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Your Skin Type — to the Letter
Did you know that the earliest talk of skin types, cosmetics giant Helena Rubinstein's categories of dry, oily, sensitive, and combination, dates to the early 1900s? It was a great start — but we've come a long way since turn-of-the-century beauty mavens were told to brush wrinkles away. It's time our skin care vocabulary got a much-needed update, too!

After working with thousands of patients, many of whom were misdiagnosing their skin types, I saw the same combinations of concerns over and over again. Moreover, I saw that our antiquated conception of skin types didn't leave room for a multidimensional discussion of skin's needs. Over time, those experiences gave way to the sixteen skin types that I introduced in my book, The Skin Type Solution.

By expanding our understanding of skin types to include the following four parameters, I hope to make customized skin care available to anyone:

  • Dry vs. Oily
    This parameter seems self-explanatory, but is surprisingly rife with misconceptions. Yes, oil production is a factor, but even more important is your skin's ability to hold onto moisture. An impaired skin barrier — that's the layer of lipids that protects your skin and retains moisture — is actually at the root of dry skin.

  • Sensitive vs. Resistant
    Sensitive skin can come in various forms, from skin that's affected by conditions like rosacea and acne to skin that burns or stings at the slightest deviation from a few trusted products. If you can use hotel soap on your face without fear of irritation, you're probably a resistant type — but remember, that also means that your "thick skin" needs stronger products to see any effect at all.

  • Pigmented vs. Non-Pigmented
    Contrary to common misconception, this parameter does not describe skin's natural darkness, but rather its tendency to develop unwanted dark spots such as melasma.

  • Tight vs. Wrinkled
    This parameter has a little to do with DNA and a lot to do with how you take care of your skin — smoking, sunbathing, and poor dietary choices, for example, can quickly negate any genetic gifts you've been given. On the plus side, this is the parameter you can most easily change with a few good habits.

Put them all together, and you get a four-letter skin type — one of sixteen — which is your key to avoiding the wrong skin care products and consistently choosing the right ones.

Let's consider some illustrations of why multidimensional skin typing is so important: If you have oily resistant skin, you can tolerate strong ingredients like retinoids to curb oil production. Use those same products on oily sensitive skin, though, and redness and irritation could be the unfortunate result. Or take the acne-sufferer who thinks sun exposure will curb her skin's oil production, without realizing that UV rays are actually compromising her skin's structural components and putting her already sensitive skin at greater risk for rosacea (not to mention dark spots and wrinkles). Finally, consider the case of a pigmented wrinkled type who uses products with soy to minimize lines — never knowing that those products will also worsen her skin's dark patches if soy's estrogenic components haven't been removed.

Bottom line: You're in for a lifetime of trial-and-error skin care unless you begin to look at this beautiful and complex organ holistically.

In partnership with, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to make customized skin care even more accessible: I personally selected the products included in each of's sixteen type-specific kits. If you already know your skin type, check out my recommendations. And if you don't know your skin type, you can quickly determine it by taking the quiz in my book — I'm confident that it will help you do away with bad skin days, once and for all.

Wishing you great skin!

» Click here to see Dr. Baumann’s Skin Type Solution

Leslie Baumann, M.D.
Director, Cosmetic Dermatology
University of Miami School of Medicine
Author, NY Times bestseller, The Skin Type Solution

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