Dry Skin Type vs. Dry Skin Condition: What Is The Difference?

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Dry skin can be understood as both a 'skin type' and a 'skin condition.'

Your skin type is what you are born with and largely determined by your genetics.

However, skin type can also change with age, stage of life (i.e. pregnancy), and health status. For instance, someone with oily skin type may develop dry skin type as they get older, or undergo treatment for cancer. Or someone with dry skin type may develop sensitive skin type during pregnancy.

'Skin type' includes:

  1. normal skin
  2. dry skin
  3. oily skin
  4. combination skin
  5. sensitive skin 
Normal Skin
 
‘Normal’ is used to refer to well-balanced skin. It is neither too oily nor too dry. Normal skin tends to have balanced pH levels, adequate moisture and sebum production. Normal skin is smooth and radiant in appearance and blemish-free. As a person with normal skin ages, their skin can become dryer, due to diminished levels of sebum and water-holding ability.
 
Dry Skin
 
‘Dry’ is used to describe a skin type that produces less sebum than normal skin. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands. It coats the skin, seals in moisture, and protects your skin from getting too dry. As a result of less sebum, dry skin is characterized by a dull appearance and rough texture.
 
Read more:  What is Dry Skin?
 
Oily Skin
 
‘Oily’ is used to describe a skin type that produces more sebum than normal skin. As a result, oily skin has a shiny appearance and may have a greasy texture. This skin type is susceptible to clogged pores, blackheads and acne.
 
Combination Skin
 
‘Combination’ skin can be a mix of dry, oily and sensitive skin.
 
Sensitive Skin
 
Sensitive skin is easily irritated and is more reactive than normal skin.
 
Skin Types and Helena Rubinstein
 
'Skin types' terminology is thought to originate in the early 1900’s by cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein as a marketing strategy to sell her products.
 
Rubinstein classified skin as normal, oily and dry, with each type determined by the relative production of secretions from the skin glands.
 
"The normal velvety gloss of the skin possesses aesthetic significance. It is produced by the evenly measured excretion of the moisture and fat-secreting glands. Abnormal diminution or increase of the secretions make the skin either dry and dull or unduly moist and greasy, whereby in either case the beauty of its lustre, its “enamel”, disappears." - Helena Rubinstein, 1915
 
Today, the cosmetic industry classifies skin types as normal, dry, oily, and combination (Youn 2016), and most products sold on the market today follow this classification.
 
Skin Condition

Your 'skin condition' is different from your skin type. Your skin condition is what your skin is experiencing depending on the various internal and external factors you are exposed to.

Skin conditions include:
  • dehydrated skin - lack of moisture (water)
  • dry skin - lack of sebum (fat)
  • aging skin
  • sun damaged skin
  • acne

Skin conditions can happen to anyone - for instance, someone with dry skin type can develop dehydrated skin, acne or sun damaged skin. Someone with an oily skin type may experience dry skin condition from time to time when they are exposed to harsh climates that are cold, dry and windy, or they use too many harsh cleansers, stripping away too many fats from the skin layer. Another example, is someone with a dry skin type may have good skincare and lifestyle habits, and as a result have no symptoms of dry skin condition.

Skin conditions can be temporary or lifelong.

Skin condition can vary greatly depending on the various internal and external factors:

Internal Influences:

  • genetic predisposition
  • hormonal changes
  • menopause, pregnancy and menstrual cycles can cause the skin to fluctuate from oily to breakouts, and dryness.
  • skin disorders (rosacea, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis)
  • diabetes
  • medications
  • diet and supplements
  • hydration level
  • activity level/exercise

External Influences:

  • climate/weather (cold, warm, moist, dry, wind)
  • sun exposure
  • pollution
  • skincare products (using irritating/drying products can create skin issues).
  • skin care routine (over-cleansing, not removing makeup, etc may create skin issues).
Summary

Dry skin can be understood as both a “skin type” and a “skin condition.”

Skin type is what you are born with and predisposed to genetically, whereas skin condition is what happens to your skin, due to internal and external factors.
If you have dry skin type, you can also experience dry skin condition.
 
References

Bennett, James. 2021. Helena Rubinstein (1915-1930). Cosmetics and Skin (blog). Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.cosmeticsandskin.com/companies/helena-rubinstein-1915.php.

Youn, Sang Woong. 2016. "Cosmetic Facial Skin Type." In Measuring the Skin, edited by Philippe Humbert, Howard Maibach, Ferial Fanian, and Pierre Agache, 1–6. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Dry Skin Skin Science Skin Type Skincare

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