Simply put, skin type is the description and interpretation of how and why your skin looks, feels, and behaves as it does. The four most common and relatively helpful skin-type categories used by the cosmetics industry are:

1. Normal (no apparent signs of oily or dry areas)

2. Oily (shine appears all over skin, no dry areas at all)

3. Dry (flaking can appear, no oily areas at all, skin feels tight and may look dull)

4. Combination (oily, typically in the central part of the face, and dry or normal areas elsewhere) Often blemish-prone skin is included under the oily or combination skin types, though it is sometimes listed as a skin type all by itself.

Occasionally, sensitive skin may be listed as an individual skin type. However, I feel strongly that all skin types should be considered sensitive, and I’ll explain why in just a moment.

As nice and neat as those four (or six) categories may be, and they are an excellent starting point, the truth is that understanding your skin type is more often than not far more complicated, which is why lots of women find identifying the skin type an elusive, changing puzzle that never settles down in one specific direction.

Yet understanding your skin type is incredibly important, and just not in the way the cosmetics industry approaches it or the way we’ve been indoctrinated to think about it. First, skin type is never static. The variations of what is taking place on your skin can not only change season to season but month to month and even week to week.

Adding to the complexity is the strong possibility of skin disorders such as rosacea (which affects more than 40% of the Caucasian population), eczema, skin discolorations, precancerous conditions, blackheads, sun damage, and whiteheads. Four or six categories of skin type just can’t cover it.

When it comes to determining your skin type you need to forget what you’ve been taught by cosmetics salespeople, aestheticians, fashion magazines, and even some dermatologists. The typical categories of normal, oily, dry, and combination are good basics, but they don’t address every nuance, and they can change and fluctuate with everything from the weather to your stress levels.