Know & Care for your Skin Type

How to Know and Care for your Skin Type


Before you can begin to properly care for your skin, you need to first know what type of skin you have. This will determine what type of soaps, moisturisers, cosmetics, sunscreen and general products and routines will be good for your skin. The more you know your skin and take care of it, the more beautiful and healthy it will be.

Skin type varies...

Based on this, Skin can be Dry, Normal, Combination, or Oily.  Although certain skin types are more prone than others, skin may also be Sensitive and or Acne-Prone, regardless of what type they fall under.

Dry Skin

All skin has a “Natural Moisturizing Factor” - a balance of water and oil that helps keep natural moisture intact. Dry skin lacks the oil necessary to ensure this balance, leading to a thin texture and a tendency for premature age signs like wrinkles.

You know you have dry skin if your skin exhibits the following:

  • Few or no pores visible, especially on your nose
  • Experience rarely any oil on your t-zone
  • Skin feels tight/ less elastic
  • Skin tends to be thin-textured or fragile with patches
  • More visible lines and wrinkles
  • Skin may be dull, with rough complexion

Dry skin can be caused or made worse by aging or hormonal changes, genetics, long hot showers/baths, medication, and ingredients in soaps, cleansers and cosmetics, amongst other things.


Care Tips for Dry Skin

Hydration! Hydration! Hydration!

Avoid hot showers: Do not use hot water to wash your face, or take long, hot showers. Hot water strips oils from your skin quickly, and can dry it out. Instead, use warm water, and take shorter showers or baths.

Use mild/gentle cleansers and shower gel, especially if they are moisturising: Go for soap-free, unscented, or mild cleansers and shower gels, as opposed to ones with harsher chemicals.

Use rich moisturisers and moisturise skin while damp: Use rich creams and ointments as opposed to lotions, and apply after bath, while skin is still damp, to lock in moisture.

Look for products that inject moisture into the skin, such as hydrating serums.

Avoid microbead exfoliants, instead, brighten dull complexions with chemical exfoliants that contain alpha hydroxyl acids (glycolic acid). Use moisture infusing masks that contain hydroluron (e.g. Aveda moisture intensive mask, Origins drink up intensive mask, and so on). Hyaluronic acid

Those with dry skin should look to using products containing the following ingredients: hyaluronic acid


You don't have to pay a fortune for a good, rich moisturizer. Read the label. Ingredients that may be helpful for dry skin include:

  • Ceramides. Ceramides help the skin hold water and soothe dry skin. Synthetic ceramides may mimic the natural substances in the outermost layer of skin that help keep moisture in.
  • Dimethicone and glycerin. These draw water to the skin and keep it there.
  • Hyaluronic acid. Like ceramides, hyaluronic acid helps skin hold water.
  • Lanolin, mineral oil, and petroleum jelly (petrolatum). These help skin hold on to water absorbed during bathing.

Be sure to apply sunscreen to areas of your body that are exposed to the sun during the day. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more that says "broad spectrum" on the label.

Normal Skin

Normal skin has a good “Natural Moisturising Factor” balance of oil and water. It usually does not get too dry or too oily, unless too harsh external agents are introduced.

You know you have normal skin if your skin exhibits the following:

  • Few or no pores visible, especially on your nose
  • Few or no imperfections
  • Less or no severe sensitivity to products
  • A radiant complexion, as there is a balance of water and oil.

If your skin falls under this category, then you should be very thankful… you’re one of the lucky ones that barely need to do anything to have lovely, beautiful skin.


Care Tips for Normal Skin


Those with normal skin can just follow the “Basics to care for Black skin” in the section above, to get the healthiest, most beautiful results from their skin. Just remember to:

Wash, cleanse and moisturise your face twice a day, especially after wearing makeup and dirt build-up.

Exfoliate at least twice a week, with a good facial scrub, exfoliating brush (like the Clearasonic) or a gentle chemical exfoliator (usually containing ingredients such as Glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid). This helps to remove dead skin surfaces, leaving a smoother, brighter complexion.

Combination Skin

Combination skin can be dry or normal in some areas, and oily in others, particularly the T-zone (i.e forehead, nose, and chin). Many people fall under this category of skin type, and need to find a balance in treating both effectively, without drying out the drier areas or making the t-zone oilier.

You know you have combination skin if your skin exhibits some or all of these:

  • Visible overly dilated pores, especially on the t-zone
  • Some blackheads (clogged pores)
  • Shinny skin, as the t-zone gets moderately oily sometime after cleansing.
  • Skin gets dehydrated sometimes, especially the cheeks and outer perimeter of the face.
  • Occasional breakouts do commonly occur.


Care Tips for Combination Skin

Those with normal skin can just follow the “Basics to care for Black skin” in the section above, to get the healthiest, most beautiful results from their skin. Just remember to: (redo)

Treat you skin from 2 angles:

  • Use products specifically targeted at and designed for combination skin types
  • Spot-treat separate areas with products and treatments geared towards that area’s skin type. For instance, acne or oil absorbing treatments on oily t-zone; hydrating products for drier cheeks and parts, and so on.

Oily Skin

Oily skin is one of the more problematic skin types. The “Natural Moisturising Factor” balance is skewered to the skin producing more oil than water. The sebaceous glands that produce the naturally healthy skin lubricant, sebum, are hyperactive in oily skin texture. This causes the skin to produce an excess amount of sebum, and become heavy and thick in texture. The excess production of oil can clog the pores, making the skin a breathing ground for bacteria that cause acne. As a result of this, Oily skin is highly susceptible to clogged pores, build-up of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, and acne. Acne is especially problematic to black skin, as they leave behind blemishes caused by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which are difficult to fade out. A lot of black people tend to have oilier skin types.

