Tried and tested

The ultimate guide to detecting your skin type

Identifying your {skin type} can be a challenge, and if like many of us you’re often left confused about which ingredients and products will benefit you the most, we’ve created a go-to guide to help you achieve a serious glow up.

From combination and oily to dry and sensitive, each skin type has different visible signs and needs a different range of products and ingredients to help keep it nourished and healthy.

Expert dermatologists are raising awareness on the importance of identifying your skin type, in order to avoid suffering from problems such as {blemishes} or {flaking}.

Dr Ophelia Veraitch, Consultant Dermatologist at Cranley Clinic said “many women in the UK struggle to correctly identify their skin type, however to help keep skin healthy and nourished, it’s really important to understand which products and ingredients will benefit you the most.”

Use our guide below to find out about each skin type, along with the best ingredients and products for each one.


The easiest way to identify your skin type is to remove all make up, grab a mirror, and take a good look at the texture, colour, and overall appearance of your skin. So, let’s get started…


When it comes to your skin type, genetics can determine the amount of oil your skin produces because they regulate cell production. People often have varying sizes of sebaceous glands—which produce sebum. Overactive sebaceous glands cause more oil production and can result in combination skin.

Hormones are also a huge factor and can cause your skin to {over-produce oil} in some areas while drying out in others. Not surprisingly, finding the right routine for combination skin can be tricky as products for very dry skin will make an oily T-zone worse, while formulas that are best for very oily skin won’t help very dry areas.


An oily T-zone (forehead, chin and nose)

Enlarged pores in this area perhaps with some impurities

Normal to dry cheeks

Breakouts when on your period


Salicylic Acid – Because this ingredient penetrates not only the surface of the skin but also the pores, it’s especially great for reducing breakouts and inflammation without drying out the skin.

Hyaluronic Acid – Hyaluronic acid is well known for its skin benefits, especially alleviating dry skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and speeding up wound healing.

Green Tea – The antioxidants in green tea can help to target dry areas of skin, whilst at the same time its antibacterial properties will clear clogged pores and fight breakouts.


Cleanser – Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s {Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel} or THE INKEY LIST’s {Salicylic Acid Cleanser}.

Toner – PAULA’S CHOICE {Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant} or Glow Recipe’s {Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner}

Serum – Sunday Riley’s {U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil} or The Ordinary’s {Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%}

Moisturiser – Farmacy’s {Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturiser} or Kate Somerville’s {Oil-Free Moisturizer}


Keep your products cool – Rather than storing products in your bathroom or dressing table, put them in the refrigerator. By keeping the contents cool, it will help reduce inflammation and redness when applied to the skin and ensure more balanced oil production throughout the day.

Treat your T-zone differently – Different areas of the skin need to be treated individually, so rather than using the same moisturiser over your entire face, use an {oil-balancing moisturiser} on your T-zone to control shine and a richer moisturiser on your cheeks for hydration.

Use different cleansers morning and night – Combination skin may need a different type of cleanser at different times of the day. Why not try using a {foaming cleanser} in the morning to balance sebum levels and then switching to a light, cream-based {cleanser in the evening} to help replenish moisture.


‘Dry’ is used to describe a skin type that produces less sebum than “normal” skin. As a result of the lack of sebum, {dry skin} lacks the lipids that it needs to retain moisture and build a protective shield against external influences.

This leads to an impaired barrier function. Dry skin exists in varying degrees of severity and in different forms that are not always clearly distinguishable.

Significantly more women suffer from dry skin than men and all skin gets dryer as it ages. Problems related to dry skin are a common complaint and account for 40% of all visits to dermatologists.

Dr Ophelia Veraitch said “It’s a common misconception that you’ve only got dry skin if it’s flaky and peeling. Even if your skin just feels tight, that’s usually an indicator that you’re suffering from dryness.”


A feeling of tightness

A rough and blotchy appearance

A feeling of tightness

Possible itchiness

Sensitivity to irritation


Flaking in patches


To combat dry, tight skin, you’ll want to build a routine that’s full of nourishing, moisture-rich skin care products. You’ll also want to focus on ingredients that fortify your skin’s lipid barrier, which helps keep moisture in and {blemish-causing bacteria} out.

