once you have your cleanser, commit to washing your face two times a day. In this case of oily skin, I wouldn’t recommend washing it once a day, especially if you’re regularly exercising and sweating. Other face washes that I recommend for oily skin are the following: 

This next tip is a biggie because many people do this part wrong. So, pay attention here: Do not eliminate moisturizers. When you have very oily skin, you may think, “Oh, because it’s oily, I don’t need to be moisturizing.” But having oily skin does not mean your skin is moisturized and hydrated. I recommend using a light, gel-based moisturizer. Using a gel-based moisturizer with humectants ingredients on oily skin actually prevents increased sebum production. My favorite moisturizer for oily skin is the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Go out of your way to avoid products that have occlusive ingredients such as petroleum, dimethicone, or oils. You only want non-comedogenic, oil-free products. For example, if you’re looking for sunscreen, you want to choose an oil-free, non-comedogenic sunscreen. Two sunscreens that are great for oily skin are La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60 and Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

Lastly, oily skin can tolerate specific active ingredients like retinoids and retinols. These help control oil production by improving your cell turnover and decreasing pore size. You can also try other active ingredients, such as niacinamide, which absorbs sebum, and salicylic acid, which removes excess sebum from pores. These are general suggestions, so be sure to work with your dermatologist to find the best solution for your skin.

Dry Skin Care Routine

When it comes to a dry skincare regimen, start by picking one time per day to cleanse your face. I recommend using a non-foaming, hydrating cleanser if you have dry skin type. Be careful to avoid active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These increase dryness. Instead, look for hydrating ingredients, such as ceramides or hyaluronic acid. When cleansing dry skin, skip the rough physical exfoliators like beads, salts, and sugar scrubs. 

Next, you want to choose your moisturizer. For dry skin, I recommend using a thicker cream-based moisturizer at least twice a day. You want to opt for more of a cream or ointment over gels or lotions for two reasons: First of all, gels tend to have an alcohol base that will dry your face out even more. Secondly, lotions have about 9x more water content than creams. Since there is more water in lotions, it also evaporates off your skin fast, so you have to reapply a lotion more often than if you use a cream or an ointment. 

On to active ingredients — retinals as well as beta and alpha hydroxy acids, which you find in different peels, can all increase dryness. So, proceed with caution when using them. Consider only using a retinoid in the summertime. Typically you have more oil production in the summer because you’re sweating more than in the winter. You could also consider using very, very low-strength retinol. 

In your moisturizers, look for active ingredients like dimethicone, ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and fatty acids. Finally, when choosing a sunscreen, opt for a cream-based sunscreen over lotion, spray, or gels. Got it? 

Combination Skin Care Routine

For a combination skincare routine, you’re going to look for very similar cleanser and moisturizing products as someone with a normal skin type. Combination skin types can also usually tolerate retinols, but again, start slow and increase gradually. The most significant difference between combination skin and normal skin is that with combination skin, you can try to use chemical exfoliators one to two times per week. The chemical exfoliators will help remove excess sebum from your t-zone.

What Skin Routine Is Best for You? 

There, you have it! We made it through all five skin types and the best skincare routines for each! Tribe, I’m so excited for you guys to start using the best products for your skin type and experience naturally gorgeous skin. It’s so worth it! 

As you set out to improve your skincare routine, keep these four things in mind: Prioritize wearing sunscreen and protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Simplify your skincare regimen. Wash and moisturize your face daily. And don’t forget to see your dermatologist. 

If you loved this episode, I’d love to hear from you! Share this link with a friend or take a screenshot of this and post it on Instagram. Make sure you tag me, @drnikoleta, and share what your biggest takeaway was!

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One last thing, if you have a few minutes, it would mean the world to me for you to subscribe to the Millennial Doc podcast and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Ratings and reviews help more people find this podcast, and I can schedule more epic guests to share their wisdom with us! 

Thank you for sharing your time with me today. Now, go Step Out with Confidence® and get that glowing skin you deserve! 


I am a board-certified dermatologist, CEO and Founder of Healthy Skin Blueprint, an acclaimed podcast host, best-selling author, and nationally recognized skin, hair, and nails expert. Welcome to the Skin Talk with Dr. Nikoleta blog.


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