For as long as I can remember, I have had decidedly oily skin. That is, until about a year ago when my skin started displaying regular dry areas, sending me into the "combination skin" column. But can your skin type change, or are there just certain factors that can affect the way your skin feels and behaves? To find out, I emailed with June Jacobs, founder and CEO of June Jacobs Spa Collection, and Dr. Sarah Sawyer from Dermatology & Laser of Alabama.
According to both experts, your skin type, whether dry, normal, combination, or oily, is genetic— you're born with it. And while, as Jacobs explains, skin typically becomes drier as we age because our sebaceous glands produce less oil, there is a difference between skin type and skin condition or behavior. Although aging is really the only factor that seems to have an impact on skin type (although it is a very slow change over time), both experts reveal there are a number of internal and external factors that can affect your skin condition or behavior (i.e. how healthy, irritated, dehydrated, excessively oily, etc. your skin is or can become). So even if your skin type isn't actually changing, here are seven factors that could be causing your skin condition to fluctuate:
1. Climate/Seasonal Changes
According to Dr. Sawyer, skin will make adjustments according to climate and seasonal changes in order to keep other organs safe. However, different skin types can react in different ways to weather changes. For example, Dr. Sawyer explains that when exposed to drier climates, those with dry skin may find they need more or heavier moisturizers to stay hydrated. On the other hand, those with oily skin may find their skin actually balances out or even becomes oilier from sebaceous glands compensating for the dry conditions by producing more oil than usual.
Jacobs adds that the way we use heating or air conditioning indoors to respond to outdoor weather can also affect the skin. So it's important to try to avoid extreme heating or cooling in order to keep your skin better balanced.
2. Environmental Damage
Weather isn't the only external factor that affects skin health though. According to Jacobs, there are a number of environmental factors including allergens, pollutants, free radicals, and UV exposure that can harm your skin. In fact, she adds, 80-percent of premature aging is caused by sun exposure and accumulated UV damage.
3. Hormone Levels
There are a variety of reasons hormone levels could fluctuate, but when they do, it could cause changes in your skin. Some such times, explains Jacobs, are when menstruating, starting or discontinuing birth control pills, during pregnancy, and during pre-menopause or menopause. During these times, she says, women tend to become oilier and can develop acne, but it doesn't mean your skin type has changed to oily.
4. Topical Treatments
According to Jacobs, using certain topical treatments such as those that contain alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids, or vitamins could make skin more sensitive and cause a variety of changes in skin condition or behavior. Some of these changes include hyperpigmentation or discoloration, burning, irritation, allergic reactions, and flaking. To help mitigate these side effects, make sure to always wear a sunscreen when using these types of products, and consult your dermatologist about what types of treatments and ingredients are best for your skin.
"Diuretic medicines can create dry skin, as can anticholinergic medicines such as older antidepressants," says Dr. Sawyer. If you're worried your medication may be affecting your skin, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about possible ways to counteract or manage certain side effects.
Some internal factors that Jacobs notes could cause changes to skin condition are based in nutritional choices. Factors such as not drinking enough water, vitamin deficiency, consuming alcohol or caffeine, or having an imbalanced diet could affect the health and sensitivity of your skin.
Some other internal factors that Jacobs says could affect your skin condition are connected to your lifestyle. Things like your stress level, how much sleep you get every night, how much you exercise, and whether you smoke can also be determinants of your skin health. Dr. Sawyer adds that if those with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne modify factors including diet, sleep, and exercise, they may see lessened symptoms and overall improvements in skin health as well.
Because even though you don't have a say in your skin type, at least you have some control over your skin condition.