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What is My Skin Type?

8/23/2011

When it comes to finding out your skin type, the first thing you need to do is forget everything you've heard before! What you've been taught by cosmetics salespeople, aestheticians, fashion magazines, and even some dermatologists, is likely incorrect, confusing, or designed to simply keep you buying more and more products—it all ends here!


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Rethink What 'Skin Type' Means

When it comes to discovering your skin type, first you must forget everything you’ve read or heard before! From our 35 years of researching skincare, we’re fairly certain that information was incorrect, as it rarely takes into consideration the skincare products you’re using, which can have a major impact on your skin type.

While the typical categories of oily, dry, combination, and sensitive skin are good basics, they don't address the wide variety of other problems or nuances that impact your skin type. Those include acne, sun damage from years of unprotected sun exposure, redness, temperamental skin, clogged pores, or a combination of these concerns.

These basic skin type categories also don’t take the degree of each skin type into consideration. For example, dry to very dry, oily to very oily, or oily and dehydrated at the same time. Your skin type is rarely as simple as what the basic categories represent.

Confusing? Yes! But knowing your skin type is exceptionally important as it drives everything about the texture and types of products you should be using. The more you know about your skin type, the more you'll be able to help your skin look and feel as normal as possible, and more normalized skin is the goal.

Problem Skincare Products Can Hide Your Real Skin Type

Your skincare products can be hiding your real skin type. When skincare products contain harsh, abrasive, or skin-aggravating ingredients, they can trigger problems that wouldn’t normally be there.

For example, if you have dry skin using the wrong products can make your dry, flaky skin worse. If you have acne and you aren’t using products containing the critical ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, you’re unlikely to ever get the bumps and clogged pores under control or just make matters worse.

If you have oily skin and use emollient products, you’ll make your skin oilier. If you’re using a mix of skincare products with harsh ingredients and products that are emollient, you could be creating combination skin. This is why it’s so easy to alter your natural skin type with the wrong products!

All of this ends up being the very definition of running your skin around in circles. The merry-go-round stops now. All skin types must avoid these things:

  • Alcohol denatured or SD alcohol
  • Unfriendly ingredients such as menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus oils, citrus juices, lavender, and witch hazel. Non-irritating and gentle are the only appropriate choices for everyone!
  • Thick, heavy occlusive emollients (unless you have extremely dry skin)
  • Fragrance (natural or synthetic, even those couched with the term "essential oils")
  • Abrasive scrubs
  • Stiff-bristled cleansing brushes
  • Harsh or drying cleansers

How to Identify Your Real Skin Type

Once you've stopped using all of those problematic ingredients and products on your skin, your real skin type will begin to reveal itself. Now you can take a closer look and start seeing improvements!

Before you get out your mirror and have a closer look, it's best to wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply a state-of-the-art toner (loaded with antioxidants and skin-replenishing ingredients) and then wait about 15 to 30 minutes and see how your skin behaves.

If you’re skin quickly starts showing oil diffused over the face, you have oily skin.

If your skin starts experiencing some dryness and feels tight, you have dry skin.

If your T-zone (the area around your nose, chin, and central forehead) starts looking oily but your cheeks and jaw area start feeling slightly to moderately dry, you have combination skin. This is the most common skin type because everyone has more oil glands in their center of their face than on their cheeks.

What about sensitive skin? At Paula’s Choice Skincare, we recognize that everyone has sensitive skin whether they know it or not. It’s a fact of life that almost everyone’s skin is impacted by the environment (think pollution), taking off makeup, sun damage from unprotected sun exposure, midlife changes, and health concerns. All of that makes skin vulnerable, temperamental, and unpredictable.

From that viewpoint, it’s easy to understand how everyone needs to treat their skin as if it’s sensitive, because it is! Even more to the point is if you use anything other than non-irritating, gentle products, it will make any skin care concern you have worse.

How to Choose the Right Products for Your Skin Type

When you finally discover what your skin type really is you can make better decisions about the products you should be using. Although all skin types absolutely need the same essential skincare staples such as broad-spectrum sunscreens, antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients, the textures of those products need to be very different based on your skin type. Here’s how that works:

  • If you have oily skin, you should only be using products with a light fluid, liquid, thin lotion, or gel texture. Any other texture will make your skin feel oilier and risk clogging pores.
  • If you have dry skin, you should only be using products that have rich lotion, cream, or velvety serum textures.
  • If you have combination skin, you may need to use a mix of products for the dry and oily areas. For dry skin, you would need more emollient products and products with the lightest weight texture are for the oily areas—but can be layered beneath products for the dry areas.

Regardless of the product type, moisturizer, toner, serum, booster, or targeted solution, the brilliant ingredients must be there but the texture is what differs based on your skin type. And as we mentioned, here at Paula’s Choice Skincare ALL of our products are formulated to be appropriate for those with sensitive skin. Taking gentle, beautiful care of your skin is our only mission.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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