Fitzpatrick Skin Type: What Type Are You?
As someone with an interest in skin care, we can assume you already know your skin type. (If you don’t, click here for help determining it.) You’ve had to pick the right products for your skin, which requires knowing whether you have dry, oily, combination, or normal skin. However, that isn’t the only skin type you have. Your skin type, or your Fitzpatrick Skin Type to be more specific, can also refer to the color of your skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the Fitzpatrick Skin Type is a skin classification system that was first developed in 1975. While you’ll more commonly see skin type used to determine whether your skin is dry or oily, dermatologists often use the Fitzpatrick Skin Type to understand important information about your skin. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to make a trip to a doctor’s office to find out what yours is. Keep reading to learn how to determine your Fitzpatrick Skin Type—plus, what that means for how you should be taking care of your skin.
What Is Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type?
First things first, you’ll need to understand how the Fitzpatrick Skin Type classification system works. The system is a scale that goes from 1-6, with each number representing a different skin color. According to board-certified dermatologist, and skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, fair skin is typically a 1 or 2, while ethnic skin types most often fall somewhere between 3 and 6.
While it’s always recommended to see a dermatologist to receive a professional opinion on your skin type, you can get an idea of what yours might be by considering the Skin Cancer Foundation’s guidelines. (They also have a helpful quiz.) Here’s what they suggest:
You may be type 1…if you always burn and never tan in the sun.
You may be type 2…if you almost always burn and rarely tan in the sun.
You may be type 3…if you sometimes burn and sometimes tan in the sun.
You may be type 4…if you tan easily and sometimes burn.
You may be type 5…if you tan easily and rarely burn.
You may be type 6…if you do not burn.
Why Should You Know Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type?
Are you wondering why you need to know your Fitzpatrick Skin Type? That’s understandable, especially considering there’s a chance you didn’t even know such a thing existed until now. We spoke to medical aesthetician, SkinCeuticals ambassador, and skincare.com consultant, Jamie Steros to get to the bottom of why you should want to know your type. According to Steros, it’s important due to its predictive nature. She says, “Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type can help to predict your overall risk of sun damage and skin cancer.” Once you’re aware of your risk level, you can choose how to properly proceed with your skin care routine. Of course, as you probably know—no matter your type—there’s no getting out of using SPF 15 or higher daily. In fact, Steros recommends that everyone use double defense when it comes to UV protection by pairing antioxidants with broad-spectrum sunscreen. Her product picks include SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, followed by a broad-spectrum sunscreen like the SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. “It’s important to understand that the damage from the sun lies very deep within the skin,” Steros says. “It takes many years for this damage to rise to the surface. UV damage is also the number one cause of skin aging. It is always important to protect your self regardless of your skin tone.”
Your dermatologist will also need to know your Fitzpatrick Skin Type as it can impact what types of treatments you can receive. Dermatologists like Dr. Bhanusali use it to evaluate what will be safe for your skin.
Does Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type Play a Part in Skin Care?
Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type influences how you should take care of your skin in ways beyond sun protection. Dr. Bhanusali revealed that certain skin types have the tendency to be oilier, while others can be on the drier side. You’ll want to plan your skin care routine accordingly. Additionally, lighter skin types (1 and 2 on the scale) may want to consider incorporating redness-reducing products into their regimens, as they can be prone to inflammation and redness. Darker skin types (3-6 on the scale) aren’t off the hook, they typically have more hyperpigmentation than those with a lighter type, which means becoming familiar with a dark spot-reducing product can be a good idea. “Darker skin types produce more pigment called melanin that does help to protect the skin,” Steros says. “However it can only help to a certain extent without UV protection. You need to be careful as most people have a false sense of security having darker skin tones as you can’t see redness and sensitivity.”
Are Certain Skin Types More Prone to Certain Skin Care Concerns?
The truth is, there are certain complexion concerns that all skin types can be subject to. Those include dark spots, broken blood vessels, and acne, among others. While no type is exempt from these conditions as a whole, it is possible that you could have a type that’s more prone to particular concerns. “Fair, sensitive skin can be difficult to protect in the sun and harder to conceal blemishes and imperfections,” Steros says. “As long as you are reapplying sunscreen in direct sun exposure you have a much better defense against burns and long term damage.” In addition to applying sunscreen (and reapplying at least every two hours), take additional sun protection measures such as seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding peak sun hours.