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What’s my skin type? How important is it to get the right products for my skin type?

There are many classifications of skin types. The question is, do they matter to you?

The traditional Fitzpatrick skin phototype is oriented towards genetics and what would have been called “race” a few decades ago.  How pale or dark the skin is, and how it reacts to the sun. Does it tan easily or burns? This is a simple classification and easy to use, if a bit obvious.

It is important to understand that there is no unique scientific classification of skin types so any expert can make his/her own system and things can get really complicated.

There is an obvious influence of genetics on the appearance and physiology of the skin, without even considering skin color. So we can go ahead and start classifying according to these many differences. Does it make sense? Probably not. Healthy skin works and it only makes sense to start “correcting” when it malfunctions.

How many skin type classifications are there? Many, Which one will you use?

Another system is used by many skincare brands as an advertising tool. Dry, oily, combination, sensitive skin. How helpful is this system? Not very helpful because, by the time you start paying attention to the type of skin you have, you may be a heavy user of skincare products. Here you have to pay attention to how the products you use are affecting skin appearance and physiology. In my opinion, most sensitive skin problems are related to the overuse of skin cleansing and exfoliation, be it by acids, proteases, or physical methods. Don’t complain, if you are treating your very alive skin as if it were a wall you should expect to have consequences!

Dr. Baumann, for example, has 16 skin types in her classification. She chooses 4 criteria: whether the skin is oily (or dry), pigmented (or not), sensitive (or not), and wrinkled (or tight).  She includes genetic and environmental variables, like smoking and UV exposure. One more characteristic would increase the number of options to 25, two to 36, etc.  Does this “system” help? I don’t think so.

If you will be spending time trying to find your skin “type”, you need to start with why you want to find your skin type. Classification will not give you a miracle solution for your skin problems. Also, and this is my opinion, by the time a woman starts worrying about her skin type the environment, including how she treats her skin, will have influenced so much the skin that genetics will be a smaller component.

What I suggest is that you look at your skin as it is now.  Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have oily skin?
  2. Is your skin sensitive? Anything you apply to it stings, burns, even hurts.
  3. Does your skin show UV damage? Damage caused by smoking?
  4. Do you have an “acne problem”?
  5. Is there anything that bothers you a lot?
  6. Do you have a mole that was not there before?

There are problems that are urgent, like a mole that was not there before or that changed in the last few months. This is the kind of problem that requires a dermatologist, although your GP should be able to help too. Some characteristics are suggestive of malignancy and require a biopsy.

Otherwise, relax.

  1. Oily skin is a reason to be happy: your skin will age very slowly.
  2. If your skin is sensitive, pay attention. It is complaining and it could very well that it is complaining about what you are doing to it.
  3. UV and ROS* damage. Learn about what UV and ROS*, including cigarette smoking, do to your skin. Start by preventing further damage by using sunscreen. Preventing further damage will give your skin a chance to use its own resources to heal. You can help with some Skin Actives products that will accelerate natural healing by providing valuable proteins, identical to your own, to deactivate ROS*, promote cell division and protein synthesis.
  4. Acne can be controlled. If it is bad, it may require an MD to look at options, including the possibility of hormonal disfunction. If it is not that bad, look at the Skin Actives products that can help. Avoid heavy makeup and products that can clog your pores and make acne bacteria happy.

In short, rather than trying to “fit” into somebody’s classification, look at your skin and see whether you have real problems that need fixing.

And, above all, don’t use pejorative words, don’t be your own bully and thank your skin for a job well done: prtecting you.




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