When we mention “skin type,” most of us immediately think of the common categories like normal, dry, oily, or combination. These classifications are correct, but they primarily revolve around the skin’s texture, hydration level, and how it reacts to products or environmental factors.
There’s another skin type classification that often goes unnoticed but plays a crucial role, especially when considering cosmetic procedures: the Fitzpatrick skin type. Here’s why we must be aware of it.
What is the Fitzpatrick skin type system?
The Fitzpatrick skin type system categorises skin types based on their response to ultraviolet (UV) light. It was developed by Dr Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1975.
The six Fitzpatrick skin types
Type I: Always burns, never tans
This skin type is characterised by pale white skin highly sensitive to UV rays. Individuals with this skin type often have light-coloured hair, blue eyes and pale skin, often with freckles.
Type II: Usually burns, tans minimally
White-skinned individuals fall into this category. They might achieve a light tan after repeated sun exposure but are prone to sunburns. This is common in people with blonde or red hair and blue, green, or hazel eyes.
Type III: Sometimes burns, tans uniformly
This skin type is typically associated with light brown or cream-white skin. These individuals can tan to a moderate brown shade but risk sunburn.
Type IV: Burns minimally, always tans well
People with moderate brown or olive (Mediterranean type) skin fall under this category. They tan easily and have a reduced risk of sunburn compared to the lighter skin types.
Type V: Very rarely burns, tans very easily
This skin type is characterised by dark brown skin, which is common among Middle Eastern or some African types. Individuals with this skin type tan very quickly and have a minimal risk of sunburn.
Type VI: Never burns, deeply pigmented
This is the darkest skin type, ranging from intensely pigmented dark brown to black common in those of African descent. Individuals with this skin type have natural protection against sunburn due to the high melanin content in their skin.
Why you should know your Fitzpatrick skin type
Understanding your Fitzpatrick skin type is more than just a classification; it’s a guide to better skincare, health, and cosmetic decisions. Here’s why:
Skin cancer risk and prevention
Each Fitzpatrick skin type has a varying degree of susceptibility to UV radiation. For instance, individuals with Types I and II are at a higher risk of developing skin cancers like melanoma due to their skin’s heightened sensitivity to sun exposure. Recognising your skin type can help you understand your risk level and take appropriate preventive measures.
Also, while everyone should practice sun protection, it’s especially crucial if you have light skin. This means you should use broad-spectrum sunscreens, wear protective clothing, and avoid peak sun hours.
But that’s not to say those with darker skin types are safe. If you belong to this group, you still need sun protection, as prolonged exposure can lead to skin damage and potential health risks.
Vitamin D synthesis and sun exposure
Our skin synthesises vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, the efficiency of this synthesis varies based on the Fitzpatrick skin type.
Lighter skin types can produce vitamin D more quickly than darker skin types. This means if you have darker skin, you might need more prolonged sun exposure to synthesise the same amount of vitamin D.
But again, you should balance this need with the risk of skin damage, making it crucial to understand your skin type and consult a healthcare professional about your vitamin D needs.
Guide to skin care and cosmetic procedures
Your Fitzpatrick skin type can also guide you in selecting skincare products tailored to your skin’s needs. For example, lighter skin types might benefit from products with higher SPF or antioxidants to combat UV-induced damage. In comparison, darker skin types might look for products addressing hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone.
Knowing your Fitzpatrick skin type is also crucial in cosmetic procedures, especially those involving lasers or intense pulsed light (IPL). Some treatments might pose risks like hyperpigmentation or scarring for specific skin types.
How to determine your Fitzpatrick skin type
While the descriptions provided above give a general idea, a dermatological assessment is the most accurate way to determine your Fitzpatrick skin type. A dermatologist will consider your genetic background, observe your skin’s natural colour, and ask about your history of sun exposure, tanning, and sunburn.
But you can also get a rough idea by observing how your skin reacts to sun exposure over time and comparing it to the descriptions of the six skin types we mentioned above.
Know your skin type at ENRICH
Before any treatment at ENRICH, we always check your skin type. Ready to start? Book an appointment with us now.