fitzpatrick scale

Whats Your Skin Type? Fitzpatrick Scale System

When it comes to different skin types, most people will likely think of a few key terms like “oily,” “dry,” and “sensitive.” But while these elements do play a significant role in describing your skin, people should generally consider a few other vital characteristics when it comes to how they think about their skin overall. This is essential for a few specific reasons.

Why is it important to know your skin type?

Firstly, it’s important to know your skin type and sensitivity because you can use this piece of information to help you decide which products and peels would be best for your skin type. This allows you to select effective products while also helping ensure they don’t result in any unpleasant side effects. Secondly, knowing your particular skin type can help you take the proper precautions to protect yourself from the sun and help dermatologists make a more accurate assessment of your overall risk of becoming sunburned or developing skin cancer. It can also be a very helpful guide for different laser therapies, such as scar treatments, laser hair removal, and cosmetic procedures like clinical peels.

Related: What Exactly is Skin Brightening?

The basics of the Fitzpatrick Scale

Initially developed by Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1975, MD of Harvard Medical School, the Fitzpatrick scale system includes six specific skin types and ranges from very fair-skinned to very dark skin. Said skin types include:

  • (Type I) Very fair-skinned
  • (Type II) Fair-skinned
  • (Type III) Medium-skinned
  • (Type IV) Olive-skinned
  • (Type V) Brown-skinned
  • (Type VI) Black-skinned

The Fitzpatrick test is based on two primary factors; your skin’s reaction to sun exposure and genetic disposition. Put simply, those with skin Types I and II are at a higher risk of photo-aging skin diseases, including cancer. While those with skin types V and VI are at a much lower risk of developing such conditions. However, it should be noted that premature aging from sunlight can affect people of all skin shades, especially if they spend a considerable amount of time outdoors and receive excessive levels of UV exposure. 

More specifically, the Fitzpatrick skin type system can help predict which individuals are more at risk of sunburns and medical skin conditions based on how much melanin is present in their skin. Melanin is a type of dark brown pigment found in the skin, hair, and irises. Its primary job in the skin is to help absorb energy from UV light rays to help defend skin cells from sun damage and burning. The more melanin an individual has, the darker these three characteristics will be, and the more likely their skin is to tan rather than burn in the sun. 

On the Fitzpatrick scale, those with Type I skin have the least amount of melanin present in their bodies, while those with Type VI have the most melanin, which is why they are either more or less likely to develop harmful skin conditions.

Take the Fitzpatrick Test

Please take the quiz below to discover your skin type by totaling all the numbers to get your final score, and then review your results below. However, please remember that not everyone’s skin will fit perfectly into a single category type. This test and its specialized scoring system are meant to act as a guide rather than a definitive classification. If you find that your score lies on the border between two different skin classifications, it may feature several characteristics from both categories as well.

Related: Moisturizer vs. Cream: Which is Best for Your Skin?

Part I - Genetic Disposition

Your eye color is:

Light blue, light gray or light green = 0

Blue, gray or green = 1

Hazel or light brown = 2

Dark brown = 3

Brownish black = 4

Your natural hair color is:

Red or light blonde = 0

Blonde = 1

Dark blonde or light brown = 2

Dark brown = 3

Black = 4

Your natural skin color (before sun exposure) is:

Ivory white = 0

Fair or pale = 1

Fair to beige, with golden undertone = 2

Olive or light brown = 3

Dark brown or black = 4

How many freckles do you have on unexposed areas of your skin?

Many = 0

Several = 1

A few = 2

Very few = 3

None = 4

Total score for genetic disposition:

Part II - Reaction to sun exposure

How does your skin respond to the sun?

Always burns, blisters, and peels = 0

Often burns, blisters, and peels = 1

Burns moderately = 2

Burns rarely, if at all = 3

Never burns = 4

Does your skin tan?

Never -- I always burn = 0

Seldom = 1

Sometimes = 2

Often = 3

Always = 4

How deeply do you tan?

Not at all or very little = 0

Lightly = 1

Moderately = 2

Deeply = 3

My skin is naturally dark = 4

How sensitive is your face to the sun? 

Very sensitive = 0

Sensitive = 1

Normal = 2

Resistant = 3

Very resistant/Never had a problem = 4

Total score for reaction to sun exposure:

Add  (genetic disposition) and (sun exposure) totals to find your Fitzpatrick Skin Type:

Are you ready to bring out the gorgeous glow of a healthier, beautiful, more confident you this holiday season? Reach out to our trusted team of skincare industry professionals at Perfect Image to explore our range of top-quality products and learn what they can do for you.

Understanding your skin type

Now that you’ve determined your particular skin type by going through the Fitzpatrick test for yourself let’s take some time to explore the results in detail by explaining the overall characteristics typically associated with each. Again, it’s essential to keep in mind that not everyone will fall perfectly into one category or another, and many people may possess characteristics present in the descriptions of two different skin types. For example, even if an individual has very fair and pale skin, they may tan rather than burn in the sun.

