Knowing you skin type can help you choose the right products.

©iStockphoto.com/Rhienna Cutler

Beauty may be only skin deep, but even getting that far presents quite the challenge. After all, clear, healthy skin is fundamental to looking your best, and it's the one thing the beauty industry hasn't really found a substitute for. Think about it: No matter how much makeup you put on, what clothes you wear or how you style your hair, it's tough to mask chronic issues like acne breakouts. A few lucky people are born with naturally smooth, flawless skin. But the rest of us have to work a little to get our outermost layer looking great.

Skin care should be a part of your daily beauty routine. But before you go and drop a lot of money at the drugstore, you need some personal information to help you weed through the thousands of over-the-counter products that are out there. Basically, everyone's skin is a little different, and the sorts of creams, cleansers and treatments you need can vary from person to person. So understanding a few main categories of skin types and how they differ can help you decipher product labels more easily [source: Barel].

It's also important to figure out where you fall among these categories. By identifying your skin type, you can choose the most appropriate products to meet your skin care needs and learn what you should be doing on a daily basis to keep your skin looking as clear, young and healthy as possible. Specifically, you might figure out which substances will work best with your body chemistry and which might make your problems worse [source: Lees]. There's no guarantee you'll ever achieve flawless skin -- some issues, like wrinkles, may be unavoidable. But understanding your own skin better could at least help you make these problems less noticeable.

Read on to take your first step toward looking better: learn about five basic skin types.