Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Is There Really Such a Thing as Skin Types? March 10, 2010

The answer to the above question really depends on who you ask.  A dermatologist will probably tell you that there is no such thing as skin types.  Someone who is trying to sell you a skincare product would tell you otherwise. 

Instead of looking at skin as dry, combination, or oily dermatologists use the Fitzpatrick skin chart as their guide to determine the best course of treatment for their patients.  This classification was developed by Harvard dermatologist T.B. Fitzpatrick in 1975 and measures an individual’s response to sun exposure.  See the chart below:

TYPE I: Highly sun-sensitive, always burns, never tans.
Example: Very pale Caucasian, freckles, or Albino
TYPE II: Very sun-sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.
Example: Fair-skinned Caucasian
TYPE III: Sun-sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.
Example: Darker Caucasian, European mix
TYPE IV: Minimally sun-sensitive, rarely burns, always tans to moderate brown.
Example: Mediterranean, European, Asian, Hispanic, Native American
TYPE V: Sun-insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well.
Example: Hispanic, Afro-American, Middle Eastern
TYPE VI: Sun-insensitive, never burns, deeply pigmented.
Example: Afro-American, African, Middle Eastern


Once a person’s hereditary, genetic, and sun exposure reaction is taken into account a dermatologist can have a better idea of what course of treatment would be best for a patient.  Fitzpatrick classification is also used when one does laser hair removal, chemical peels, and all other laser treatments; what Fitzpatrick type a person is determines their course of  treatment for those procedures.  For instance there are some lasers that cannot be used on Fitzpatrick types 5 and 6.

So when do I need to know if your skin is dry, combination, oily, or normal?  Those classifications are needed when you want to buy cosmetic and skincare products for home use.  Skincare products are sold according to normal skin, dry skin, mature skin, combination skin, and oily skin.  Or sometimes you’ll see normal to oily, normal to dry, etc.  The issue isn’t so much skin types.  Rather it is – how does your skin feel?  If you use a retinol product you’ll probably need a thicker moisturizer.  In the winter you’ll probably find that your skin is drier, even dehydrated.  Even if you are acne prone you might find that you need a moisturizer.  So your skin type is how you your skin feels and it can change according to lots of different variables – the weather, the topical products you use, oral medications, your age, and even stress.  Your skin type isn’t set in stone.

If you need help to determine what skin type you are simply wash your face.  Put nothing on your face for about 15 to 30 minutes.  Then evaluate how your skin feels – is it crying out for moisture?  Is it an oil slick already?  Does it feel fine?  Does it feel rough to the touch?  Answer those questions and you are on your way to figuring out what type of products you’ll need for your face.


Further Reading:



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