Squalane – This contains natural emollients, locking moisture into your skin, helping to prevent fine lines, and easing dry patches.

Mandelic acid – Mandelic acid is the gentlest of all the {AHAs}, causing less irritation, redness, flakiness, and dry skin than other acids.

Jojoba oil – Jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory and {healing properties} which can help to relieve dryness, flaking, itching, and related symptoms.


Cleanser – BIOSSANCE’s {Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil} or Medik8’s {Lipid-Balance Cleansing Oil}

Toner – Elemis’ {Superfood Kefir-Tea Mist} or fresh’s {Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner}

Serum – Drunk Elephant’s {B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum} or Jordan Samuel Skin’s {Hydrate Facial Serum}

Moisturiser – Versed’s {Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream} or Caudalie’s {Vinosource SOS Intense Moisturizing Cream}


As a lot of us are working from home, we’re probably starting to crank the heating up as we head into winter. Placing a humidifier in your home office will add moisture to the air. For moments when you’re out and about, a pocket mist, such as the Herbivore {Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist}, will leave your skin hydrated on the go.

Try not to have super-hot showers. Instead, shower in lukewarm water for no longer than 15 minutes. Hot water strips the skin of its natural oils, leading to peeling, cracking, ashiness, and a sunburn-like flush.

Finally, drink plenty of water. A 2015 study featured in the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology Journal found that in patients with dry skin, increasing water intake could have the same effect on skin as applying a topical moisturiser.


‘Oily’ is used to describe a skin type with heightened sebum production. An over production is known as seborrhoea. Oily skin happens when the sebaceous glands in the skin make too much sebum. Sebum is the waxy, oily substance that protects and hydrates the skin. Whilst it is vital for keeping the skin healthy, too much sebum can lead to clogged pores, and acne.


Enlarged, clearly visible pores

A glossy shine

Thicker, pale skin: blood vessels may not be visible




Niacinamide – Also known as vitamin B3, is a multi-tasking skin care ingredient that hydrates, increases the elasticity of your skin, minimises pore size, and—of course—regulates excess oil production. It can be paired with hyaluronic acid to keep your skin moisturised, soft, and shine-free.

Grapeseed oil – It might seem strange to apply an oil to your already oily face, but oils actually help regulate your sebum production so you don’t overproduce oil and grapeseed oil is full of healthy fatty acids that reduce inflammation due to acne and clear clogged pores.

Clay – Often found in cleansers and {masks}, clay is another top-notch ingredient for oily skin. Clay works by soaking up excess oil from the surface of your skin and deep inside your pores to give your skin a less shiny, matte appearance.


Cleanser – Kate Somerville’s {ExfoliKate Daily Foaming Cleanser} or Sunday Riley’s {Ceramic Slip Cleanser}

Toner – Herbivore’s {Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner} or Alpha-H’s {Liquid Gold}

Serum – Odacite’s {Pimples Serum Concentrate (Black Cumin + Cajeput)} or Herbivore’s {Lapis Balancing Facial Oil}

Moisturiser – Omorovicza’s {Silver Skin Lotion} or PAULA’S CHOICE {Clear Moisturiser SPF30}


Lighten Up on Night Cream – Take your bedtime beauty routine down a notch. If you use a cream, switch to a lotion; if you use a lotion, switch to a hydrating serum.

Exfoliate often – {Exfoliate} oily skin once or twice a week. The excess sebum produced often leads to dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, resulting in blemishes, whiteheads, and blackheads, and of course dull-looking skin.

Invest in a primer – A high-quality {primer} acts as a good base for your make up and helps to absorb the oil that your glands produce. This will help in making your make up last longer, too.


‘Normal’ is a term widely used to refer to well-balanced skin. The scientific term for well-balanced skin is eudermic. The T-zone (forehead, chin and nose) may be a bit oily, but overall sebum and moisture is balanced, and the skin is neither too oily nor too dry, and there will be minimal visible skin imperfections. However, even if you have normal skin, it’s still important to maintain a good skin care routine to avoid potential skin related problems cropping up.


