Here's a really handy guide on how to identify your skin type and understand your skin's needs

two models looking off to the left - how to identify your skin type

Knowing your skin type is integral to nailing your skincare routine and getting closer to happy, glowy skin. If you have dry skin, you probably shouldn't use products aimed at tackling acne-prone skin. But how can you identify your skin type?

We spoke with skincare expert, Fiona Brackenbury who gave us a few tips and tricks to help you determine which skin type you have.

How do you find out what skin type you are?

'The easiest way to know your skin type is to cleanse your skin and leave for 30 minutes without applying any skincare. No toners, essences, serums or moisturiser. After half an hour you will be able to observe the level of oil the skin has produced.'

Brackenbury says that if you're greasy all over then it's a sign that you are oily-skinned. Shiny patches only in certain places indicate a combination skin type. Dry or rough to the touch means dry skin, and comfortable and well balanced is what she would call 'normal skin'.

Can you be more than one skin type?

'Yes combination skin can have two skin types, an oily t-zone and normal to dry cheeks.'

How many skin types are there?

'Contrary to popular belief there are only four skin types – normal, dry, oily and combination. Often sensitive skin is thrown into the mix. However, it's important to remember that any skin type can become sensitive.'

Things like lifestyle choices and skincare routines can cause skin to experience sensitivity at any point.

Can you change skin type?

'Your skin type is controlled by your genes. Ultimately, it’s the skin you are born with. Where the confusion comes from is when we add skin conditions into the mix, these are conditions that come and go and hopefully don’t stay too long when you use the right skincare.'

Skin conditions refer to things like eczema, acne, dermatitis and rosacea.

What's the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?

'Dry skin is a skin type. It’s where the skin naturally produces fewer lipids (oils). The skin can often feel tight, gasping for moisture and leaves skin with an uncomfortable sensation when no skincare is applied.

'Dehydration is a skin condition and it’s when the skin is lacking in water, typically the skin barrier is allowing water to evaporate. The skin can look dull, tired and when you lift the cheek gently upwards with your finger, you can see fine horizontal lines.'

What's the difference between oil-skin type and acne-prone skin?

Once again oily skin is a skin type, whereas acne is a skin condition.

'You can go through the majority of your life and never get a breakout and then suddenly hit mid-thirties and you experience adult acne. Acne is a skin condition and isn’t linked to an oily skin type. You can have a normal skin type and develop acne in your 20s.

'The two biggest offenders are bacteria and inflammation, stress can also increase cortisol levels. This causes the oil levels to surge which will then add more complexity and makes a lovely environment for the bacteria to create a spot.'

Key ingredients and products for each skin type

Brackenbury takes us through ingredients, products and certain steps in a routine to suit each skin type.

Dry skin:

'Cleanse with cleansing oils and balms. These will bring instant comfort and nourishment to your skin. People with dry skin will often find that they are dehydrated too, so look to include hyaluronic acids, serums and facial oils at night into your routine. It will be a dry skin BFF.'

£15 | Beauty Bay

Revolution Skincare x Sali Hughes Butterclean Makeup Meltdown Cleansing Balm, £15 | Beauty Bay
'This balm is full of skin-loving oils, combining hyaluronic acid for hydration and safflower for moisture. It’s rich in omegas and delivers a powerful cascade of moisture and soothes the skin.'


Angela Langford Bloom & Glow Radiance Restoring Face Oil, £20.50
'This is packed with plant oils to nourish and replenish dry skin which can become sensitive if the skin becomes starved of moisture.'

Normal skin:

'Don’t take your normal skin for granted, it’s easy to neglect it when it's so well behaved. A good skincare routine, cleansing, moisturising and sunscreen are key. For normal skin investing in a good moisturiser is key. For simple routines, combine your moisturiser with your sunscreen with one of the best SPF moisturisers.'

£28.50 | Lookfantastic

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream, £28.50 | Lookfantastic
'Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream is the perfect moisturiser to keep the skin in tiptop condition, containing three moisture heroes, hydration magnet glycerine, skin-identical oils to keep the skin moisturised and ceramide-like ingredients to keep the all-important skin barrier strong.'

£59 | Medik8

Medik8 Advanced Day Ultimate Protect™ Age-Defying Moisturiser with Photolyase SPF50+ PA++++, £59 | Medik8
'Everything's packed in here, including blue light protection, broad-spectrum, pollution protection and ensuring there is enough hydration for it to be your daily moisturiser too.'

Combination skin:

'This is the trickiest skin type to manage, as technically you have two skin types. Depending on the level of oiliness on the t-zone, an exfoliating facial wash will prevent the t-zone from breaking out and keep the normal/dry skin on the cheeks smooth.'

£36 | Lookfantastic

Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash, £36 | Lookfantastic
'This is brilliant at sloughing off dead skin cells that can block the oil and cause breakouts, enzymes are one of the best ways to tackle combination skin, they make light work of freeing dead skin cells in a gentle way.'

Oily skin:

'Be careful not to fall into the trap of over stripping in the quest for shine-free skin. The skin is clever and will only pump out more oil in a bid to keep the skin moisturised. Remember, your genes are controlling your skin type so it’s impossible to override your genes. Look for a cleanser and or toner that contains salicylic acid or BHA. It’s a brilliant oil-loving ingredient that has the ability to get inside the pores and cleanse effectively. Seek a moisturiser that is oil-free, which will leave the skin feeling hydrated and moisturised without that feeling of heaviness.'

£31 | Cult Beauty

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £31 | Cult Beauty
'This cult beauty product is a great addition to any cleansing routine and ensures those pores are clean.' There's a reason why this is one of Cult Beauty's bestselling products.

£39 | Cult Beauty

Murad Clarifying Water Gel, £39 | Cult Beauty
'This is a non-comedogenic moisturiser, meaning it has been tested to not block the pores, it’s oil-free and will help keep the bacteria levels balanced.'

£16 | Lookfantastic

Eucerin Oil Control Dry Touch Sun Gel Cream SPF 50+, £16 | Lookfantastic
'Sunscreen is one of the most difficult products to get right when it comes to oily skin, Eucerin Sun Protection SPF50+ Oil Control Dry Touch Sun Gel-Cream not only feels matte on the skin but also helps prevents breakouts.'

If you need any further product help, here are a couple of links to our guides specifically for skin types:

Knowing your skin type will help you create a skincare routine that works harder for you.

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.