By Ama Kwarteng @amakwarteng
You’ve probably heard about your skin type, but what if I told you that you should know more about your skin state when it comes to picking and choosing products? According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a NYC-based dermatologist, your skin type (think: oily, dry, combination, or balanced) may change over time and refers to the general condition of the skin. Your skin state is the temporary appearance or feeling of your skin. It’s influenced by external factors (diet, climate, skincare routine) and internal factors (hormones, aging, stress level). You can have more than one skin state (for example, dehydrated and congested), and knowing your skin state is one of the best ways to target exactly what your skin needs. Read more and take our skin quiz to learn more about your very own skin state.
Oily skin is exactly what it sounds like—when your skin over produces an oily substance called sebum. According to Dr. Garshick, if your skin is naturally shiny, without the use of any product, you probably have oily skin. Usually, oily skin is more prone to acne, but in general oily skin is healthy and ages more slowly.
Dry skin is just the opposite, says Dr. Garshick. Your sebaceous glands aren’t as active resulting in a tendency for skin to be dry. If not properly hydrated, dry skin type can easily become rough in texture, dull in appearance, and can become flaky. You’re going to want to use more hydrating and nourishing products, and you should stay away from drying products (especially if you have a breakout!). If not properly hydrated and nourished, dry skin can age more quickly than other skin types.
Combination skin is, you guessed it, when you have both oily and dry skin. This is the most common skin type—some areas of your skin, usually your T-zone, is oily, while other areas, for example your cheeks, are dry. The key thing with combination skin is there’s no one size fits all solution, says Dr. Garshick.
Balanced (aka normal) skin is usually based on specific criteria, according to Dr. Garshick: no sensitivity, balanced hydration levels, few to no blemishes. If your skin never feels oily or dry, and you never break out, this is probably you (lucky you!).
You may feel confident about your skin type, or still be confused. For instance, what if you have dry skin and congestion/breakouts? Or what if you have had oily skin most of your life, but your skin is starting to feel less oily and more dry? There are many factors that affect the state of your skin, from aging, environment, diet, etc. By knowing your skin state, it helps to clarify the confusion and better address your skin concerns.
Aging skin is skin that is losing collagen and struggling to maintain moisture. Your skin is getting thinner and you’re starting to see wrinkles and fine lines.
How to address aging skin: It’s important to remember that aging is a privilege (not everyone gets to grow old!) - but the skin issues than can come with aging like dehydration can sometimes make one feel less than glamorous. To address dehydration you will want to use hydrating, nourishing products, even if you skin type is oily, and exfoliate regularly (try our Restore line). You’ll also want to include products that are rich in antioxidants to help nourish and protect your skin from free radical damage that can cause accelerated aging. Lastly, to help improve elasticity, says Dr. Garshick, you can try including products that contain collagen boosting ingredients like coQ10 and bakuchiol, a plant based alternative to retinol. Learning facial massage techniques such as gua sha, or getting facial acupuncture or facials with your local holistic esthetician are also great ways to help your skin age gracefully.
To learn more about graceful aging, check out this collection of blog posts.
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Dehydrated skin is caused by a lack of moisture. This is often caused by poor skin barrier function, which means your skin has difficulty sealing in hydration. This can be caused by low humidity (often the case in winter!), over cleansing, and over exfoliating.
How to address dehydrated skin: First, determine the cause. Is it environmental, such as low humidity in the air, or is is possibly your skin care routine? If the cause if environmental, try adding a humidifier in your space. Doing regular facial steams can also help.
If it is not environment, try cutting down on your cleansing - contrary to popular belief, you do not need to cleanse morning and night. Instead, replace your usual morning cleanser with an alcohol-free toner and a cotton pad, or simply rinse with water and a clean organic towelette. Make sure your skincare routine includes humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, as well as a water elements. Facial oils and balms work wonders to heal the skin barrier, which helps the skin retain water, but they do not hydrate. We love our Rose Hydrating Toner to hydrate (it contains humectants, antioxidants, and hydrating rose water).
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Sensitive skin can be genetic or it can be related to certain products causing reactions on the skin. It can also be diet and gut related. Sensitivity, according to Dr. Garshick, can also be caused by dryness—when the skin barrier is compromised, it makes it more prone to injury.
How to address sensitive skin: If your skin is sensitive due to dehydration, we recommend addressing the dehydration (see tips above). Another thing you could do is try different elimination diets to see if your skin improves. You’re going to want to avoid harsh cleansers and products that contain alcohol or fragrances. Simpler skin care routines tend to work best - try a simple true oil cleanser (the kind you have to cleanse using a towel), a simple facial mist and a facial oil. We recommend our rose toner and rose serum for sensitive skin.
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Dark spots refer to brown spots on the skin that are usually related to sun damage.
How to address dark spots: Sunscreen (and avoiding sun exposure) will help prevent new spots (as well as prevent sun damage and premature aging), says Dr. Garshick. Products rich in antioxidants, like vitamin C, can help brighten dark spots. If lightening existing dark marks is a concern, talk to your local holistic esthetician about treatments. Microdermabrasion may be a solution.
Congested skin usually has large pores, blackheads, and whiteheads. Although most people believe that an oily skin type causes congestion, the truth is it can sometimes also be caused by dehydrated skin and unbalanced sebum production.
How to address congested skin: While sebum does cause clogged pores, the key is to balance production. If your skin is red/sensitive, focus on repairing the barrier function (see tips for dehydrated skin). If your skin isn’t irritated, try incorporating balancing ingredients like sea buckthorn and green tea into your skin care ritual. Exfoliating or using a detoxing clay mask 2-3x per week can also help keep your pores clear. Our favorite no-fuss combo to address congestion is our Neroli Toner (green tea, vitamin b3 + willow bark) with our Night Clarifying Treatment (for more tips go to nourish ritual).
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Acne-prone skin—what causes acne? It can be complex and it involves your skin microbiome, skin barrier health, hormones and more. You can check out our five part series about acne here. But, in general, your pores gets clogged and breakouts happen.
How to address acne-prone skin: With acne-prone skin, it’s important to exfoliate, reduce inflammation, and bring back a healthy balance to your skin microbiome and skin barrier. Look for products including thyme, sea buckthorn, green tea, and essential oils like tea tree and blue chamomile (check out our clarify ritual page). You may also want to look into cutting food that might trigger inflammation and acne, like gluten or dairy.
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Irritated skin is similar to sensitive skin, but is actively red and irritated. It can be caused by a number of things—allergies, diet, pollution, harsh skin care products - and takes the form of dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
How to Address Irritated Skin The goal with irritated skin is to reduce inflammation and addressing the underlying cause. Finding the culprit (either in your diet, environment, and/or skincare routine) is the best way to move forward. Before you can address they symptoms, you really need to understand the cause. For this reason, we recommend seeking a diagnosis and advice from a health professional, like a holistic esthetician or a dermatologist. Depending on the reason for the inflammation, the solution will be different. Some things you can do to try and find the culprit is to do a skin detox and/or an elimination diet. Once you have found the culprit, to heal the inflammation, we recommend incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet and using simple skincare products that are nourishing and calming. Look for products made with hydrosols, pure aloe vera, chamomile, and plant butters/oils that are rich in fatty acids.
Learn Your Skin State With Our Skin Quiz!
Now that you know all the skin states, you might want to consider that when it comes to buying skincare products. If you consider your skin state, in addition to, or instead of, your skin type, when making decisions about your skin care - you are most likely to see the results you are looking for. Confused at what your routine should be? Take our skin quiz to find the best skincare ritual based on your current skin state!
Dr. Marisa Garshick, Instagram: @drmarisagarshick