If a too-heavy cream has ever left your skin an oil slick, or a foamy face wash has made your cheeks dry and tight, you know that skincare isn’t one-size-fits-all. Skin varies widely, and no single product can solve everyone’s problems. But knowing your skin type isn’t always as clear-cut as it seems: A shiny T-zone doesn’t necessarily indicate oily skin, and redness doesn’t guarantee sensitivity. Before you stock your medicine cabinet, read these tips from cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank on how to give your skin what it really needs.
Telltale Signs: While you’d expect that the skin you wake up with is a good indication of its natural state, Dr. Frank says you should pay attention to your skin at the end of the day — is it shiny then? If you wake up and your skin feels greasy, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s oily. “It could be from the moisturizer or cream that you are using the night before.” Breakouts can also be an indication.
How To Treat: “I recommend using a wash that contains an AHA such as glycolic or salicylic acid to prevent breakouts, or use a gel moisturizer,” Dr. Frank advises. Try washing with Glytone Step-Up Cleanse Mild Gel Wash ($30, glytone-usa.com) and as a light hydrator, try Vitaphenol Sheer Moisturizer ($95, vitaphenol.com). “For very oily skin, stay away from moisturizer altogether and focus on a face wash with salicylic acid. The oil that the skin is already producing is the best natural moisturizer,” Dr. Frank says.
Telltale Signs: Your skin is dull, dry and/or flaky at the end of the day (even after a long day of exposure to dirt and heat).
How To Treat: “For skin that is very dry especially during the winter, a light application of Aquaphor ($4.79, aquaphorhealing.com) is beneficial,” says Dr. Frank. Be careful with exfoliation, since it can strip the skin and make it more sensitive. “Exfoliation should be recommended individually, under the care of a dermatologist.” If your derm advises a light exfoliation, we recommend Fresh Sugar Face Polish ($55, sephora.com), which scrubs skin gently with sugar crystals. “For those with eczema or severely dry skin, moisture is always best.”
Telltale Signs: “Blushing, itching and easily sun-burning are all signs of sensitive skin,” says Dr. Frank. Toners and exfoliants sting or burn, and products such as bubble bath or shampoo with added fragrances make you break out.
How To Treat: Treat acne with a product containing a mild concentration of benzoyl peroxide, such as Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Redness Soothing Facial Cleanser ($7.49, neutrogena.com). Use a creamy scrub with soft, synthetic beads to exfoliate, such as Aveeno Skin Brightening Daily Scrub ($8, aveeno.com). A low-strength glycolic wash with a higher PH will also be less likely to burn when in contact with skin.
Telltale Signs: Skin is shiny in the T-zone only and the rest of the face is dry. Prone to occasional breakouts.
How To Treat: Although parts of your face (most likely the outer edges) are dry, exfoliation is still key as it manages oil production and removes any peeling skin. Another way to balance the oil is to actually use a face oil, such as Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil ($48, josiemarancosmetics.com). Well-moisturized skin will in turn produce less oil, preventing future breakouts.