I've always known myself as two things for sure: Erica and oily-skinned. The rest was up for debate. From the time I hit puberty until recently, I was in a constant battle with shine. At one point in high school, a guy sat down next to me and said blankly, "You have really oily skin." It came out as smooth as a Barry White song.
Then about a year ago, my skin changed, seamlessly and overnight. It didn't just dry up a little: My skin went from one extreme to the other. Suddenly, I was constantly feeling dry. My instinctual first thought was to pile on the face creams just to alleviate that uncomfortable tightness. I went through a few different drugstore creams, but none of them made a real difference.
What's hard about going from one skin type to the next quickly is you don't know how to manage it: You spent your life dealing with another skin type, so the remedies for your new symptoms are unfamiliar. It can be caused by all sorts of things, from climate changes to hormonal fluctuations to a possible allergic reaction.
For me, I think the obvious cause was age: Now in my 30s, estrogen levels have changed. This is why women sometimes fight acne in their 30s, even when they never suffered from it earlier in life. Slower cell turnover means oil and dirt get trapped in your pores. Physical or chemical exfoliation often become a necessary step in your regular routine.
I ended up finally finding a topical product, Kate Somerville's Quench Serum, that made a huge difference. But I don't think looking at just topical solutions is always the best approach; the problem is, they run out (or in my case, they're expensive). For me, my diet had taken a nosedive in the months preceding the change. Improving my diet became a longer term and more common sense solution to just thinking in terms of cosmeceuticals. I also began taking Omega 3 and drinking more water, which I think ultimately made the biggest difference.
Keep in mind that your skin is a reflection of your general health and even your emotional health. If you're dealing with a sudden skin type change, look beyond obvious and quick solutions and try to get at the root of what might be causing the change. Ask around, from your friends to your doctor, for advice. Sometimes there ultimately isn't a solution, just remedies, but even those will make a difference with effective steps.
Skincare changes I made:
1. Went from oil-fighting makeup to hydrating formulas. Stopped using setting powders and switched to a setting spray.
2. Began a weekly chemical exfoliation routine using 10% alpha hydroxy acid. Dry skin is often trapped skin, so just layering more products on top of it will likely break it out. Exfoliating the dead skin cells makes a difference in how well moisturizers penetrate the skin.
3. Began using products with a humectant, and not just an emollient, quality. This means they pull moisture from the air and leave your skin feeling hydrated longer term.
4. Read up on dealing with dry skin. Even just small steps made a difference, like leaving a wet face towel on the door knob of your bedroom to add moisture to the air during the night. Avoid anything that seems gimmecky or extreme.