As part of your skin assessment, you'll want to take stock of your skin's overall appearance and texture. Is it dry or oily? Irritated or clear? Are there areas of redness or flakiness? Breakouts, wrinkles or age spots? Do you have extremely fair skin that burns easily, puffiness under the eyes or any other bothersome conditions?
This general examination will help you identify your skin type as well as any ongoing cosmetic issues. Skin types include oily, dry, normal, combination and sensitive, while common skin concerns range from persistent acne and sun damage to melasma (a patchy brown discoloration) and rosacea [source: Cleveland Clinic].
Knowing your skin type and keeping tabs on any persistent problems will allow you to make smarter decisions when choosing over-the-counter and prescription products, potentially saving you money. For example, those with chronically dry skin should steer clear of harsh foaming cleansers, which strip away natural oils, while acne sufferers should avoid ingredients like coconut oil and avocado [source: Baumann]. There's nothing worse than spending a fortune on a fancy new product, only to realize it makes you break out, parches your skin or triggers an eczema flare-up.
While this initial step might seem simple, it's not always straightforward, says dermatologist Doris Day. For instance, many people believe they have adult acne but actually suffer from rosacea, a condition exacerbated by certain foods, alcohol, stress and changes in temperature, she notes. Since some topical acne medications worsen rosacea, the distinction is an important one. So if your general examination raises any questions, consult with a dermatologist before following a treatment plan.