Celebrity makeup artist, Nathan Johnson (@nathanwalnut), is QC Makeup Academy’s Executive Makeup Artist and is based in New York City. Today, Nathan gives his advice on understanding skin types so you can find products that suit every client!

Many makeup artists neglect skincare. Yes, you’re often hired to just do someone’s makeup for a particular day, but it’s your job to make your clients look and feel radiant—and that starts with the skin! For a perfect look that lasts all day, the makeup you use should suit your client’s skin type. Knowledge of skincare also comes in handy when speaking with clients— you can bet your makeup clients will always be asking you for skincare tips and recommendations. So be prepared!

If you don’t really understand skin types and conditions, you can’t make any accurate recommendations. When you can recognize and work with each individual skin type, your clients will recognize that you’re not the average makeup artist. Today we’ll address skin types and conditions, and in a future article, well will discuss some killer products and brands that work well with each one!

Skin Types and How to Recognize Them

skincare products and moisturizer for professional makeup artists

Normal skin

Normal skin is often called “well-balanced”. There is generally an even balance of sebum (a natural lubricator produced by the body to keep the skin and hair smooth, supple, and shiny), all over your face. The skin is not too oily or too dry, and the pores are fine and evenly distributed. The skin has a soft, smooth texture, a fresh color, and no consistent blemishes or sensitivities.

Dry skin

Those with dry skin produce less sebum than those with normal skin. Dry skin isn’t just limited to your face—it can be present all over the body, including the hands, scalp, and legs. Those with this skin type tend to soak up moisturizers immediately. Dry skin can fall anywhere in the range of mild (which feels tights and itchy) to severe (which can be rough, flakey, and dull). Dry skin is a result of the skin’s inability to retain its natural moisture. This can happen from a variety of causes, including…

  • TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss. A person with an impaired epidermis barrier layer will lose moisture)
  • Lack of ceramides and fatty acids that keep the barrier layer of the skin healthy
  • Natural aging
  • Other internal and external factors (poor diet, overexposure to the sun, medical conditions, etc.)

The calling cards of dry skin? A lack of pores, fine lines and wrinkles, plus varying degrees of dullness, brittleness, tightness, and flakiness.

aging skin can be dry

Oily skin

Oily skin has more sebum than normal skin. You can recognize oily skin by the presence of enlarged and more noticeable pores. You’ll often see shiny areas over the skin and comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). Oily skin is usually a result of hormones and genetics. A proper routine can even out the oil production, but that will not change your skin type.

Combination Skin

Combination Dry

Those with this skin type experience dry skin in some areas and normal skin in others. This is a result of natural variations in sebum production across the face. Areas with less oil production tend to be across the cheeks, while the mask of the face (or the T-zone area) remains normal. Clients will likely have no visible pores on their cheeks or other areas of the face, which will cause it to feel dry and itchy. The normal areas of the face will often have fine pores and be well-balanced.

Combination Oily

On clients with this skin type, you will notice some areas that are normal and some areas that are oily. As with combination dry skin, this is the result of natural variances in oil production across the face. The oil glands in the T-zone area tend to produce more sebum, making that area oily. Meanwhile, the cheeks produce less oil, so that area is classified as normal. Clients with this skin type will notice enlarged pores in their T-zone and finer pores across their cheeks. The skin on the T-zone will feel slick or oily, whereas the skin on the cheeks will feel soft and well-balanced.

Acneic skin

acne prone skin

Mild acne is characterized by comedones appearing on the face and as well as the neck, shoulders, back, and chest. Severe acne is characterized by breakouts covering the face and body. In these cases, and those of cystic acne, scarring can be a common side effect without proper care. A few simple questions will help you determine if a client is acneic.

Firstly, ask if your client’s breakouts continued after puberty. Secondly, ask them if the breakouts were also on her chest, neck, and back. If the answer is yes, she’s likely acneic and her skin requires gentle care with non-comedogenic ingredients (specially formulated so as not to block pores).

Sensitive skin

True sensitive skin is part of your DNA. It often manifests with persistent redness, flushing, pustules and papules, and overall sensitivity. This skin type can be determined by a medical diagnosis.

How to tell if a person has sensitive skin:

  1. Does she have doctor-diagnosed rosacea or psoriasis? If so, she has sensitive skin.
  2. Does she have two of the following three doctor-diagnosed conditions: asthma, eczema, or hay fever? If so, she has sensitive skin.

If she doesn’t have a combination of these conditions, or some other auto-immune related medical condition that affects her skin, her skin is sensitized, not sensitive.

Skin Conditions

scrub on dry skin to exfoliate

Skin conditions are commonly confused with skin types. While there are a whole host of skin conditions, I would like to touch on the two most common and often most misunderstood: sensitized skin and dehydration.

Sensitized skin

Sensitized skin is often confused or lumped together with sensitive skin. This is an oversight as the two are very different. Sensitive skin is your skin type and is genetic. Sensitized skin, on the other hand, is a result of your habits, your environment, and other internal and external factors that are under your control.

There are thousands of reasons people may develop sensitized skin. But the most common include pollution, poor diet, alcohol consumption, improper or overuse of certain topical products, harsh cleansing, cigarette smoking, harsh weather conditions, chlorine, etc. In order to improve sensitized skin, the trigger has to be determined and eliminated. This can be as simple as…

Dehydrated skin

Just like sensitive/sensitized, dry skin is often lumped in with dehydrated skin. When someone’s skin feels dry, they naturally assume their skin type is dry or combination-dry. But very often, the skin just needs more water. Remember, dry skin is categorized by a lack of oil. Dehydration, on the other hand, is a lack of water.

body cream moisturizing dehydrated skin type

This can happen from a multitude of causes including weather, heaters, makeup, poor diet, and incorrect use of skincare products. Here is the sneaky bit: when the skin is dehydrated, it often produces more oil to compensate for the lack of water. This can result in more breakouts, flaky patches, and even irritation. It also results in people thinking their skin is dry and oily…so people often miscategorize their own skin as combination. Once your client identifies the underlying reason for their skin condition, she can then take steps to fix it! Over time, the skin will become “re-hydrated” and will stop the over-production of sebum, too.

The skin is our largest organ. It’s also the last to receive vitamins, nutrients, and water from the body. Even if someone drinks tons of water, their skin may not get as much as it needs. It is important to hydrate topically to ensure the hydration of their skin.

It is important to understand the differences between skin types (which are programmed by DNA) and skin conditions (which are the results of our lifestyle). Next up, we highlight some amazing brands and products that benefit each skin type and condition!

Did we miss something worth mentioning? Let us know!

Is your skin ready for winter? Follow up with this guide to a glowing complexion all year long!

Nathan Johnson

Author Nathan Johnson

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