Why I Believe There Are Only 3 Skin Types

Unless you are one of the lucky few, you are likely to not be confident about your skin type. Although, on second thought, you are probably very unlucky if you are sure of the type of skin you live in, since you either have very oily: chronical enlarged pores, puberty AND adult acne (i.e. any age acne), scarring, etc., or very dry skin (usual scaling/flaking, dullness, premature lines, amongst others).

Either way, I will try to put an end to this riddle by helping you identify those cues that can reveal your skin type. But we also want to help clarifying any confusion brought by the many media outlets that may be flooding  us throughout the day.

Be Prepared to be Surprised

Before we get started, I’m going to state my position on skin types. I believe there are only three skin types: oily, dry, and balanced. Surprised not to see “combination” listed as a skin type? Well, if we are classifying skin type by area, it is easier to understand why it is not mentioned here.

So what is called “combination skin” is the product of more pronounced differences in the production of oil depending by area.

It’s All About Oil Production

The first thing to know about skin types is that it is defined by our own ability to produce oil. When talking oil production by the skin, it is important to point at two crucial facts:

  1. Different parts of your skin have different concentrations of sebaceous glands, and therefore different overall ability to produce oil. Why this happens and why the higher and lower concentrations are localized where they are not quite known (at least not that I am aware of). The main reason for oil production is skin protection, which can explain why the face has more glands. However, why not the hands? One must also consider that we normally protect with clothing our backs and cleavage, which happen to be two areas of higher oil production. Is this a product of evolution (or in this case, lack thereof)?
  2. Oil production tends to decrease with age. Yes, we dry up. In some cases, some areas dry up quicker than others.

Therefore, considering those very important points, it is my belief that skin type should be more localized and specific than to the whole face, but more the different areas of it.

On the face, one expects to have at least four areas: forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. In other words the  infamous T-zone? Many of the people I have spoken with have shared that their chin is never as oily as the nose or the forehead. Those that had an acne phase, as most of us do, may recall that the chin was either the first one in clearing up or it was never that big an issue to begin with.

Just like us, skin evolves and so does the type of skin in each area. For instances, some people may have “homogenized” skin types, with all the areas being of one type. This is more common as we age.

Skin Types vs. Skin Conditions

This is where I think most of the confusion about skin types starts – skin types vs. skin conditions. Many other adjectives used to describe skin such as dehydrated, sensitive, acne prone, scaly…all of these terms refer to a skin condition, not a type. And even though, many of these conditions are usually associated to a skin type, in occasions they can be more difficult to connect. Such is the case of dehydrated oily skin. Although it happens, it is harder not only to predict, but also to spot.

Sensitive is a condition as it is not directly determined by the amount of oil produced by your skin, but it can be a consequence of it. dry skin is harder to protect, and therefore more prone to be adversely affected by external elements, such as wind or sun exposure, dry heat or cold, pollution (in all its damaging manifestations like particulate, oxygen depleting gases, free radicals, etc); or internal ones, such as side products of metabolisms (including also free radicals), stress related inflammation, dehydration, poor nutrition, amongst others.

I hope this helps clear things up. Feel free to send me your questions and comments. I’d love to hear from you.


  • Dr. Marta

    Supported by a BSc. in Chemistry, MS in Polymer Science and doctorate in Polymer Chemistry, Dr. Marta began a fifteen-year journey into the health and beauty industry ultimately leading to the founding of “dr. mp”, a company dedicated to among other things, formulating skincare products for private labels. She is the author of many informative blog articles.