No or few imperfections

No severe sensitivity

Barely visible pores

Good Blood circulation


Resveratrol – This ingredient neutralises free radicals, strengthens your skin’s natural antioxidant defences and reveals visible radiance and firmness.

Buriti oil – Because of its high beta-carotene content, buriti oil is a common ingredient in sun protection products. Buriti oil is ideal for those with normal skin and ageing concerns looking to fight fine lines and free radicals.

Vitamin C – This antioxidant speeds up collagen and elastin production to keep skin firm and plump. vitamin C also fights ageing by limiting damage from {UV exposure}, hydrating the skin and evening out skin tone and texture.


Cleanser – PAULA’S CHOICE {Defense Hydrating Gel-to-Cream Cleanser} or Augustinus Bader’s {The Cream Cleansing Gel}

Toner – Gallinee’s {Face Vinegar} or Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s {C + Collagen Perfect Skin Set & Refresh Mist}

Serum – Medik8’s {C-Tetra} or Allies of Skin’s {Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment}

Moisturiser – Caudalie’s {Resveratrol Lift Firming Cashmere Cream} or Medik8’s {Daily Radiance Vitamin C}


Add an antioxidant – Even normal skin still needs a robust number of antioxidants to nourish and help keep it defended against the environment. Use a serum packed with {vitamin C} for ultimate protection.

Use an SPF – Signs of sun damage aren’t always visible, so in order to maintain healthy skin, try to use {products with added SPF} every day.

Do a facial massage – If you suffer from the occasional breakout, dullness or skin fatigue, a {facial massage} can really help. It helps to encourage circulation and lymphatic drainage, so that these pollutants in the skin are removed.


Sensitive skin is characterised by frequent redness, burning, itching or dryness as a reaction to skin-care products, weather changes, hormones, stress, and even pollution.

Healthy skin functions to maintain balance by protecting the body, while regulating the levels of moisture. However, in sensitive skin, the barrier that protects the skin from its external environment is compromised, leading to sensitivity.


Your skin easily flushes

Beauty products often sting or burn

Your skin reacts to bad weather

You break out easily


Chamomile – Due to its gentle but effective healing properties; chamomile is especially suited for use and treatment of overly dry, tender, and sensitive skin.

Cucumber seed oil – Cucumber seed oil is super compatible with sensitive skin as it contains phytosterols which help skin become better at holding onto water and gets your skin cells in tip-top condition.

Vitamin C – This antioxidant speeds up collagen and elastin production to keep skin firm and plump. vitamin C also fights ageing by limiting damage from UV exposure, hydrating the skin and evening out skin tone and texture.


Cleanser – fresh {Soy Face Cleanser} or Kate Somerville {Goat Milk Cleanser}

Toner – Susanne Kaufmann {Rose Water Mist} or Caudalie {Grape Water}

Serum – Kate Somerville {DeliKate Recovery Serum} or Dr. Barbara Sturm {Calming Serum}

Moisturiser – Milk Makeup {Vegan Milk Moisturizer} or Elemis’ {Superfood CICA Calm Hydration Juice}


Simplify your skincare routine. By overloading your face with abrasive and harsh products, you can really irritate your skin. Keep your skin care routine simple, and avoid using products with fragrances, or any nasty chemicals.

Hold back on the exfoliator. A lot of {exfoliating scrubs} are too harsh for sensitive skin. Instead, try using a soft washcloth or skin exfoliating brush with soft bristles once or twice a week to help reduce your skins susceptibility to reacting.

Use warm water. Using warm water when you wash your face instead of hot can also help reduce redness and irritation.


Emmie Thornhill

Emmie Thornhill

Deputy Content Editor

Emmie is Cult Beauty’s Deputy Content Editor. Her love of skin care began in primary school when she first learned the term “hormonal acne” and has been in a love-hate relationship with tea tree oil ever since. She lives in East London – where you can normally find her baking, tending to her plant jungle or planning her next tattoo or hair cut/colour appointment – and is known to start DMCs with you about your birth chart placements, the importance of wearing SPF every day and the difference between a vagina and vulva.