Be honest with yourself, how do you know your skin type? Self-assessment? Online questionnaire? Your dermatologist… your mother? Would it surprise you to learn that there’s a greater than 50% chance you’re wrong?

We carried out a recent study on our users, which showed that of 1446 women aged between 27 and 47,  63% of them incorrectly identified their skin type before our genome sequence test scientifically revealed what their skin type was. (You can read about the study here and you’ll see the real science behind the report).

Really, this is no surprise when up until now, there has been no easy way to scientifically confirm your skin type.

Implications Of Getting It Wrong

So, just what are the implications of thinking you have one skin type – and buying skincare products for years on that basis – when you really have a completely different skin type?

Maybe you’re not really affecting your skin health, just wasting hundreds (if not thousands of pounds) per year on skincare.  Or just maybe you’re harming your skin (and wasting thousands of pounds per year).

Let’s look at the detrimental effects of not actually knowing your skin type. For example, if you believe that you have oily skin when you actually have dry skin and are buying skincare products to reduce the amount of oil on your skin you’re making your skin drier. This can promote skin conditions such as dermatitis.

If, on the other hand you think you have dry skin when in fact it is oily you probably have a skincare routine to increase the amount of sebum – increase the amount of oil – on your skin. This is promoting bad skin health and the growth of bacteria such as Cutibacterium acnes which is actually creating an environment for the development of acne.

Now let’s look at the staple products we use in our skin care routines and see what harm they might be doing if they are inadvertently being used on the wrong skin type.

The Right Or Wrong Cleanser

First, a staple in most people’s skincare routine – the cleanser. Cleansers come in lots of formats – foaming cleansers, cream based cleansers, milky cleansers, micellar waters, oil cleansers, gel cleansers, balm cleansers.

Some foaming cleansers are very powerful and they can strip too much oil from the skin. A foaming cleanser without any mildness factors added and utilising strong surfactants should not be used by anyone with dry skin; long term use of this kind of product leads to too much sebum being removed from the skin.

Sebum is what helps hold the moisture in our skin and loss of it can result in a damaged barrier and dehydrated skin. In this case the wrong cleanser can cause dry skin to become even drier potentially promoting dermatitis.

Dry or mature skin typically benefits from oil or balm cleansers as they use oil to remove excess oil. This is known as the “oil cleansing method”. This method does not remove excess sebum from the skin. But if you have oily skin it can lead to an overload of oily materials. You will end up with a layer of oil on your face after cleansing. This is fine for dry skin but it’s a problem for oilier skin types that can easily become congested and prone to acne breakouts.

The Good Or Bad Moisturiser

Another staple in most skin routines is the moisturiser. Moisturisers are emulsions holding together 2 liquids that normally don’t mix – usually of oil and water – that are efficient for absorption into the skin.

Those with oily skin need to choose emulsions that are light and don’t overload the skin with oil. Good choices here are gel creams and light oil in water emulsions. Moisturisers developed for this kind of skin will generally have less than 10% lipids and light feel esters, silicones or mineral oils.

For drier skin the formats that are most favoured are heavier oil in water emulsions and the lipids used are heavier plant oils and butters with lipid content going up to 15%. Sometimes products may be water in oil emulsions – where oils are listed first on the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI) but to avoid a very greasy product they will also use light feeling esters or mineral oils.

Oily Skin Moisturisers When You Have Dry Skin

If you have dry skin you would not be getting the extra lipids your skin needs and you would experience more Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL). This is the amount of water that passively evaporates through skin to the external environment due to water vapour pressure gradient on both sides of the skin barrier and is used to characterise skin barrier function and possibly an impaired skin barrier. In plain english, your skin will feel and look dry and flakey. An impaired barrier can exacerbate conditions like dermatitis and eczema and opens the door to colonisation by pathogenic bacteria.

Dry Skin Moisturisers When You Have Oily Skin

Put simply if you have oily skin and you load it with heavy products you will have excess oil and congested skin that is more prone to breakouts. Plant oils in the wrong place and for the wrong skin type can cause problems. Common plant oils in natural skincare are coconut and palm kernel oil and while they are good emollients and help prevent TEWL, they penetrate only into the upper layers of the epidermis and can lead to breakouts on most skin types, other than very dry skin, due to their high comedogenic properties (the degree to which an ingredient is likely to clog your pores).

Excess Oil On The Skin

If we look a little deeper into our skin’s microbiome we can also see problems with having excess oil on our skin from unsuitable products. Free Fatty Acids (FFA) from oils used in cosmetics may exacerbate some skin issues. The fatty acids can benefit some strains of bacteria and change the skin environment to the detriment of the skin’s health and play an important role in the promotion of acne.

Oils For Various Skin Types

You might hear that oils are good for all skin types. There are so many different types of oils – vegetable, nut and seed, esters, waxes, silicones etc. The  important thing to note is their ‘comedogenic’ nature.

Choosing The Right Active

Finally, choosing products that are wrong for your skin type can also mean missing out on different active ingredients that can help your skin health. There are wonderful active ingredients available for the various skin types. Niacinamide for example is a sebum regulator for those with oily skin, salicylic acid is an ideal addition for congested skin where there are blackheads. Dry skin will benefit from humectants like hyaluronic acid but also there are many ceramide complexes on the market that will help restore the skin barrier function.

Let Science Decide

Finally, the next time you examine your skin in the mirror, ask yourself – where did I learn my skin type? Am I spending all this money on the right skincare for my skin type? Am I actually causing harm to my skin by using products with ingredients that are wrong for my actual skin type?

The bottom line: Let science tell you what your skin type is. If you are uncertain about your skin type and the most suitable products to use, Skin Trust Club is here to help.