Few people have naturally perfect skin. With some knowledge, experience, good diet, and exercise, it is possible to greatly improve the appearance of the skin. The condition of the skin changes from day to day and season to season. Hormonal fluctuations, stress, pregnancy, medication, travel, and seasonal changes are only a few of the factors that can cause skin to act up. If you learn to recognize the various skin conditions, you will be able to choose the right cleansing options and moisturizers.

How the Skin Works

The skin is composed of three layers: a deep layer called the hypodermis, a middle layer called the dermis, and a surface layer called the epidermis. The epidermis gives immediate, visual clues to the condition and health of the skin, while the dermis determines how the skin responds and changes with age. The hypodermis, the deepest layer, contains a layer of fat, blood vessels, and nerves. Skin’s middle layer, the dermis, is composed mostly of collagen and elastin, which are proteins that give skin structure, strength, and flexibility. As we age, collagen and elastin production diminishes. The results show up on the face as a loss of firmness, rougher texture, more obvious wrinkles, and sagging. Hair follicles, nerves, blood vessels, and sebaceous glands are also part of the dermis. Sebaceous glands produce sebum. This oily substance moves through the hair shaft to the top layer of the skin, where it covers the epidermis and provides a protective barrier against moisture loss. Too much sebum results in oily skin. The outermost layer of skin, the epidermis, is several layers deep. Basal cells are created in the lowest layer and then migrate through a hardened layer to the stratum corneum, from which they fall off the body. The skin continually sloughs off the dead cells and grows new living cells. It takes about a month for alive basal cell to move to the top layer of the epidermis. As the cell moves toward the surface of the skin, it loses moisture and oxygen content. On the surface of the epidermis is a layer of oil transported from the dermis by the hair follicles that forms a natural barrier, helping the skin to retain water. Harsh and scented cleansing products, exposure to chemical and biological pollution in the environment, and poor diet can remove this protective oil-based layer from the skin. This layer can be replenished with moisturizer. Moisturizers work in several ways. First, they fill in the spaces between the relatively dry, or cornified, cells of the epidermis, making the skin feel and appear smoother. They also create a barrier on the skin, helping the skin retain water. The oil content in moisturizers works with the protective lipid coating of the skin to partially protect the skin from the air. Care must be taken in the selection and use of moisturizing products, as they make a huge difference in how the skin works. Hydration is the key to smooth, even skin, and moisturization is the external way to achieve it.

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The following descriptions will help you recognize skin conditions and make decisions about skincare products.



Comfortable-feeling Smooth, even texture with small pores Cheeks are the driest area, but not excessively so May experience some shine and larger pores on the forehead, nose, or chin Water and oil content in this skin is balanced


Normal skin needs routine cleansing with a foaming cleanser, exfoliation twice a week, moisturization with lightweight lotions, and the use of a sunscreen to keep it healthy. A diet rich in vitamins A, C, and E helps keep skin smooth and soft. Sufficient fluid intake is important to maintain hydration and rid the body of toxins.

Dry/Extra Dry

Analysis Feels tight after washing May look dry or flaky Feels rough and uneven; dehydrated May be sensitive Pores are small—almost invisible Shows fine lines faster than other skin types


Dry skin requires special care. A lifestyle that includes a healthy diet with foods high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables, and at least eight glasses of water a day keeps this skin type hydrated. Caffeine and alcohol cause dehydration, so limit intake to two cups or glasses a day. Using richer cleansers, limiting sun exposure, and using a good moisturizer can protect your skin’s natural oils. Layering different textures of moisturizer can do wonders to hydrate the skin. Begin with lightweight face oil, and then layer a richer cream over that. Night creams with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) help remove the dry, dead skin while moisturizing the new. Air-conditioning and heating create dry environments. Correct this in your home by using humidifiers.

Self-Test: Skin Analysis

Look at your own clean, unmoisturized skin in the mirror. Is the overall texture flaky (dry), shiny (oily), or smooth (normal)?