You know you have oily skin, if your skin exhibits most of these:

  • It has a dull, shiny or thick complexion and or is rough in texture.
  • Visible or enlarged pores, especially on the t-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and cheeks.
  • Skin greases up within a few minutes to a few hours after cleansing.
  • Tend to have several clogged pores, which may lead to blackheads, whiteheads (pimples) and or more moderate to severe acne (these types of acne often have more internal root causes such as hormonal imbalance).

Having the oily skin type is not all bad. It is less prone to wrinkling and other signs of aging, as the oil helps to keep much needed moisture locked into the outermost layer of the skin. Black people with oily skin will therefore find that they age much less quickly than people with other skin types.


Care Tips for Oily Skin

Wash/Cleanse face twice a day helps to clean the pores. Make sure to cleanse skin properly after wearing makeup and dirt build up. First clean off makeup with a makeup cleanser or wipes, then wash face and moisturise once dry.  You should not wash face more than twice a day to avoid stripping your skin of moisture, which can lead to more irritation.

The use of talc powder especially when face greases up in between washes, help to absorb oil that can potentially block pores and cause blemishes?

Ice therapy can help to minimise the size of pores, by tightening skin, and can help to calm down inflammation caused by acne. Wrap clean ice in a thin cloth, and apply to affected area.

For oily skin prone to acne flare ups, it is important to incorporate and religiously follow an acne regimen to control acne that can leave dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation. This is particularly important with people of African descent, as these hyper-pigmented spots are particularly difficult to get rid of, and prevention goes a long way. Read more about acne and treatments.

Use gentle cleansers to wash face, use only non-comedogenic products as they are less likely to clog pores, avoid scrubbing your face and do not pick at or pop pimples, unless done professionally.

Skin may also be sensitive and or acne-prone.

Sensitive Skin

There is no exact medical definition for sensitive skin; it generally denotes skin that easily gets physical reactions to products, and or external environmental factors, such as the sun, wind, plants, food, and fibres such as wool, amongst others. Reactions vary, and can manifest as rashes, bumps, redness, itching, burning, stinging, severe dryness and *acne. While black skin is less likely to be sensitive to such external factors like the sun and wind, it can be sensitive to other things, like some skin care products,  some plants, some insect bites (like the sandfly), wool, perfumed fragrances,  amongst others.

You know your skin is sensitive, if it exhibits most of these:

  • It breaks out in hives (rashes), and or you experience an itching, stinging, or burning sensation
  • Reactions may be experienced with first use or contact with particular products or factors, or after a few uses/contact with certain skin care products.


Care Tips for Sensitive skin.

  • For those with sensitive skin types, you may have to find out what triggers your reaction, through the process of elimination; and avoid said triggers when found.
  • Favour products that are hypoallergenic, or for sensitive skin, as they are less likely to irritate the skin or cause a reaction.
  • A table of possible irritable and comedogenic ingredients and their severity can be found here. Before buying skin care products and cosmetics, it would be good practice to check if they contain any ingredients that might irritate you, so as to make better informed decisions on what you should or shouldn’t use (you shouldn’t be surprised to find that some products labelled for sensitive skin may actually contain some irritable ingredients).
  • The products review page on this website, contain many such products and cosmetics, the ingredients they contain, and comments from people with varying skin types (look out for those similar to yours) on how they got on with such product.

Doing these will hopefully make finding staple products that work best for your skin type more informative, and less expensive.

*Although the cause of acne may be beyond skin deep (for example, hormones), the very nature of acne makes the skin easily irritable and thus sensitive when certain products are used (comedogenic products), and when certain actions are carried out (for example, scrubbing).

Acne-Prone Skin

While most information sources classify acne-prone skin as a feature of oily skin, we chose to put it on a category of its own. This is because while many people with oily skin are prone to acne and blemishes, some are not, and remain blemish free. Just as well, some people with drier, sensitive skin types can be prone to some form of acne (see types of acne) (especially when their skin gets irritated), although most are not. Those with oily, sensitive skin however, are the most prone to have acne. This is because (explain the 3 things that cause acne, oil, excessive shedding, etc)….

When the pores of a person’s skin gets clogged easily, making it susceptible to breeding bacteria, that skin is prone to acne breakouts. This tends to happen when oil secreted from the pores, and shed skin, block the pores of the skin, causing bacteria to grow. These pores can eventually open up, forming blackheads, or inflame, causing whiteheads and other types of acne (see types of acne). Why some pores gets blocked and others don’t remain unknown. Acne can be brought on by hormonal changes/imbalances, inflammation/irritation, stress, genetics, or a combination of these and other factors (see causes of acne).

You know you are acne-prone, if your skin exhibits:

  • Clogged pores (blackheads and whiteheads)
  • Multiple breakouts are common, especially when triggered by certain events/products/circumstances.

The type of acne affliction a person gets can vary based on severity… (As defined on

  • Mild
  • Mild to Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Moderate to Severe
  • Severe


Care Tips for Acne-Prone Skin:

Acne is common, complex and NOT curable; however, with the right skincare and acne treatment regimen, it is TREATABLE, until one eventually (if they ever do) grows out of it. A person with acne prone skin can live with a smooth, clear, spotless and acne-free complexion, just like anyone else; once they learn and stick to the right combination of treatments for them, and create a regimen that prevents and controls future flare-ups.

There are many treatments for acne; natural & medical, topical & ingested, effective and ineffective. The best way to tackle this problem is to know what type of acne you have, and arm yourself with information on the various treatments for acne available, how they work, how effective they’ve been found to be, and experiment till you find the right combination of treatments that work for you. When you find it, Stick to the treatment until and unless they stop working for you, or you grow out of acne all together.

Apart from the “Basics to caring for black skin” above, the following tips should be noted and followed.


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