“Acne prone skin”, “dry to very dry skin”, “sensitive skin”; these are just some of the words used to describe different skin types, usually seen on skin care labels to market products or product lines to certain skin types. I’ve always been a little confused about my own skin type. Some days my skin feels more oily and some days my skin feels more dry, especially now that it’s winter with the air being dry and the heater going. I also have acne, so I have spent a lot of time and money looking for and buying skin care products that were meant to be used on acne prone skin. Unfortunately, some of these “for acne prone skin” products left me with overly dried skin and a compromised skin barrier. In fact, there are a lot of great products out there marketed for dry skin that have actually helped my acne. All this is to say that just because you have oily skin doesn’t necessarily mean you have to only use products meant for oily skin, and this goes for other skin types as well.
Skin type is a much more complex subject than I used to think it was. The discovery of this complexity led me to ask a lot of questions about how many skin types there actually are and how skin type marketing influences consumer beliefs and purchases. Hopefully this post helps you find your skin type and step out of the box a bit when it comes to bettering your skin and purchasing products.
What is Skin Type? In simple terms, skin type is a way of categorizing skin condition. Each person’s individual skin condition can depend on or change according to genetics, hormonal changes, medication, weather, stress, etc. I mention this a little later in this post as well. There are four most basic skin types that, until recently, I thought were the only way of categorizing skin condition. Skin type is also a marketing tool used by skin care companies, namely to make it easier to find and buy products according to these four basic skin types.
Common Skin Types
Oily: Oily skin types overproduce sebum (oily and waxy substances that are secreted through your sebaceous glands), tend to get shiny throughout the day, and are usually more prone to acne, blackheads, and enlarged pores than other skin types.
Combination: Combination skin types are dry or normal in some places and oily in others, usually oily through the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin).
Normal: Not too oily or dry, usually less prone to blemishes and skin problems than other skin types.
Dry: Dry skin types can become easily irritated and inflamed, can have a rough skin texture and can also be prone to flakiness and premature aging.
Read more about the most basic skin types here:
Fitzpatrick Skin Type: In dermatology, skin type is something entirely different from what we’re used to seeing on the front of skincare labels. If you go to your dermatologist appointment wanting to know what your skin type is, you might get asked questions like “What is your natural hair color?” or “Do you tan after being exposed to the sun?”. The Fitzpatrick Scale was created in 1975 by dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick as a way of knowing the effects and risks of UV exposure based on six categories of skin phototypes, ranging from fair skinned, lighter haired individuals who are more likely to burn after being in the sun and are at a greater risk for sun damage and certain types of skin cancers, to darker skin tones with darker hair who have more melanin in their skin and are less likely to burn after being in the sun.
Note: Even if you are type 6 (the least at risk for skin cancer) that doesn’t mean it’s not important to wear your sunscreen and be careful in the sun!
Here’s a quiz to find out which Fitzpatrick skin type you are: https://www.skincancer.org/blog/are-you-at-risk-for-skin-cancer/
Renee Rouleau Skin Types: A bit of a step up from the most common skin types is a 9 skin type system created by esthetician Renee Rouleau. Her skincare collection is also designed to cater to these varieties of skin types. Think, if you have acne but also have trouble with dryness and aging. Rather than just focusing on one of these problems, her products are designed to help address multiple concerns at once.
Here’s a quiz to find out your Renee Rouleau skin type:
Baumann Skin Types: A big step up from 9 skin types is dermatologist and researcher Leslie Baumann’s 16 skin type system. She created this system in 2004 to establish a more in depth ability to understand skin needs and “personalities” and give skin care professionals a better understanding of what each individual’s skin needs in terms of ingredients and treatments.
Read more about Baumann skin types here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumann_Skin_Types
Read more about the 16 skin types here:
Is skin type a myth?
Yes and no. I think that there are way more than the commonly referred to skin types, as mentioned in the Baumann skin types, and that our skin type varies greatly depending on hormones, health, environment, and even other products we are using and how they affect our skin. All-in-all, skin type is something that can be a really useful tool in figuring out what your skin needs day to day, and products that are marketed for certain skin types can be a helpful guide if you’re a bit unsure of skincare ingredients. However, just because you have acne prone oily skin doesn’t mean that a product meant for sensitive skin or even dry skin won’t work for you. It all depends on how well the product is formulated as well as the specific ingredients and how they react with your skin.
* I think it’s safe to say that some of these quizzes and articles about skin types might give you a good idea of where to start and pinpoint your own skin type. However, I think it bears repeating that skin type can be an ever-changing thing depending on so many inner and outer variables. If you are really having trouble figuring out what works for your skin, it is always a good idea to get help from a licensed esthetician or a board certified dermatologist.