The Idea That There Are Only 3 Skin Types Is the Beauty Industry’s Biggest Myth

Well+Good senior beauty editor and host Zoë Weiner never turns down an opportunity to ask top dermatologists, hair stylists, or celebs about their beauty routines—down to the exact eyebrow brush they swear by. And on Well+Good’s all-new podcast, 'Routine Rundown,' she’s inviting you to join the conversation. Read More

The skin-care industry has long operated on the idea that every complexion falls into one of three categories: Dry, oily, or normal. Shopping for products has traditionally meant knowing which of these "skin types" most closely relates to your concerns, and we've all just sort of subscribed to this method because it's all we've ever known (as someone with dry skin, for example, I'd never be caught dead using a moisturizer designed to cut down on oil production). But in the first episode of Well+Good's brand, spanking new beauty podcast, Routine Rundown (which will be launching new episodes every Monday and Thursday), celebrity esthetician and beauty industry legend Renée Rouleau explains why trying to fit every complexion into this triplex is doing us all a disservice.

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"In training, they taught you about three different skin types: dry, normal, and oily. But I went out into the real world and I quickly realized the skin was more complicated," says Rouleau. "So I created a concept where I believe there are nine types of skin, and I built a skin-care line based on the nine skin types. Your skin is unique, so should your skin-care routine be, too."

When Rouleau came up with this concept nearly three decades ago, it was understandably revolutionary. But in the years since—particularly after the advent of social media and the influx of dermatological knowledge that's come along with it, consumers have begun to smarten up to the fact that "one size fits all" (or even "three sizes fits all") is a problematic way to approach your skin. "I think, ultimately people are looking for solutions to problems and that has never changed," she says. "But there's a lot more sophistication with our products and a lot more sophistication with our home routine. We have a lot more control over things."

Having that control, though, comes with its own set of challenges: Namely, you have to know exactly what you're doing before you start playing at-home esthetician with your skin. And this, says Rouleau, starts with understanding your skin type. In the episode, we break down how to do exactly that, but here's the 101 version:

  1. Oily / Clogged Pores / Severe Breakouts All-Over
  2. Oily / Combination / Occasional Breakouts / Anti-Aging
  3. Oily / Combination / Sensitive / Consistent Breakouts
  4. Oily / Combination / Sensitive / Occasional Breakouts
  5. Normal / Sensitive / Red / Anti-Aging
  6. Normal / Anti-Aging
  7. Dry / Tired / Aging
  8. Dry / Sun Damaged / Aging
  9. Dry / Sensitive / Red / Aging

Rouleau herself identifies as a "type 6," which means she's got "normal" skin (that doesn't skew dry or oily, and isn't prone to sensitivity and redness) with anti-aging concerns. "This is a skin type that has some hyperpigmentation, and  I do have some sun spots that are popping up. I still can get a little combination in the summer, but get dry in the winter, and still can get occasional breakouts every once in a while," says Rouleau. "My main concerns are keeping good skin elasticity and a glow."

Below, shop the three treatment products she swears by in her own routine (in addition to hanging her head upside down for two minutes every night before bed), then check out the episode to learn a whole lot more—including how to craft a routine for your own skin, how far skin care has come since the days of acetone toners, and why we all need to be treating our complexions with care.

Renée Rouleau, Energy Boosting Toner — $39.00

“I’m big into toners,” says Rouleau. “When you wash your face and wipe a toner over your skin, you’re getting rid of any debris that could be dehydrating it, and when you leave your toner damp on your skin and then put on your next product, it’s like giving your skin a drink of moisture.” In her own routine, Rouleau swears by this energy-boosting toner, which is packed with skin-stimulating ingredients like vitamin B12 and ginseng, plus a slew of rich antioxidants and hydrators.

Renée Rouleau, Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum — $50.00

“I’m a huge proponent of acids, and this one’s the best for skin type six because it has a combination of lactic, salicylic, and glycolic,” says Rouleau. This trifecta of chemical exfoliants works to resurface the skin, leaving it clear, bright, and even.

Renée Rouleau, Advanced Resurfacing Serum — $87.00

“I’ve been using retinol for many, many years—it’s definitely my holy grail,” says Rouleau. Once a week, she’ll use a prescription-grade version of the ingredient, but any other time it’s this stuff gracing her type-6 skin. It’s made with encapsulated retinol, which is slowly released into the skin to offer maximum results with minimal irritation, plus peptides for even more anti-aging benefits. Finally, the formula contains skin-soothing extracts like mugwort, algae, and licorice to balance out all that active goodness.

Not a skin-type 6? Not to worry—we've got the whole complexion spectrum (and so, so much more) covered in the full episode, which you can listen to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with what's happening on Routine Rundown. 

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