How does your skin feel after you wash it with your current cleansing regimen? Tightness through the forehead is an indication of dry skin. How does your skin normally look by midday? Is there oil breakthrough or dryness even though you have moisturized? What lifestyle factors are influencing your skin’s current condition: stress? hormonal fluctuations? sun exposure? diet? Does your skin have noticeable sun damage? How are you protecting yourself against the sun? An accurate skin analysis will help you determine the most effective cleansing, hydration, and makeup products for your skin type and condition. However, when problem skin shows no improvement or worsens, see a dermatologist.

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Oily Skin

Analysis Oily skin is shiny, especially through the T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin); it is a condition caused by overactive sebaceous, or oil-producing, glands. May have large, visible pores Frequent breakouts Few signs of aging, such as fine lines


Management of oily skin and the prevention of breakouts requires a healthy diet and a regular skincare routine. Cleanse the face at least twice a day to prevent dirt accumulation and to keep pores open. Use an alcohol-free astringent to remove excess oil. Use oil-free moisturizers to keep the skin from overdrying.

Combination Skin :

Analysis Oily through the T-zone Dry cheeks or spot dehydration Larger pores on the forehead, nose, and chin Care Care for this skin type requires regular cleansing, toning, and moisturizing of the oily areas and the use of a milder cleanser and denser moisturizer for the dry areas. Moisturizing products containing AHA will benefit this skin type.

Sensitive Skin

Analysis Can range from dry to oily Easily irritated by cosmetics, moisturizers, and cleansers Sensitive and prone to redness Itchy or blotchy Care Sensitive skin requires mild, nonperfumed cleansing products. Use an alcohol-free toner formulated for sensitive skin. Also, use cleansers and moisturizers specifically formulated for this type of skin.

Misleading Skin Conditions

Don’t be fooled. The skin’s condition can be quickly impacted by changes in environment, health, diet, and even current product choices for cleansing, toning, moisturizing, or makeup. There are many skin conditions that can hide your actual skin type. Redness, dryness, or flaking can be caused by a medical condition or medication. Skincare products can be overused, causing oily skin to become dry or flaky. Dry skin that is overmoisturized can appear greasy. Redness and irritation can be caused by low-grade allergies to cleansing, moisturizing, or makeup products, necessitating a change to gentler products.



The purpose of cleansing is to remove bacteria, makeup, and the dirt, sweat, and oil that build up on the skin each day. At least once a day, the skin needs to be cleaned with a formula that does not strip the skin of all its natural oils.

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Makeup Remover Options


remove eye makeup quickly and easily without harsh tugging or wiping. Look for oil-free, water-based formulas gentle enough for all skin types.


quickly and gently remove long-wearing and waterproof makeup. Look for products safe for contact lens wearers. These can generally be used for removal of lipstick and mascara or eyeliners.


also work. See below. Cleanser Options Familiarity with these options will allow you to make the right choice based on your skin condition and type. Look for ingredients like wheat germ oil, which cleans without stripping, and glycerin, which attracts moisture to the skin’s surface.


will deeply clean the skin and leave it feeling thoroughly cleansed and refreshed. Look for glycerin or cold cream soaps formulated specifically for the face. Glycerin creates a moisture cushion on the skin and a soft feel. Soap is best for oily skin types. Do not use body or bath soap, especially antibacterial soap. It will strip the skin and leave it feeling tight and dry.


typically foam or lather during use. These cleansers are formulated to dissolve oil buildup and fight blemish-causing bacteria without stripping the skin. They are best for oily or combination skin types that are prone to breakouts.


are lightweight, water-based formulas that clean without leaving residue. These products contain oils and emollients along with cleansing ingredients and are recommended for normal to dry skin types.


work best on the driest of skins.


condition and moisturize the skin while cleansing. They leave a moisturizing cushion on the skin and are suitable for all skin types except oily.


sometimes contain alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic or salicylic acid, and can be used several times a week to encourage cell turnover and dead skin removal. These products are gentle enough for all skin types. Some exfoliating cleansers contain beads or grains that loosen dead surface skin cells. These manual exfoliants should be used twice a week in place of the daily cleanser.

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