Buying toiletries and cosmetics today can be a bewildering experience. The bug of super-specialization has bitten even the world of beauty. Everything from moisturizer to soap to face wash to sunscreen to cleansers and toners is classified according to the type of skin you have. When you buy beauty products, you have to know whether you are a dry, normal, oily or combination skin, just like you have to know whether you are a small, medium or large when you buy clothes.
In the looking glass
Normal mirrors and soft lighting can be quite deceptive. The first step in pinning down your skin type is to get hold of a magnifying mirror to see what’s really happening with your skin. Now brace yourself, because in most cases, this is not a pretty sight. A magnifying mirror highlights every blackhead, whitehead, pimple, crater and wrinkle. But if it’s any consolation, most people’s skins don’t pass the magnifying mirror test with flying colours.
The next thing to do is to check on the glandular activity of your skin. As complicated as that sounds, it’s actually a simple procedure that just requires a paper tissue. Press the paper tissue to your nose and forehead for a few seconds. Do not rub it over the surface of your skin. Then remove the tissue and examine it.
If your glands are working overtime, the tissue will have greasy marks on it. If the tissue is spotless, don’t get too excited. It’s not a good sign. It means that your skin lacks lubrication. If the tissue is hardly soiled, you are one of the lucky ones with perfect skin.
The pH factor
This may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but the pH factor is actually a measure of the acidity of your skin. pH is a measure of hydrogen particles, which, in excess, cause ‘alkalinity’ and if deficient cause ‘acidity’. If the pH factor has a value of 7, it is neutral and represents perfect balance. When the figure is above 7, it is alkaline and when it is below 7, it is acidic.
To determine the acidity or alkalinity of your skin, you have to apply litmus paper to the surface of your skin. First clean your face thoroughly. Then wait for an hour before you apply the litmus paper so that the test result is not affected by the remnants of soap or cosmetics. Keep the paper against your skin for one minute and then remove it.
If the paper remains blue, your skin lacks acidity and will be prone to infections. If the paper is a rosy-lilac, your skin is sufficiently acidic. But if the litmus turns a pinky-red, your skin is too acidic as a result of which is delicate, sensitive and likely to show the effects of age prematurely.
Skin can be broadly classified into 5 categories:
Normal skin: It’s ironic, but normal skin is a rarity. It’s the kind of skin you have as a baby and which rarely survives the ravages of puberty and pollution into adulthood. This type of skin leaves only faint traces on the tissue and turns litmus paper pink. When you squeeze it, the skin is smooth and you don’t see any pores.
Dry skin: This type of skin leaves no traces on the tissue paper and turns the litmus paper red. It is a delicate kind of skin that wrinkles and burns easily under the rays of the sun.
Extra dry skin: The skin is drab and dull and has a flabby texture. It wrinkles prematurely and its acidity varies from day to day.
Oily skin: A shiny nose is typical of oily skin. It is not prone to developing wrinkles and has enlarged pores. It leaves very visible traces on the tissue paper and usually lacks acidity.
Clogged skin: The skin is rough, thick, flecked with blackheads and whiteheads. It tends to be high on alkalinity and leaves no traces on the tissue paper.
You will notice that different areas of your skin exhibit different characteristics. For instance, your cheeks may be really dry, but your nose is always shiny and your forehead is a field of blackheads. In that case, you will have to care for each area of your skin as is required.