Those who know me, know that I have long argued that “skin type” is a myth. The practice of selecting skin care products based on your “skin type” is the result of aggressive marketing by the beauty industry, used to sell expensive, designer products. Unfortunately, we are spoon-fed this idea from cradle to grave through very sophisticated marketing campaigns. These campaigns tell us that if we can just find that perfect product for our skin type, we will achieve skin nirvana. Sadly, skin nirvana is never achieved, and most consumers end up bouncing from product to product, seeking out this mythological perfect product for their skin type, never truly happy with their results.
Despite never finding that perfect product, this “skin type” belief is ingrained in our society… so when a health professional says, “Hey, skin type is not real,” a lot of people have a hard time accepting it. And, honestly, I understand why. It is a difficult case to make, as it flies in the face of everything we have been told about skin care since birth. For example, just the other day I received an email addressing this.
Maria in Los Alamos, New Mexico wrote:
“I have dry, sensitive skin and would like to get some guidance on which of your skin care products would work for me, but it is difficult to accept that what works for oily, acne prone skin works equally well on dry skin.”
Maria expresses this common sentiment perfectly.... how can a single product be right for completely opposite skin types?!
Well, let me start by saying that if there is a skin type, that skin type is sensitive. EVERYONE has sensitive skin. You’ve heard it before; you skin is your body's single largest organ. But, in practice, if we truly understood and believed this, we would never place harsh chemicals on our skin, or rub random plants on it… even if those plants were declared organic or the product came in a pretty bottle. You wouldn’t do that with your pancreas, heart or liver, would you? No, of course not.
I doesn’t matter if you think you have oily, dry or acne-prone skin, it is - underneath it all - sensitive skin. So, it is important to use products that are appropriate for sensitive skin (link). This means selecting products that are hypoallergenic, gentle and free of harsh chemicals or botanicals. Even “natural” ingredients can cause irritation, allergic reactions and inflammation, which then results in symptoms like dry, itchy skin, hives, acne prone skin, blemishes, rosacea, and even wrinkles. Unfortunately, even high-dollar, natural or organic products include irritating ingredients that trigger these unpleasant secondary symptoms
So, to answer Maria's question... yes, there are products that are appropriate for very dry skin, as well as acne prone skin. The key is looking for legitimate sensitive skin care products and truly understanding what it means to be right for sensitive skin. The label simply saying "sensitive Skin" isn't enough, you need to find products that are:
- Salicylate free
- Sulfate free
- Paraben free
- Include emollients that provides non-comedogenic moisture
If you find a skin cleanser that is all of these things, it is perfect for both acne-prone skin and dry skin. The same can be said of a day or night moisturizer and sunscreen.
Many individuals with blemishes tend to use incredibly harsh treatments, which actually leads to further irritation and subsequent acne. There are drugs (natural or synthetic) that can mask acne symptoms temporarily, but these often cause serious side effects after prolonged use. Antibiotics, for example, are often prescribed, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns against taking antibiotics for long periods of time, since it can lead to aggressive infection including staph.
A better solution for long-term, healthy skin is to use gentle, hypoallergenic products, which also incorporate non-comedogenic moisture so that you do not starve the skin of necessary moisture. If you find your skin requires a bit more moisture because of your lifestyle, environment or personal preference, pure Emu oil is a hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic deep moisturizer with proven anti-aging and anti-inflammation qualities.
Have a skin care or beauty question? Shoot an email to Dr. Flora Stay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Dr. Flora Stay is a wellness expert, author, speaker, practicing dentist and professor at the University of Southern California. Dr.Stay is also the founder of Cleure, a personal care product company that specializes in both gluten free skin care for sensitive skin as well as flouride and SLS Free toothpaste line.