When diagnosing the skin, I say forget traditional categories of dry, oily and combination – that only looks at oil. As an esthetician with a decade of looking at complexions, I have found that what really matters is not just oil but our skin’s oil-to-water relationship. This balance is what will really lead to beautiful skin. However, most do not understand this and I have seen lots of clients cause major imbalance because of their misconceptions. Many people with oil on their skin’s surfaces are actually dry-skinned with a self-induced oil over-production. I know, because I was once one of these people. The opposite can also happen – some attempt to treat dryness by slathering on oil-rich products when they really suffer from dehydration: a lack of water.
In the most basic terms, healthy skin is a healthy balance of oil and water, allowing the skin tissue to do its job: be a barrier, absorber, eliminator and regenerator. When we know if it is oil or water (or both) we lack, it’s easy to make decisions to correct this imbalance. Below is a quick guide to diagnosing your skin and tips to help treat its condition.
Just to clarify, we are going to be talking about natural vegetable oils and waters. Chemical-based systems will only further imbalance the skin because of their stripping and congesting properties.
Oily-dehydrated skin types feel tight, yet greasy, and sometimes it even flakes when there’s oil on its surface. It is prone to pore-congestion because its oils harden due to the underlying dryness. A common misconception is that oily skins should never be moisturized; in fact, they need hydration to prevent them from producing more oil to compensate for their lack of water.
During a facial, extractions are difficult if oil has hardened to the pores’ walls. In this case, the client needs to follow a hydrating regime for at least two weeks before returning for a successful pore-cleansing. Using a milk cleanser, an alcohol-free toner, a serum for extra water, and a medium-weight moisturizer twice daily will help restore the skin to balance and slow down dehydration.
Oily-hydrated skin is the truly oily skin type (Kapha) but it still needs protection to maintain its beauty. Because it has a perfect balance of oil and water, any comedones (blackheads, whiteheads) can easily be extracted and this skin ages well. To keep this balance, oily-hydrated skin types should use a detoxifying mask once or twice a week to draw out impurities. For a daily routine, a very light moisturizer is ideal. Serums can be sufficient to maintain moisture during the warm, humid months.
The dry-dehydrated skin type is the Vata skin type. Hydration is being lost too fast through evaporation and/or aging (loss of collagen). Both oil and water is needed. Comedones, if any, are tiny and difficult to extract. To keep the skin glowing and healthy, an anti-aging serum is recommended, even for younger skin. Because this skin type is so dry, we must nourish, nourish, nourish, so a rich cream is a must.
Dry-hydrated skin, which is genetically oil-dry, usually occurs in younger people. It has small pores and looks thin but is actually healthy and plump with water. Because its surface is dry, it needs oil. Simply use a natural face oil to lubricate the skin’s surface and serve as a protective barrier.
Combination-dehydrated skin is oily in the T-zone, but dry in other areas of the face where water is needed. A lavender mist is recommended as a toner to help maintain the oil-production balance every day, followed by a serum and a medium weight cream.
Combination-hydrated skin types are generally healthy, perhaps with excess oil in the T-zone. As above, the flexibility of a serum and a cream is great. Also, regular facials are recommended to clear the pores in the T-zone without over-peeling or drying the skin.
Perfectly normal skin simply needs gentle maintenance to prevent imbalances. Using a natural skincare line is important to prevent inducing imbalances.
Kristen Ma is the co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., a group of Holistic Spas with its own line of Natural Skincare and Mineral Make-up. She is an Ayurvedic Practitioner who has studied in Canada, the United States and India. She is also a Certified Esthetician with eight years of practical experience, having worked in Canada as well as Australia. Most recently, Kristen has authored “Beauty: Pure + Simple” which was published by Mc Arthur and Company. Kristen has written on the subject of Holistic Beauty for Vitality Magazine, Blink and Jasmine. She is also a regular contributor to B Magazine, Tonic and Sweat Equity Magazine.