Skin type VS skin condition... What's the diff?

What is your skin type vs skin condition? Does it matter?

Often these two categories are used interchangeable, but they have very different meanings!

SKIN TYPE – Refers to the type of skin that you were born with, and will stay mostly the same throughout your life (well excluding oily skin, that can diminish oil production as we age). It’s genetically determined much like the colour of your eyes or hair!

SKIN CONDITION – Refers to the current state of your skin… and wow, there are so many internal and external things that can affect your skin condition!

Some things we can control...

  • Nutritional requirements being met
  • Enough water intake
  • Stress management
  • Topical skincare used etc

 Some other things are not within our control eg.

  • Temperature /seasonal changes
  • Work environment
  • Illness / disease

The most common skin conditions I see in the studio are… Dehydration, Acne, Hyperpigmentation, Dermatitis, Barrier impaired and Rosacea


I’m sure at one time or another you have taken a skin quiz online, or been told at a cosmetic counter your skin type…

Maybe you were told you are ‘oily’ in the past (especially if you had acne) or advised to use ‘oil free’ products because you had an oily t-zone (centre of the face)?

Or maybe you were told you were ‘combination’ because your skin felt dry but gets an afternoon shine?

When I was originally trained, the terms were ‘dry / combination / oily’…. and I never felt like it was right!

To me the term ‘combination’ implied that having an oilier t-zone and drier cheeks were a ‘type’ instead of the ‘norm’ that I was seeing in my clients most of the time.

Years later at another training I heard a new way to define skin type that I loved, and have used ever since… it is more of a sliding ‘scale’ relative to the amount of oil (lipids) your skin does, or does not produce.


LIPID DRY          BALANCED                  OILY

(Scale taken from Robyn McAlpine’s book, Skinside Out, 2019)

At one end of the scale is lipid dry skin that will produce very little to no oil

The other is the rare skin type that is truly oily that will produce a lot more oil more evenly all over the face, right up to their hairline and often onto their scalp and chest too!

Most of us sit somewhere in the middle in the balanced zone… maybe leaning more to the dry or more to the oily side. Most of us have more oil produced in the ‘t-zone’ than the rest of our face! It’s not because we have a combined dry AND oily skin, it’s simply a normal, balanced skin!

Now have a think about your own skin… you probably have an idea of your skin type but below are some ways that a skin therapist will access your skin type…

If you are lipid dry type:

  • You tend to have fine/tiny pores
  • Little to no oil production
  • Flaky or rough skin sometimes
  • Prone to fine lines and wrinkles
  • Skin feels tight and dry
  • You may suffer from dry/cracked lips
  • Have fine, delicate skin
  • Skin looks worse in low humidity
  • Can still look ‘shiny’ due to lack of oil! (impaired skin barrier resulting in water escaping to the surface)

 If your skin is ‘Balanced’:

  • Fine pores on sides of face, slightly larger visible pores in t-zone
  • Even flow of oil, more so through t-zone

 Oily type:

  • Larger, visible pores
  • Even distribution of active oil (sebaceous) glands
  • Shiny, oily skin right to the hairline
  • Oily scalp and hair
  • Oily upper chest or back



Your SKIN TYPE may make you more prone to some SKIN CONDITIONS, but rarely exempt from any.

Contrary to popular belief… a lipid-dry skin CAN (an often does) get acne, and an oily skin CAN also be dehydrated!

Knowing your genetic skin type will help guide you towards the right care for your skin, and less susceptible to marketing - if you are a dry skin type with acne,  you will think twice before reaching for the ‘oil free’ products just because you had a few breakouts. Or if you are truly oily, you know you can use a good foaming cleanser to feel fresh without much risk of stripping your skin, and a light hydrating moisturiser is a better choice for you.

….at the end of the day, most people are somewhere in the ‘balanced’ section, so your current skin CONDITION will be more important that your genetic inheritance.

Your skin condition can change all the time especially after sickness and seasonal changes. Seeing a Skin Therapist regularly can help you manage both your genetic skin type, and any skin conditions you fluctuate through.

Feel free to ask any questions at your next Skin Kind Studio appointment if you want to know your skin type and current skin condition

Kate x 



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