How To Determine Your Skin Type

There are at least two different measurements to determine your skin type. A cosmetic skin type, in which you determine whether your face is oily, normal or dry which can help you select the right types of cosmetic products for your particular skin type. The Fitzpatrick skin type is the other measurement which is used by dermatologists to plan and advise you on medical care, and is important in determining your risk and propensity for developing skin cancer.

What is the Cosmetic Skin Type?

The cosmetic skin type is simply a way to determine whether your skin is normal, oily, or dry and additionally, if it is sensitive. There is such a barrage of information bombarding us every day telling us what types of cosmetic products to purchase. It is so important not to spend a lot of money buying something that looks good in an ad for a dry complexion if you have oily skin as it may make your oily skin worse, and vice versa.

What is the Fitzpatrick Skin Type?

The Fitzpatrick skin type was developed in 1975 as a way to for dermatologists to predict how different types of skin would respond to ultraviolet light. It uses a scale of Roman numeral I to Roman numeral VI that takes into account genetics and your tendency to burn or tan to assign you a skin type. Skin type I is very lightly pigmented skin, burns easily and never tans, and is at high risk for developing skin cancer. Skin type VI is very darkly pigmented skin, never burns and rarely will develop skin cancer. If you discover that you have a Fitzpatrick skin type I or II, then you need to be much more careful about wearing sunscreen or protecting yourself from the sun than someone with a skin type III, IV, or V.

Skin care is now a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Entire books on how to determine your skin type have been written and have become best sellers.

How Can I Determine My Cosmetic Skin Type?

The easiest way to determine your cosmetic skin type is by simply looking at your face in a magnifying mirror. The best time to do this is when you first awaken in the morning.  If it is shiny, has large pores and feels greasy, then you probably have oily skin. If your skin feels tight with dry patches and small to invisible pores, even after moisturizing the night before, and gets worse in cold weather, then you probably have dry skin.  If your skin seems to have no shine or dry areas, and pores appear normal in size then you probably have normal skin.Still confused?  Then you can perform the “paper test”.  Once you awaken in the morning, wash your face with a gentle cleanser and pat dry. Allow the face to normalize for 2-3 hours then apply a piece of facial tissue to the cheeks, chin and forehead. If it sticks, you are oily, if there is only a little oil on the tissue where it was pressed against the face, then you are normal, if there is no oil and it does not stick, then you are dry. Whether you are oily, normal or dry, your face may turn red and become irritated at the slightest provocation.  If so, you are also sensitive. The most common reason for this is fragrances in the products applied to the face although you may have a particular sensitivity that a dermatologist can help you figure out.

How Can I Determine My Fitzpatrick Skin Type?

You probably already have an idea of what your Fitzpatrick skin type is by knowing how easily it is for you to get sunburned.   If you always burn and blister and can never get a tan, then you are a Fitzpatrick type I.  If you usually burn first, blister rarely and peel, then later develop a tan, then you are type II.  If you get a sunburn only after long exposure to the sun, and can tan easily, then you are a type III.  If you rarely if ever burn and tan deeply, then you are a type IV.  You are skin type V or VI if you are very darkly pigmented and never burn.

Determining both your cosmetic and Fitzpatrick skin type will help you when selecting cosmetic products and with knowing how to protect your skin.  Selecting the incorrect cosmetic product for your skin type can result in worsening of your complexion or in a waste of money.  Not realizing your Fitzpatrick skin type can result in the development of skin cancer or numerous painful sunburns.