One of the first things that needs to be done, in order to determine the best course of treatments for your skin, is a thorough analysis. This means that every inch of your face needs to be examined and felt with fingertips to dtermine what is going on. Your home routine needs to be discussed, as does your diet and lifestyle. And finally, your goals need to be voiced. What is it that you want out of these treatments? Firmer skin, less wrinkles, reduction of discoloration (hyper- or hypo-pigmentation), less oil, more moisture, less breakouts, reduction in inflammation, elimination of pustules, evening out of skin tone, or maybe you just want to relax for an hour and have someone take care of you, for a change. All of these things, and more, can be accomplished by a good skin therapist.
There are 5 basic skin types: Normal, or balanced; Dry, or alipoid: Oily; Acneic; and Sensitive/Sensitized.
Normal, balanced skin Personally, I prefer the term “balanced” as opposed to “normal”. The dictionary defines “normal” as conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. One hundred years ago, you might have correctly applied this term to the skin. Today you cannot. With the blending of cultures, the variety in diet, and the effects that environment has on our bodies and skin, there is no “normal”. In addition, if someone labels you with skin other than “normal”, that implies that your skin (or you) are not usual, are abnormal, not regular, not natural. I reject these labels. Balanced skin is skin that has a healthy glow and color, no open pores, adequate moisture, and needs little adjustments in home care to maintain it look. Very few people have naturally balanced skin.
Dry skin Also called Oil dry, or Alipoid skin, or skin which is lacking in lipids, or moisture. This can be naturally occuring, a function of genetics, or it can be induced by environment or diet. Women who are going through menopause often have dry skin, because the body is no longer producing a sufficient amount of oil to maintain balance. Smokers often have dry skin because the chemicals in the cigarettes interfere with the lungs ability to absorb oxygen, which in turn effects oil (sebum) production. People who work out of doors or in extreme temperatures (hot or cold), often have dry skin. Medications also can have a drastic effect on the oil levels, and water levels, in the skin. Dry or Oil dry skin shows visible dryness, tight pores, is prone to wrinkles and usually has poor skin tone.
Oily skin This is a skin that is easy to spot. This happens to be my skin type, a fact that I lamented all through my teens and twenties, but which is now serving me well. Oily skin has an excess of sebum (oil) produced in the follicles, or pores, and can be “shiny” within an hour of washing the face. The pores are generally larger and more visible. This type of skin is a bit more prone to breakouts and congestion because of the plentiful source of food for the naturally-occurring bacteria inside the pores. The plus to all of this is that oily skin tends to show less signs of aging, and is able to withstand environmental assault a bit better than dry or balanced skin.
Acneic skin Acne has become a catch-all phrase to describe any type of breakout on the skin, and recently has been reclassified as a disease of the skin (along with rosacea), instead of a type. For our purposes here, we will continue to refer to it as a type. Acne consists of two types of skin afflictions; congestion and true acne. Congestion is by far the most common. Simply put, congestion is when the pores in the skin become clogged, and no inflammation is present. Congestion can be solid or semi-solid. When solid, it is referred to as blackheads, or comedones. In its semi-solid state, it is often mistaken for pus (which it is not), but in actuality it is simply a mixture of oil and sweat within the pore. The definition of acne is; an inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands, characterized by comedones and pimples, esp. on the face, back, and chest, and, in severe cases, by cysts and nodules resulting in scarring. The key word here is “inflammation”. True acne occurs with inflammation, or redness. If you have a blackhead that is now red and becoming tender, you have inflammation, increased bacterial activity, and have moved into acne.
Sensitive/Sensitized True sensitive skin is fairly rare. Usually, someone displaying sensitive skin will have a history of other sensitivities like food allergies (dairy, wheat), health issues (IBS, asthma, other breathing issues), pet allergies, and fragrance intolerance. Sensitive skin is thinner, with reduced barrier function, more reactive capillaries, and most often occurs in fair skins. The underlying cause of a true sensitive skin is genetics, so thank your parents. You cannot change this type of skin, only adapt your routines so as to minimize the effects on your skin. Sensitized skin is entirely different. In appearance it is similar to sensitive skin; red, inflamed, irritable to heat, products and friction. But that is where the similarities end. Sensitized skin is a result of environment. Stress, friction, incorrect product usage, over exfoliation, medication, sun and pollution can all play a significant role in sensitized skin. Sensitized skin can be healed, the trick is finding the irritant and repairing the damage.
Determining which of these types of skin most correctly fits your skin type is the first step in improving the health and appearance of your skin. It isn’t always easy, oftentimes a clients skin will have more than one type of skin. The “T” zone can be oily, while the cheeks and jaw area are dry. Or the skin can be dry and tight feeling, but shiny, with visible oil, appearing to be oily. I see it all the time. This is a crucial step, but once it is determined, you are well on your way to the best skin you can have.