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What is normal skin anyway?

Portrait of a beautiful young woman.
Portrait of a beautiful young woman.
We chat to the experts and figure it out.

In a beauty world that has become dominated by bespoke products and formulations, understanding your skin type and caring for sensitised skin isn’t always straightforward.

As a beauty editor one of the most frequent questions I’m asked when someone is prescribing a new skincare routine for me is what is my skin type. Today my answer would be combination: my forehead is a little dehydrated while the rest of my skin feels a little on the oily side. But rewind a couple of weeks, however, and I would have said my skin was dry and sensitised  – I’d just spent a few days in Dunedin where the air humidity is much lower. The summer months are another story entirely; my skin was soft, radiant and evenly hydrated – perhaps the closest to the elusive “normal” skin type as I’ll get.

It turns out I’m not the only one who hasn’t been blessed with consistently “normal” skin. “Normal is the smallest group of all skin type,” Suzanne Santos, general manager retail and customer service of Aesop, assures me. “And it definitely comes with this ambiguity – what is normal really?” Trilogy’s in-house beauty expert, Corinne Morley tends to agree that while there is such a thing as normal skin, having “normal” skin around the clock, 365 years a day is mostly a fallacy. “The terminology ‘normal skin’ relates to skin that appears to be flawless and perfectly balanced; it’s often found in skin pre-adolescence, before hormone changes impact,” she explains. “For most people who consider they have ‘normal’ skin, it usually means their skin is ‘mostly normal’ in other words, skin that might have some barely noticeable concerns such as a little bit of dryness, oiliness or occasional breakouts.”

Beyond Skin Types

If you are one of the fortunate few blessed with mostly normal skin, a good skincare routine coupled with sensible lifestyle choices are essential to maintaining skin health. While intrinsic factors such as genetics are largely out of our control, extrinsic factors – diet, lifestyle and the environment we live in – can quickly transform a healthy, radiant visage into a dry, sensitised, unhappy complexion. Morley says as much as 70 per cent of skin ageing can be attributed to overexposure to UV light and environmental pollution. “Lifestyle also plays a big part – poor diet, lack of sleep, stress and smoking etc will impact the flow of oxygen to the skin slowing the supply of nutrients and removal of waste, which can show as a dull, lacklustre appearance,” she explains.

Santos says changing seasons – lower humidity, more exposure to wind and heating – can have a big impact even on healthy skin. “We don’t sell based on skin type, but our ranges suit different skin types, but we think of them for different skin types at different times of the year.” Santos says skincare can tend to be reactive –  trying to fix dehydrated, flaky skin once it’s already reared its head – and Aesop favours a responsive approach. “For example we’re not always prone to sensitivity. This product, this is for you now. In two months the season is going to change and we’ll look at what will work for you skin then,” she says.



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