Fitzpatrick skin typing is how we classify skin types regarding their risk of skin cancer and sunburns.
UV rays from the sun increase various types of skin cancer—exposure accounts for close to 90% of nonmelanoma and 65% of melanoma skin cancer.
Too much sun exposure also contributes to aging skin.
We’ll explore the Fitzpatrick skin types and discuss some ways you can protect your skin from sun damage.
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What Is the Fitzpatrick Scale?
You know how tricky figuring out your skin type can be—think about every time you’ve tried to match concealer or foundation to your skin. The Fitzpatrick scale is a scientific way to classify your skin type.
While it won’t help you determine your ideal shade, it can help you keep your skin protected from the sun.
Developed in 1975, the Fitzpatrick scale classifies skin types based on pigment and reaction to sun exposure, providing information that can help you predict your risk of skin cancer and sun damage.
Once you understand your skin type and risk level, you can take the precautions necessary to protect your skin. Keep reading to identify your skin type and how to stay protected.
What Are the Fitzpatrick Skin Types?
Skin cancer is quite common in the US—one in five people will develop it during their lifetime. Experts established the Fitzpatrick system by looking at how different people’s skin reacted to sun exposure. Their results showed a clear trend, allowing researchers to identify the six Fitzpatrick skin types based on how much melanin was present in the skin.
One study in 2013 confirmed the usefulness of the Fitzpatrick skin type system. However, not everyone’s skin type will fit perfectly into one category—the system is best used as a guide instead of a definitive classification.
The Six Fitzpatrick Skin Types
Skin with less melanin has less protection from UV rays, meaning it’s more likely to burn quickly, increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Our hair, skin, and eyes all have melanin—a dark brown pigment. And the more you have, the darker those features will be. In addition, more melanin means your skin is likely to tan rather than burn.
Let’s look at the six Fitzpatrick skin types:
- Ivory skin color
- Light blue, gray, or green eyes
- Red or light blonde hair
- Skin never tans and always burns, peels, and freckles
- Fair or pale skin
- Blue, gray, or green eyes
- Blonde hair
- Skin rarely tans and often burns, peels, and freckles
- Fair or beige skin with golden undertones
- Light brown or hazel eyes
- Light brown or dark blonde hair
- Skin sometimes tans and might burn or freckle
- Light brown or olive skin
- Dark brown eyes
- Dark brown hair
- Skin tans often and doesn’t typically burn or freckle
- Dark brown skin
- Dark brown or black eyes
- Dark brown or black hair
- Skin always tans and rarely burns or freckles
- Deeply dark brown skin
- Brownish-black eyes
- Black hair
- Skin always tans darkly and never freckles or burns
Related: Remedies for Dry Skin
What Your Skin Type Means
First of all, regardless of your skin type, artificial tanning and tanning beds are harmful to everyone—frequent use can make you 75 times more likely to get skin cancer in your lifetime.
In addition, people who live close to the equator are at higher risk for sun damage. Everyone should use sunscreen daily for maximum protection.
Here’s what else you need to know based on your skin type:
Fitzpatrick Skin Types 1-2
People with these skin types are at higher risk of:
- Skin aging from sun exposure
- Sun damage
- Melanoma and skin cancer
Here’s how to protect your skin:
- Use a sunscreen that’s at least 30 SPF
- Limit your sun exposure by staying in the shade
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head
- Use UV-blocking sunglasses
- Wear UPF-rated clothing when in direct sunlight
- Check your skin regularly for odd spots
- Schedule an annual skin checkup with your doctor
Fitzpatrick Skin Types 3-6
People with these skin types have a lower risk of skin cancer, but there is still some risk, particularly if you’ve ever used a tanning bed. It’s still important to use sun protection, even if your risk is lower than other skin types.
Unfortunately, people with darker skin who get diagnosed with melanoma don’t usually know until it’s at a later stage, leading to a poorer overall outlook.
To help protect your skin, you should:
- Limit sun exposure when possible
- Wear a hat and sunglasses outdoors
- Use a sunscreen that’s at least 15 SPF
- Pay attention to your skin, looking for any strange growths
When to Get Screened
If your skin type puts you at an increased risk for skin cancer, regular skin exams are crucial for your health.
People with skin types one or two, a family history of skin cancer, or a compromised immune system are all at higher risk.
And no matter your skin type, you should check your skin regularly. Watch for a mole or skin patch that:
- Is over a quarter-inch in size
- Has an uneven outline
- Is asymmetrical
- Changes color from brown to black
- Is new or changing
- Changes textures
- Is raised or lumpy
- Bleeds or weeps
- Feels tingly or itchy
It’s also worth noting that skin cancer can look different depending on your skin type. For example, some types will appear pink or pearly on lighter skin. However, most cases of skin cancer in people with darker skin appear brown.
Any changes in your skin are a reason to visit your doctor for a screening.
Related: How to Fix Dry Skin
Keep Your Skin Protected
Knowing your Fitzpatrick skin type can help predict your risk of cancer due to sun exposure. If you have skin type one or two, your risk is higher, and protecting your skin from sun exposure is crucial.
However, skin cancer can occur in people with any skin type, meaning it’s important to always check your skin regularly, take care of it, and keep it moisturized.Looking for the best way to keep your skin moisturized and healthy all day long? Find your skincare soulmate here.