Type I (0-6 points)

If you have this type of skin, it’s likely that you always burn and never tan in the sun. These individuals are highly susceptible to skin damage and cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These individuals are also at very high risk for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Anyone with Type I skin should use a powerful sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ and wear sun-protective clothing when outside, especially for extended periods. Such clothing should include sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Additionally, these individuals should also seek shade if out in the sun to help minimize their overall UV exposure. They should check their skin regularly and refer to a dermatologist or skincare professional for an annual skin check-up to ensure that they aren’t developing any of the medical conditions listed above.

At a glance: 

Most people with type I skin typically have pale green, blue, or gray eyes and blond hair.

Type II (7-12 points)

Those with this skin type almost always burn and rarely tan in the sun. Type II’s are highly susceptible to skin damage and different types of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Additionally, Type II has a very high risk for melanoma, though they are not quite as susceptible to these conditions as those with Type I skin. It’s highly recommended that those with Type II skin follow the same skin protection recommendations as those with Type I skin to be on the safe side. Wear sunscreen, protective clothing, avoid excessive sun exposure, and seek shelter in shaded areas when outside, especially for extended periods.

At a glance: 

Many people with Type II skin typically have blue eyes with blond or red hair.

Type III (13-18 points)

Those with this skin type sometimes burn and sometimes tan in the sun, depending on how much UV exposure they receive and other variables. These individuals are susceptible to different kinds of skin damage and skin cancers - both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma - and are at risk for melanoma. Those with Type III skin need to apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 15+ every day, should wear sun-protective clothing, and should also seek shelter in the shade between 10 AM–4 PM. These individuals should also check their skin regularly and refer to a skincare professional annually for a skin check-up.

At a glance: 

Many people with Type III skin will typically have brown eyes and light brown hair.

Related: Tinted Moisturizer vs. Foundation: Knowing the Difference

Type IV (19-24 points)

Individuals with Type IV skin tend to tan easily and are less likely to burn when exposed to the sun. However, these people are still at potential risk for burning and should regularly use sunscreen with an SPF of 15+ when outside and seek shade between 10 AM and 4 PM.  These individuals should also check their skin regularly and refer to a skincare professional annually for a skin check-up.

At a glance: 

Many individuals with Type IV skin typically have darker brown eyes and medium brown hair. 

Type V (25-30 points)

Those with Type V skin tend to tan easily and rarely burn in the sun but are still at risk of burning and developing various skin conditions, especially after excessive UV exposure. These individuals should regularly use sunscreen with an SPF of 15+ and seek protection in the shade between 10 AM and 4 PM. Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), a very virulent form of the disease, is more common among darker-skinned individuals. These melanomas typically appear on body parts not often exposed to the sun and often remain undetected until the cancer spreads. Type V individuals should keep an eye out for any suspicious growths in unexpected areas of the body, especially on the soles of the feet, palms, and mucous membranes.

At a glance: 

Many individuals with Type V skin will typically have darker brown eyes and hair.

Type VI (31+ points)

This skin type is very similar to Type V, although those with this skin typically have a much lower chance of burning in the sun, even after more considerable amounts of UV exposure. Like Type V, individuals who are Type VI should use sunscreen with an SPF 15+ and avoid high sun intensity between 10 AM–4 PM. Those with this skin type are also more susceptible to ALM and should refer to the instructions given above for Type 5 skin for more information and treatment recommendations.

At a glance: 

Many with Type VI skin typically have dark brown eyes and black hair.

A note for all skin types

Artificial tanning beds and other tanning machines can be very harmful to those with all skin types, especially after extended periods of exposure. A study conducted in 2013 indicated that people who utilize artificial tanning beds and other tanning equipment before the age of 35 are as much as 75% more likely to develop melanoma later in life. Because of this, medical experts never recommend using artificial tanning beds for those of any skin type for any purpose. 

Based on your Fitzpatrick skin type score, here is the peel thats right for you

The best candidates for chemical peels are lighter skin types I, II, and III, which have less chance of complications such as hyperpigmentation (dark spots), hypo (light spots), and scarring. Peel solutions that create copious amounts of surface stimulation or that are designed to achieve medium-depth should be reserved for these lower Fitzpatrick types. Its worth noting that if you use a pre-peel cleanser it will decrease your chances of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other potential side effects, as it helps prepare the skin for a peel.

Although types IV, V, and VI are not ideal for peels, lower strength superficial peeling agents such as salicylic acid, glycolic, and enzyme peels in lower strengths (Daily-use & Level 1) are best for darker skin types. Peel Solutions are still appropriate for higher Fitzpatrick types such as these but always be limited to superficial peeling agents that create minimal surface stimulation. 

Final thoughts

People need to understand what type of skin they have and how to protect it, especially as they get older. Now that you have a better, more comprehensive understanding of what your skin requires to be healthy and safe, please consider exploring our range of top-quality skin care products at Perfect Image. We can help you create the perfect routine to keep your skin feeling healthy and looking beautiful. And for more information on how to help take care of your skin, please also consider reading through our selection of expertly written educational articles.

Are you currently hunting for a new source of professional-grade skincare products that can provide a luxurious and relaxing spa experience? Check out our range of top-quality peels, cleansers, and more from Perfect Image to help bring out a healthier, more beautiful you.

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