The Fitzpatrick scale classifies exactly how much pigment our skin has, and therefore how much sun exposure we can handle without our skin reacting. In our line of profession, MAe’s use the Fitzpatrick scale to determine which procedures will suit your skin type without distorting your pigmentation, as well as what type of reaction your skin will have with previous damage. This helps us not only determine which procedures are suitable for you, but which machine will give you the safest and more effective results for laser hair removal and pigmentation.

A common misconception is that the Fitzpatrick scale determines your skin shade – this is incorrect, this scale determines your skins ability to handle light, sun, and treatments.

So, what determines which skin type you are?

The Fitzpatrick scale classifies by skin type:

Type i

European

Always burns, never tans.
Type ii

European

Usually burns, tans with difficulty.
Type iii

Asian/South Asian

Sometimes mildly burns, average tanning.
Type iv

South Asian

Rarely burns, tans with ease.
Type v

South Asian/Fijian

Very rarely burns, tans easily.
Type vi

African

Never burns, tans easily.

Skin type I:

This skin type before sun exposure is typically light, ivory skin

Skin type characteristics:

Natural hair colour: red or light blonde

Eye colour: light blue, light grey, or light green

Sun reaction: skin always freckles, always burns and peels, and never tans

Skin type II:

This skin type before sun exposure is light, fair or pale

Skin type characteristics:

Natural hair colour: blonde

Eye colour: blue, grey, or green

Sun reaction: skin usually freckles, burns and peels often, and rarely tans

Skin type III:

This skin type before sun exposure is fair to beige skin, with golden undertones

Skin type characteristics:

Natural hair colour: dark blonde to light brown

Eye colour: hazel or light brown

Sun reaction: skin might freckle, burns on occasion, and sometimes tans

Skin type IV:

This skin type before sun exposure is olive or light brown skin

Skin type characteristics:

Natural hair colour: dark brown

Eye colour: dark brown

Sun reaction: doesn’t really freckle, burns rarely, and tans often

Skin type V:

This skin type before sun exposure is dark brown skin

Skin type characteristics:

Natural hair colour: dark brown to black

Eye colour: dark brown to black

Sun reaction: rarely freckles, almost never burns, and always tans

Skin type VI:

This skin type before sun exposure is deeply pigmented dark brown to darkest brown skin

Skin type characteristics:

Natural hair colour: black

Eye colour: brownish black

Sun reaction: never freckles, never burns, and always tans quickly

So, now that we understand how the scale determines your type –

How can you use this to make your skin care regime safer and more effective for you?

Skin types I and II, you have a high risk of:

  • Sun damage
  • Skin aging from sun exposure
  • Melanoma and other skin cancers

Ways to protect yourself

  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater
  • Wear protective clothing with a UPF rating of 30 or higher, if you plan to be in direct sunlight for extended periods
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Limit your sun exposure, seek shade whenever you’re in the sun
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your head and face
  • Check your skin from head to toe each month
  • Have an annual skin checkup with a doctor

Skin types III to VI, you have a lower risk of:

Developing skin cancer than skin type I and II but, that does not mean you hold no risk of skin cancer from sun exposure

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater
  • Wear protective clothing if you plan to be in direct sunlight for extended periods
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Limit your sun exposure
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your head and face
  • Check your skin from head to toe each month
  • Have an annual skin checkup with a doctor

Overall, those at an increased risk of developing skin cancer are those who:

  • Fitzpatrick skin type I and II
  • Have a compromised immune system
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer

Fitzpatrick types IV-VI have more melanin in their skin, and the type of melanin is active – hence, treatments are not one suits all. The deeper Fitzpatrick skin types are more prone to hyperpigmentation and post procedure hyperpigmentation, along with a lesser chance of developing cancer.

The Fitzpatrick scale is actually so helpful in determining these vulnerabilities that the FDA has adapted the skin type classification to evaluate SPF.