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Categories > Skin and Scalp Care > Treating skin problems

Your Rx for healthy skin
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Destined to be one skin type forever?
Dry or sensitive skin
Normal skin
Oily skin
Combination skin


Tips for every skin type
Tips for every skin type

No matter how oily, dry or sensitive your skin, always clean gently. Your face isn’t a dirty frying pan that requires scouring with a scrub brush, hot water and strong detergent! Instead, use warm (not hot) water and your fingertips (not a wash cloth). Rinse well. Then use a towel to pat (not rub) your face dry. Wash your face no more than once or twice a day.

After patting skin dry, apply moisturizer to skin while it’s still damp. This ensures that the moisturizer doesn’t evaporate but is absorbed by the skin. Is it worth splurging on fancy moisturizers? No, say dermatologists. A drugstore or supermarket brand is fine.

American women spend billions of dollars in pursuit of beautiful skin. Unfortunately, when it comes to a radiant complexion, it’s hard to separate scientific fact from advertising fiction. So when deciding on a skin-care regimen, it may help to hear what dermatologists recommend. To find out, locate your skin type below.

Destined to be one skin type forever?

Not necessarily. So as you read about your recommended skin-care routine, remember that just like the rest of your body, your skin also changes over the years. That’s because it’s sensitive to factors such as age, stress, illness and air quality. What’s more, overzealous cleansing, arid climates, chlorine, summer sun, winter wind and indoor heat and air conditioning (which remove humidity) can also do a drying number on skin. Certain medications, such as diuretics, can also rob skin of needed moisture. So be aware of changes, and adjust your routine to give your skin the care it deserves.

Dry or sensitive skin

Telltale signs

  • Your skin stings or burns when you apply most skin-care products.
  • Your skin is easily irritated.
  • Your skin sometimes appears red and inflamed.
  • Your skin feels itchy, dry, rough and flaky.

How to treat it

Regular bath soaps clean well but are strongly alkaline and irritating for both dry and sensitive skin. Clear soaps containing glycerin and alcohol may also be too drying. So instead of soap, dermatologists recommend a soap-free, sensitive-skin bar. If your skin is very dry or sensitive, you may need to alternate a washable lotion with a sensitive-skin bar, using the lotion in the morning and the bar at night, for instance.

After cleansing dry skin, moisturize with a light, hypoallergenic, preservative-free, all-purpose, water-based moisturizer. For extremely dry skin, try moisturizing with petroleum jelly or an oil-based lotion with 20 percent urea.

After cleansing sensitive skin, apply a light, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free moisturizer. To check your tolerance of the product, dab the moisturizer behind your ears for the first few days.

Normal skin

Telltale signs

  • Your skin is usually smooth and supple.
  • Your complexion is generally clear.
  • Your skin appears neither dry nor oily.

How to treat it

You’re one of those lucky people whose face can take some abuse and still bounce back, looking fresher than ever. Almost any cleanser (from regular bath soap to sensitive-skin bars) will work for you.

If you need a moisturizer—some people with normal skin don’t!—choose a light, hypoallergenic, preservative-free, all-purpose, water-based moisturizer, and apply after washing.

Oily skin

Telltale signs

  • You have enlarged pores or blackheads.
  • Your skin appears shiny and feels greasy.

How to treat it

Regular bath soap, morning and night, is fine for cleansing—your skin actually benefits from the drying effect of strongly alkaline bath soaps. If necessary, use an astringent pad at midday.

Because your skin is naturally oily, you may not need a moisturizer. But if you do, choose one that’s noncomedogenic (won’t cause acne) and either oil-free or water-based.

Combination skin

Telltale signs

  • You have oily skin on your forehead, nose or chin.
  • You have dry skin on your cheeks and around your eyes.

How to treat it

Dermatologists recommend one of two cleansing routines for women with combination skin. You can wash with a gentle facial cleanser in the morning and use an alcohol-free astringent on oily areas later in the day. Or wash with a soap-free cleanser on dry areas and with regular bath soap on oily areas.

What about products that claim to work on oily and dry skin? Avoid them, say dermatologists. They usually don’t do either very well. Instead, treat dry patches as dry skin, then apply a water-based or oil-free noncomedogenic moisturizer to your entire face.