Your version of normal skin is individual to you. Everything your skin is experiencing may be part of a bigger picture, and it might be more complex than checking a box.
Normal skin is most accurately characterized by what it’s not—not too oily, not too dry and just balanced enough. On the other hand, if you have a zit or congestion, doctors will refer to it as a problem. Products will promise to reverse it. People will tell you they know how to get rid of it. They’re talking about acne, wrinkles, texture, pores, scars, pigmentation and discoloration. All of these are classified as symptoms of skin that isn’t normal. That brings to question what normal even is. In a world where acne, texture and pigmentation is so pervasive, considering oily or acne-prone skin to be abnormal may be a part of the problem in the first place. We discuss where the term came from, what it means and whether it really exists.
Why are skin type segregations so popular?
Normal skin is a descriptor that I’ve seen everywhere. On billboards, on the backs of beauty products, in magazine articles, on TV advertisements. But I don’t know a single person that actually identifies this way. Normal isn’t descriptive—like oily, dry, sensitive or combination is—so the subjective word doesn’t actually mean anything. Plus, is getting zits or having dry patches not normal?
People might like categorization—it can sometimes be easier to pigeonhole yourself into a type based on a few tick-markable characteristics. In reality, nobody is just one skin type. Most people may have pigmentation on one part of their face, dry patches on another, and an oil slick when the temperatures increase. Plus, most people’s skin will change with the seasons, and with different periods in their life. Stress can render otherwise dry skin into a greasy and congested visage. Whereas ultra-low temperatures can leave oily skin into a sensitive, redness-prone type overnight. It’s not just major changes—your skin might be a hormonal zit-magnet on your period, but it may be dehydrated through the rest of the month. So sweeping on a strong exfoliating toner on the dry patches can only sensitize it further, while massaging in coconut oil on a greasy T-zone could only make the congestion worse.
How should you treat your skin now?
Things have been switched-up, though. Over the last decade, our approach to skincare has changed. Traditional beauty standards have been replaced by inclusivity and diversity. A wide array of tones and types are demanding a seat at the table. Yet, in a world of selfies, Facetune and Zoom, it can be all too easy to strive for a complexion that looks “normal”—glowing and lit-from-within, with nary a blemish nor flaw in sight.
We spoke to leading dermatologists and experts and they dialed in on the same concept. Referring to a normal skin type may be an old-fashioned way of looking at things. Not assigning morality to skin—abnormal or normal—can help reduce the shame that can come with blemishes, pigmentation or redness. Instead, it might be best to consider your base skin type (the kind that actually have descriptions!) and then treat the conditions you might be facing. For example, if your skin type is traditionally dry, but you have a random zit, keeping both in mind can help you find the right regimen that’ll work for you.
Skin is a living organ that interfaces with the outside environment to protect—its primary role is to be a physical barrier against foreign organisms. A glow is just a bonus. Ask a dermatologist, and they’ll tell you to stop putting yourself in a skin type box, and listen to your skin instead. This kind of intuitive beauty—where products are in a looser rotation rather than a sure-shot lineup—is a better idea, because you’re actually catering to what your skin needs in the moment—hydration, exfoliation or a little extra TLC. Oh, and that little spot you have on your chin? That’s 100% normal.
We think a simple and effective skincare routine is all you need to be on your way to its healthiest, most balanced version! Read more about how to build a basic skincare routine here
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