By: Sarah Kester

There’s nothing more disappointing than finally getting your hands on the hottest beauty product—the one that promises to give you skin like J.Lo —only for things to go terribly wrong. Your skin itches. Blemishes appear all over your face. And you feel instant regret over spending money on a product you can’t even use.

No, there isn’t a voodoo doll out there with your face on it. More than likely, using the wrong beauty products for your skin type causes this turmoil. I would know, because it happened to me.

As a fan of basically anything free (I’m all about that swag, as Michael Scott from The Office would say), I push through crowds and lunge through the air like a wild animal whenever free beauty samples are given out. The problem is that I don’t first consider my skin’s reaction to a new product. And as it turns out, I’m not alone.

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According to Purvisha Patel, MD Board Certified Dermatologist and Founder of Visha Skincare, many women don’t know their skin type. “We commonly think of skin type as being either oily, dry, or sensitive, and this can be a good start for making wise skincare decisions. Skin type can also be related to the amount of pigment in the skin with Type 1 being fair (sunburns easily) and Type 4 being darker (rarely burns).”

It was only a few months ago that my skincare mistakes came back to haunt me. After finding a product that I loved at Sephora, I did the same little dance of ignoring its ingredients and what skin type it’s best suited for and headed straight for the glowing reviews. Smoother, plumper skin? Sold! Morning and night, I applied that product religiously, waiting patiently for the results to kick in. What I got, however, wasn’t perfect skin at all. I was faced with blemishes all over my forehead.

Cue the sound of my panicked screaming.

While tiny blemishes may not sound like a big deal to some, for me it was pure pandemonium and the reason why is because I had never dealt with bad skin before.

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So, when the pimples reared their ugly head, I stopped using the product immediately. To save myself from future skin trauma, I turned to the experts to educate myself on everything there is to know about skin types.

How to Determine Your Skin Type

what is my skin type woman

If you thought skincare was entirely genetics-based, think again. Other internal and external factors include hormones, diet, lifestyle, and environment, Michele S. Green, MD tells Lively. “Fluctuations in hormones can affect or change your skin type. It can cause dryness, blemishes, and hyperpigmentation. External factors such as products you use, temperature, and climate can all affect change on your skin or skin type. External factors can make the skin irritated, dry, or sensitive.”

When it comes to determining your skin type, the last thing you want to do is guess. This only reduces your chances of choosing the right skincare products. “Most women can figure out if they are oily by seeing if they are able to blot oil within an hour after washing their face and not using any products,” says Dr. Patel. “Those that have dry, sensitive skin, may find that even washing their faces can make their skin feel tighter and dry.”

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How to Tell If You’re Using the Wrong Products

what is my skin type skincare products

Here’s another excuse to snap a selfie: it’s helping your skin! By taking ‘before and after’ shots of your face when trying out a new product, you will be able to tell any significant differences, whether they’re positive or negative. Some warning signs that you’re using the wrong products include skin irritation such as burning, redness, dryness, excess oil, or peeling, says Dr. Green. Based on severity, a strong reaction could even indicate an allergic reaction to one or more of the ingredients in the product.

It should be noted, however, that some products can cause skin issues, such as blemishes at first because your skin needs time to adjust. Everything from topical benzol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid to isotretinoin creams may require time to see the skin’s response, according to Dr. Green. She recommends having this process monitored by a dermatologist.

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A Valuable Skincare Lesson

While it was beyond heart breaking to waste $50 on a skincare product I could no longer use, it did teach me a valuable lesson to treat my skin right. And it helped knowing that the product didn’t completely go to waste; I ended up giving the rest to my mom who now flaunts her younger-looking skin. You might consider doing the same to any beauty products you can’t use by donating them to your friends and family. You could even have a swap with those who find themselves in the same predicament. Either way, your skin will thank you for knowing its type.