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Since 2007

Finding Acne Treatments That Are Safe and Effective for Your Skin Type

The skin test tages 7-8 minutes to complete and consists of 38 questions that will tell you whether your skin is oily or dry (or combination), sensitive or resistant, loose or tight, and pigmented or non-pigmented.

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There are 8-10 questions about each set of characteristics. Just choose the response that best describes you. At the end of this quiz you’ll know all four of the important qualities of your skin that can help you choose acne treatments that really work.

If there is anything about acne treatment that can be said with confidence, it is that no single acne treatment works for everyone. The benzoyl peroxide product that is a “miracle” acne treatment for a person who has naturally moist and chemical-resistant skin may generate a horror story for someone who has rosacea. The exfoliant that works great for blackheads on oily skin may offer no benefits at all for someone who has tiny red pimples on dry skin. And cosmetic coverups that work great on one skin type may cake or smear on another.

Acne treatment is not all or nothing. The “wrong” product may not cause you major skin problems. It may just not do you a lot of good. But since there is almost always a product that is a good match to your skin needs, you can save months of embarrassment and hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you just know your skin type and find the products that match your specific requirements.

What Determines Skin Type?

Skin may be dry or oily. It used to be thought that acne only occurred on oily skin and that drying out skin was a good thing. Now it’s known that it’s only the oil that accumulates in pores, not the moisture in the epidermis of the skin, that is relevant to acne care. And it is also known that excessive oil in and of itself does not necessarily result in acne.

Skin may be sensitive or resistant. Some people experience redness or irritation no matter what chemical comes in contact with their skin. They are said to have sensitive skin. Other people have skin that is naturally insensitive to allergens and chemicals. They are said to have resistant skin. A treatment that works well on resistant skin may cause serious complications on sensitive skin.

Skin may be loose or tight. If you have loose skin, the way you hold your head has a lot to do with whether your blemishes are visible. If you point your chin down, blemishes may disappear into your skin. If you gaze upward toward the ceiling, your skin may loosen and reveal all. Tight skin is obviously clear or blemished all the time. Unless you plan to look at the ground the rest of your life, taking the tightness or looseness of your skin into account is a critical step in choosing the right acne product.

And skin may be pigmented or non-pigmented. In skin care, pigmentation usually refers to tiny areas of pigmentation, not the overall color and tone of the skin. Some types of skin are much more prone to change color—either darker or lighter—as acne heals. If you have olive, tan, black, or Asian skin, chances are you will have more problems from changes in pockets of pigment in your skin than you will from acne itself. Since products that inflamed the skin to get rid of acne can trigger a series of changes leading to permanent changes in color, it is important to know whether you have pigmented or non-pigmented skin, especially before choosing an exfoliant, a skin peel, or a benzoyl peroxide product.

Part 1: Is Your Skin Dry or Oily?

The first 10 questions of the test will help you make an objective determination of oily versus dry skin. Choose the response that best describes your skin. The total of the points for each of your responses will help you determine whether your skin is oily, dry, combination (more about that in a moment) or normal.

Question number 8 identifies combination skin. Some people have dry skin on the sides of their faces but oily skin in the “T zone” (forehead and nose) in the middle of their faces. They usually benefit most from using different products on the different parts of the face. If you chose “All the time, but only on the sides of your face or along your jawline” for question 8, you probably have combination skin. In theory, you might need both products for dry skin and products for oily skin, but usually it is only the oily skin in your T zone or the dry skin on the side of your face that is really a problem.

Oiliness and dryness of the skin are relative terms. Very few people have skin that is extremely oily or extremely dry. Most of us have skin that is more oily than dry or more dry than oily, but some fortunate individuals don’t have to worry about this issue at all.

Even if you have oily skin, applying oils to your skin is not necessarily a problem. Like dissolves like. A cleanser that contains oil can dissolve excess oil on your pores. But if you have dry skin, you need to avoid products that can make it drier, especially those that contain alcohol.

What about scores that right in the middle of the scale? Well, no test is perfect. In these cases, go with the description you believe best describes you skin, and 99% of the time you will make the right choice.

Part 2: Is Your Skin Sensitive or Resistant?

Questions 11-20 will help you determine whether your skin is sensitive or resistant. Sensitive skin breaks out when it comes in contact with allergens or certain chemicals. Resistant skin can take higher concentrations of some of the active ingredients in products that treat acne. As before, choose the response that best describes your skin.

If the test shows you have resistant skin then you only need to avoid common irritant ingredients such as cinnamon, menthol, mint, peppermint, wintergreen, and witch hazel.

If it turns out you have sensitive skin then you need to use products that are designed for sensitive skin.

Part 3: Is Your Skin Loose or Tight?

Questions 21-30 determines if your skin is loose or tight. Most consumers of acne care products don’t realize that it makes a difference whether your skin is loose or tight. Loose skin tends to trap cellular debris and acne bacteria on the skin in tiny folds. These folds may be visible as wrinkles, but it is more common for people with acne who have loose skin just to have slight, barely noticeable changes in the contour of their skin as they move their heads up and down.

There is no such effect in people who have tight skin. If you have tight skin, there are not as many tiny lines in your skin that can give an acne bacteria a home. You may not need cleansers that are quite as strong—and you may be able to use milder products that have fewer side effects.

If the test determines you have loose skin, you may benefit from toners and astringents once you get acne under control.

If the test shows you have tight skin, the good news is that you are highly unlikely to develop a problem with wrinkling, but you don’t want to use any products that “tone” your skin and lock bacteria, excess sebum, and skin debris into your pores.

Part 4: Is Your Skin Pigmented or Non-Pigmented?

The final 8 questions will help you determine whether your skin tends to be pigmented or non-pigmented. Pigmentation refers to the concentration of color in the skin as it heals from inflamed acne blemishes. The pigments in the skin do not just give us our skin color. They are also antioxidants. The skin can use them to stop inflammation.

The good thing about having rich, dark skin tones is that the skin can stop inflammation relatively easily. The downside to having rich, dark brown or golden skin tones is that the process of stopping inflammation can leave specks, spots, or blotches of discoloration on the skin.

If the quiz determines your skin is pigmented, then you may not have spots on your skin right this very moment, but your skin will tend to form pigmentation when it has been irritated.

If your skin turns out to be non-pigmented, then you don’t have to be quite as careful about whether a skin care product irritates your skin, because your skin is less likely to form spots. You also don’t have to be quite as careful about using sunscreen when you use benzoyl peroxide or tretinoin topical to treat blemishes.

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