Can Your Skin Type Change? A Dermatologist Weighs In
The general assumption is that your skin type is definitive. Once you’ve determined that you have dry, oily, or combination skin—and built your skincare routine around it—you won’t have to worry about any changes. The reality: skin is susceptible to shifts due to a number of factors, including environmental and hormonal changes.
There is a difference between your skin going through temporary shifts vs. your skin type permanently changing. “Your skin type is genetically determined and that is not something that changes with the season,” says NYC-based dermatologist, Joshua Zeichner, MD. “The only exception is that oily skin can become dry skin with age.” Post-menopause, this change may occur as your sebaceous (oil-producing) glands become less active. (This happens because of natural hormonal shifts.)
“Your skin type is genetically determined and that is not something that changes with the season.”— Joshua Zeichner, MD
That said, your skin type can temporarily react to environmental changes, and show different characteristics than you’re used to during transitional periods. “It’s important to adjust your skincare routine to suit [these changes],” says Dr. Zeichner. Here, experts break down how to read sudden changes to your skin and what to do about them.
If Your Skin Is Becoming Drier
“Dry skin typically feels itchy and may develop flakes or redness,” says Dr. Zeichner. Skin often shows dryness heading into the fall and winter months, so take this time to treat it gently. Dr. Zeichner suggests looking for hydrating cleansers that won’t compromise your skin barrier, which helps prevent moisture loss. You can keep it nourished and strong with the Neutrogena Skin Balancing Milky Cleanser For Dry Skin.
It contains an emollient sunflower oil base with moisturizing avocado oil and skin-soothing allantoin. Also, the Milky Cleanser (and the rest of Neutrogena’s Skin Balancing line) contains two percent polyhydroxy acid (PHA) to gently exfoliate flakes while respecting your barrier. “PHAs have bigger molecular structures than alpha hydroxy acids, making them gentler on the skin,” says cosmetic chemist Ginger King.
Once you’ve cleansed, Dr. Zeichner emphasizes the importance of making sure your skin remains hydrated. Which means: apply moisturizer. Look for products rich in ceramides, which can help reinforce your skin barrier and seal in moisture. To make sure you’re always in an optimally hydrated environment, you can also try plugging in a humidifier, like this derm-recommended option from Canopy.
If Your Skin Is Becoming Oilier
Oily skin is characterized by a shiny look and a heavy, greasy feel. If you find that your skin is oilier than normal, it is a temporary shift—never the product of a skin type change. Dr. Zeichner says that oil production tends to go up “throughout the menstrual cycle, as hormone levels rise,” since as your hormones shift during your cycle, they temporarily stimulate your sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. “Switching your cleanser can help address extra oil production,” he says.
Cleanse twice daily with absorptive ingredients, like the ones in Neutrogena Skin Balancing Clay Facial Cleanser For Oily Skin. Kaolin and bentonite clays help keep your face looking and feeling matte while drawing out impurities.
It may be your first instinct to keep your skin as dry as possible when it’s producing more oil, but you still need to avoid stripping it of moisture, which can cause inflammation down the line. Dr. Zeichner recommends using lighter, oil-free serums and moisturizers.
If You’re Starting to See a Combination of Dry and Oily Skin
Maybe you have oily skin but you’ve been noticing dry patches on your cheeks, or you have dry skin but your T-zone is suddenly slick. Shifts in seasons can cause these changes—but don’t worry. They’re temporary. If you experience increased dryness or oiliness concentrated in certain parts of your face, begin treating it like combination skin until it shifts back to your usual skin type.
“Combination skin means that you’re oily in the T-zone (forehead and nose), but dry on your cheeks,” says Dr. Zeichner. To treat combination skin effectively, you need a routine that’s flexible enough to work for all areas of your face. Neutrogena Skin Balancing Gel Cleanser For Combination Skin is an ideal option for keeping both oily and dry zones in check. King says that the “foaming yet sulfate-free base helps reduce a greasy complexion.”
Focus on lightweight textures throughout the rest of your routine, opting for serums and moisturizers that hydrate dry patches without causing additional T-zone greasiness. “Try humectant-rich moisturizers that contain hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid,” says Zeichner. “Emollient moisturizers with heavy oils will be too much for combination skin.”
All skin types can benefit from using micellar wipes as a first cleansing step, as they use tiny molecules (called micelles) to gently sweep dirt and debris from skin. “[Micellar water] is gentler due to less surfactant action,” says King. Surfactants are the cleansing agents that help break up oil and grime on your skin, but some forms can cause irritation or dryness. Our pick: the Neutrogena Skin Balancing Micellar Cleansing Cloths, which King says contains dimethicone, a polymer that is often used for gentle cleansing.
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