Understanding your skin type

The Dry Skin Routine

Every morning

Cleanse with a moisturizing wash—you’ll want one with aloe, glycerin, ceramides, or hyaluronic acid in the label. If your skin is extremely dry, you might be able to skip a morning cleanse entirely, but make sure to splash your face with some water. Next, boost your hydration levels with a hyaluronic serum or essence, and finish with a moisturizer that comes in a jar. That means it’s heavy.

Every night

Wash with an oil cleanser. Follow up with a hyaluronic acid serum or essence, and layer a thick moisturizer on top. Alternatively, you can moisturize with a thin lotion, and seal it with a lightweight facial oil—look out for ingredients like jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, and apricot oil.

Good to have as needed

Face mist for instant hydration, and oil or a multipurpose balm to seal in moisture.

Oily

If you happen to be the rare human who uses their cell phone to—gasp—talk, then examine the screen after you hang up. Do you see a greasy film? Then congratulations! You have oily skin. Dr. Mikhail says that another way to tell whether you have oily skin is if your skin gets progressively shinier or greasier as the day wears on. “This skin type is prone to clogged pores and breakouts...your sunscreen and makeup might seem to ball up or slide off.” And your pores will look bigger, too, oh joy. Oily skin often doesn’t need a whole lot of moisturizing, but it does need a strong face wash to combat oil production and keep pores clear. The upside? Oily skin tends to age pretty well. Wrinkles are in everyone’s future, but yours may be further down that road.

The Oily Skin Routine

Every morning

You’ll need a cleanser that can cut through the oil your skin produced overnight, so wash with one that mentions clay on the label, or one that is mildly exfoliating with salicylic acid. Pat on a balancing serum afterwards to trick your skin into producing less oil, and to prevent excess oil from clogging your pores. The best ones include ingredients like niacinamide, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil. For extremely oily skin, sometimes hyaluronic acid can replace a moisturizer. Otherwise, look for a water gel moisturizer that’s lightweight yet extremely hydrating.

Every night

Double cleanse! Start with an oil cleanser first, and then wash again with your morning cleanser. Tone with witch hazel or a liquid salicylic exfoliant, and then top off with a water gel cream.

Good to have as needed

Every week or so apply a clay mask for 20 minutes. Find one that combines the clay ingredients with a little bit of hydration, like aloe, so the mask doesn’t completely strip your skin. Overdrying can lead to more oil, oddly enough.

Combination

Combination skin is the mullet of skincare—it’s two opposing things, and neither are all that great. “Combination people can be greasy in some areas and dry in others, and usually this is worsened by products or the weather,” Dr. Mikhail told ITG. Your T-zone is usually the oily area, and the circumference of your face and cheeks are usually drier. To make this even more complicated, when your cheeks naturally get drier in the winter and you reach for a thicker cream to help them out, your T-zone becomes extra oily and greasy. The reverse happens in the summer—when you dial down your moisturizers for a T-zone that’s less slick, the rest of your face gets dehydrated. Pay attention to how your skin feels as the seasons change—it might improve or worsen depending on the conditions.

The Combination Skin Routine

Every morning

Use either a gel or lotion-based cleanser—it’s up to you! If you choose a gel, make sure that it’s buffered by moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or oils, so it doesn’t totally dry your skin. Next, pat hyaluronic serum around the areas where you tend to get dry, and then rub a lightweight water gel moisturizer all over.

Every night

Cleanse with your morning cleanser, and then tone with witch hazel or liquid salicylic acid where you’re most oily. Apply hyaluronic acid where you’re the driest, and then give your skin a pump or two of a bouncy water gel cream.

Good to have as needed

Apply a clay mask to your T-zone and wherever else you get oily once a week. Your silver bullet is the multi-mask technique. Gone are the days where one mask or product goes everywhere. Welcome to independence.

Breakout-prone

OK, this skin type is easy to spot [slow clap]—blackheads, whiteheads, and big (and sometimes painful) cysts. While greasy skin may be prone to breakouts by nature, “breakout-prone” skin isn’t always oily. “Dry skin types might be breakout prone because of hormones—generally around the time of periods,” explains Dr. Mikhail. That’s because “it’s actually a shift in oiliness in the skin at the time of the month.” And that shift in the matrix triggers your skin to flip out.

The Breakout Prone Skin Routine

Every morning

Assess whether your skin less oily or dry, and then wash with the matching cleansers described above. Always follow with a liquid salicylic acid formula to clear your pores. Apply a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide to zits, wait a few minutes for it to dry, and then finish with a moisturizer that corresponds to your dry, or oily skin.

Every night

Double cleanse with an oil wash, and then your morning cleanser. For intense breakouts, pat salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide treatment on your face. End with a lightweight moisturizer.

Good to have as needed

Pimple patches! Also consider sulfur masks for once-a-week use, and azelaic acid to help shrink pimples and prevent dark marks.

Sensitive And Reactive

Redness, bumps, scaling, itching, and burning—the hallmarks of sensitive and reactive skin. Dr. Mikhail says it’s usually triggered by contact allergies or an underlying symptom of something else—rosacea. Does your skin turn red in response to environmental triggers, like stress, the sun, caffeine, hot beverages, spicy food, or alcohol? You just might have rosacea, says Dr. Mikhail. “Itch is more likely linked to allergy, while burning is linked to rosacea.” If your skin does appear to be reactive, it’s a good idea to talk to your dermatologist. And even if it’s just sensitive, you’ll want to avoid products with fragrances and harsh chemicals as much as you can.

The Sensitive And Reactive Skin Routine

Every morning

Wash your face with a milk or cream cleanser. Ideally all of your products should be fragrance-free, and avoid lavender, peppermint, and camphor as well—those can trigger redness and stinging. Skip serums—your routine should be very minimal, and hydrate with a moisturizer infused with calming ingredients, like green tea, squalane, or ceramides, which also boosts your skin’s natural barrier to irritants as well.

Every night

Wash your face and moisturize with your morning products. It’s important not to introduce too many different ingredients in your routine.

Good to have as needed

Consider a calming serum, which can actually strengthen your skin and prevent it from irritability. Also helpful—a cold, wet washcloth. It’s the simple things.