How to care for your skin type

Get healthy, glowing skin by using the right products and remedies for your skin type

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Tips for every skin type

Who doesn’t want healthy, even and glowing skin like a model? It’s the holy grail of beauty. We know lifestyle habits and genetics contribute significantly, but cleansing can play an important role, too. For most people, the right cleansing and exfoliating routine will encourage cell turnover, revealing fresh skin underneath. “Taking it off” at the end of the day can also be relaxing, especially if it involves a little massage.


While winter weather can strip protective oils, drying out the skin and dulling the complexion, a whole summer’s worth of heat can bring its own challenges for many. Vigilant use of sunscreen combined with humidity and sweating may cause you to want to wash frequently-but “you shouldn’t over-cleanse,” says Winnipeg dermatologist Dr. Victoria Taraska. “Morning, night and after exercise should be enough. Use sunscreens especially formulated for the face; they’re lighter. And if you have oily skin, you might want to use blotting papers.”

As with moisturizing regimens, cleansing routines can require a little seasonal adjustment. In warm months, you might find you need products that are less hydrating and lighter than the ones you will use come winter.


If you’re a “flusher and blusher” (i.e, you are prone to rosacea), stick to simple cleansing products for sensitive skin.

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Exfoliation: Less is more

We shed our skin cells over time-at a dizzying rate of one million dead skin cells every 40 minutes. Through exfoliation, we can hasten that process to remove debris and unclog pores. Mechanical exfoliants (whether scrubs or the sonic-technology brush devices) and chemical exfoliants (like alpha-hydroxy acids) remove a layer of skin cells and trigger cell renewal, while minimizing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation spots.

It’s tempting to over-exfoliate. But removing too much of the protective outer layer (or stratum corneum) potentially “injures the skin, causing skin breakdown, and promoting infection and scarring,” says Dr. Jaggi Rao, a clinical professor of medicine and dermatology at the University of Alberta. Taraska recommends using a gentle scrub no more than twice a week. And for alpha-hydroxy acids, be mindful that “if your skin is a bit drier, definitely use a milder concentration, then work your way up if your skin can tolerate it.”

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Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin

Definition: Easily irritated, often red

Description: Whether you suffer from the extreme facial flushing and scattering of pimples that characterize rosacea, or respond to new products with irritation and mild sensitivity (see “The Sensitive Type,” page 48), you need to cleanse with a light hand. 

Try a cleanser containing lactic acid (a gentle yet effective alpha-hydroxy acid) to remove surface debris. Slough off complexion-dulling dead skin cells with a gentle and not-too-coarse scrub. Use only your fingertips and pat skin dry with a soft cotton towel. Maintain moisture levels with twice-weekly hydrating masks. 

Product Picks: Caudalie Gentle Buffing Cream ($35, 60 mL); No7 Beautiful Skin Radiance Exfoliator ($17, 75 mL); Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Lactic Acid Cleanser and Mask ($45, 240 mL); Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Treatment Mask ($30, 110 g)

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Oily skin

Oily skin

Definition: Breakout-prone, enlarged pores

Description: Oily complexions often feel more balanced in the winter, when skin is a little dehydrated. But in warm-weather months, it’s oilier and more prone to breakouts.

Solution: Look for gel-based or bar cleansers and scrubs that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to dissolve pore-clogging oils. A clay mask can further draw impurities and oil from pores in affected areas.

Natural remedy:
Lemon juice controls oiliness and tightens pores. In a bowl, mix 2 Tbsp (30 mL) plain low-fat yogurt, 1 tsp (5 mL) warmed honey, the juice of half a lemon and 2 drops of lemon essential oil. As with a cleanser, massage mixture into face and throat, avoiding eye area. Rinse.

Product picks: Garnier Pure Control Gel Cleanser ($11, 235 mL); Pro­activ Medicated Cleansing Bar ($22, 150 g); Skin­Ceuticals Clarifying Clay Masque ($50, 67 g); Vichy Normaderm Tri-Activ Mask ($20, 125 mL)

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dry skin

Dry skin

Definition: Tight after cleansing, with dry patches

Description: In warm weather, when there is humidity in the air, “skin becomes more hydrated, with the ability to retain more moisture instead of losing it to the environment,” says Rao. But as we age, there is a depletion of the lipids (fats) in the outer layer of our skin that lock in moisture, so it can’t hold on to the moisture.

Solution: Choose an oil-based cleanser to gently remove debris without stripping your skin of much-needed lipids. Alternate a gentle scrub with a deeply hydrating mask as needed (no more than twice a week) to help boost the skin’s moisture levels.

Product picks: Shu Uemura Ultim8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil ($48, 150 mL); Olay Skin Smoothing Cream Scrub ($13, 177 mL); G.M. Collin Hydramucine Cream Mask ($40, 50 mL)

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Combination skin

Combination skin

Definition: Dry cheeks, oily T-zone (nose, chin, forehead)

Description: The dry skin on your cheeks (which can increase as the weather transitions into fall) says you’re an adult, but your nose and chin still pump out oil like a teenager, resulting in blackheads and breakouts.

Natural remedy:
Make a paste using oatmeal and a little warm water to gently exfoliate dry or irritated skin.

Treat each area separ­ately, says Taraska, who recommends “something with a bit of salicylic acid for the T-zone area, versus on the drier parts, where you’ll want to use something gentler,” like a soothing cleanser formulated for dry skin. Use a hydrating mask to combat dryness on the cheeks, as well as “an oil-absorbing facial mask on the T-zone a couple of times a month,” suggests Taraska.

Product picks: Live Clean Fresh Face Deep Cleansing Clay Masque ($20, 120 g); Avon Clear Emergency Intensive Cream Cleanser ($8, 75 mL); Clarins HydraQuench Cream-Mask ($39, 75 mL); Weleda One-Step Cleanser and Toner ($24, 100 mL)

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Uneven skin tone

Uneven skin tone

Definition: Dark spots or patches

Description: Anyone who is prone to melasma (hyperpigmentation due to sun, acne, pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives) may notice that their skin has darkened if they have been skipping their sunscreen. (To avoid this, wear sunscreen year-round, not just in the summer. In fact, when winter comes, remember that sun reflects off snow, so you may in fact be exposed to more UV light than in summer, says Rao.)

Natural remedy: Strawberries boast skin-brightening alpha-hydroxy acids. Mash 4 strawberries with a little honey and cornstarch. Smooth onto damp skin; rinse after 10 minutes.

Solution: Try products that slow the production of pigment and remove melanin within dark spots. Instead of a scrub, exfoliate with a glycolic acid toner to speed cell turnover and brighten skin.

Product picks:
Avalon Organics Vitamin C Renewal Refreshing Cleansing Gel ($12, 250 mL); NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 1 ($27, 100 mL); Dermalogica ChromaWhite TRx Tri-Active Cleanse ($50, 150 mL); Shiseido White Lucent Power Brightening Mask ($74, six sheets)

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