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The Geeky Girl Guide to Skincare Basics

The Geeky Girl Guide to Skincare Basics

By Allison Emm

Ever since the day you woke up with your first little blemish, you’ve been slowing figuring out that developing your own skincare routine is part of growing up. It’s not about vanity, it’s about being healthy. Trends come and go, but your skin is with you until the day you die, and the TLC you give it now will show later on. It’s your largest organ, so you better be nice to it.

Personally, I’m a big fan of natural/organic options because I have specific ingredients I prefer to avoid. While I’m not super strict about it, if all other things are equal, I opt for the tree-hugger alternative, mindful that not everything that slaps “natural” on the label actually is. That said, a basic knowledge of skin types got me through my blemish-prone teens long before I discovered the joys (and expenses) of my favorite earthy alternatives. Since this is a short SparkLife post, we’ll focus on the basics for now, trusting that you darling Sparklers understand that everyone is unique, and these are mere guidelines. And seriously, when it comes to skincare, this geeky girl could go on and on.

AND ON.

(But who knows? Maybe there’s room for another post on natural skincare alternatives?)

So! On to skin types.

You might have Oily Skin if:

-You’re prone to breakouts, regardless of how close you are to that oh so delightful girly time of the month.

-A few hours after washing with a gentle cleanser, press a tissue against your face. Those with oily skin will be able to see excess oil on the tissue. Most people tend to be oiliest around their “T-zone,” aka, nose and forehead.

-If you wear makeup throughout the day, it can start to break down after a mere 2-4 hours. There are lots of cosmetics available specifically formulated for oily skin that may hold up, but if your makeup generally seems like it’s melting off sooner than you’d like, you may have a skincare issue.

What to use:

Oily skin can lead to clogged pores, which then trap bacteria, and that’s what leads to breakouts. Try cleansers that contain chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid or natural antiseptics such as tea tree oil. It’s important to realize that not all oils are created equal. Just because something says “oil-free” on the label doesn’t mean it’s good for oily skin. Your body produces oils for a reason, and using harsh cleansers may strip your skin’s natural moisture, causing it to overproduce oils that lead to breakouts. The key is to find products that maintain a healthy balance.

Also, having oily skin doesn’t necessarily mean you should skip the moisturizer. Stick to lightweight and non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) formulas. Moisturizer will help protect your skin and provide a smooth canvas for makeup.

You might have Dry Skin if:

-You’re prone to dry or rough patches.

-A few hours after washing with a gentle cleanser, skin feels tight and uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel particularly soft to the touch without moisturizer.

-While makeup on oily skin tends to “melt” or turn shiny, makeup on dry skin does just the opposite. After a few hours of wear, it may settle into pores and cling to dry patches, resulting in a face that looks dull, powdery, or cakey.

What to use:

Try to avoid foamy cleansers, opting for creamy formulas and cleansing milks. Foaming cleansers contain sulfates and other harsh ingredients made to cut through grease like dish detergent—great for casserole dishes, terrible for skin. Thanks to the wonderful world of marketing, we’re used to thinking that soap suds equal clean. That’s just not true. Just because something doesn’t foam up like a cappuccino doesn’t mean it’s not doing its job. However, if you do find that gentle cleansers aren’t cutting through your makeup, try using an oil-based makeup remover before you cleanse.

As for moisturizer, look for rich creams specifically formulated for dryer skin. Some favorite ingredients are jojoba oil, argan oil, and vitamin E.

You might have Combination Skin if:

-You have a funky mix of the aforementioned conditions.

-You have an oily T-zone paired with dry spots elsewhere.

What to use:

There are plenty of skincare lines out there formulated for combination skin. However, you may find that your unique skin needs a unique amalgamation of products. For a cleanser, you will probably have to find a happy medium in the “normal skin” range. For moisturizers, you could try using one for dry skin and another for oily skin on different parts of your face. You can also use acne spot treatments for individual problem areas.

You might have Normal Skin if:

-Your skin is generally healthy.

-You get minor breakouts around the time you have your period.

-Your skin needs some extra moisture in the colder months, but nothing extreme.

What to use:

Use gentle cleansers, avoiding harsh sulfates as a general rule. Your skin is doing great, and you want to keep it that way as long as possible. Over-washing and over-moisturizing can upset the natural balance, so opt for mild cleansers and light moisturizers. Treat those occasional problem spots as they come.

Extra nuggets:

-YOU GUYS. Sunscreen. Use it. Not just on beach days. EVERY DAY.

-Do your own research. What works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Your skin will thank you for learning what ingredients work best for you specifically.

-Your skin is affected by more than just cleansers and lotions. Drinking water and eating plenty of good fats, proteins, and antioxidants can improve your skin dramatically. Exercise can even help too!

What skin type are you?

Tags: fashion, makeup, skin care, tips, geeky girl glam, allison emm

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About the Author
Allison Emm

Allison Emm is a writer, illustrator, and handmade soap enthusiast hailing from Boulder, CO. She is fond of bookish and ruggedly handsome mountain men, blue spruce trees, birds of prey, starships, and yarn. See more of her high jinks at www.AllisonEmm.com, and follow her on Twitter @Allison_Emm.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.