If you’re at all interested in skincare, you’ve probably heard someone reference “skin type,” but you may not be sure exactly what this means. There are many different ways to discuss the different types of skin, but most dermatologists rely on the Fitzpatrick skin phototype as a simple way to classify specific skin types. According to Dr. Hans Sander of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Austin, Texas, “The Fitzpatrick skin phototypes, usually just called skin types, are helpful in determining a person’s skincare needs. This scale relies on knowledge of how the sun impacts skin which can aid in guiding skincare routines, planning for skin cancer screenings, and ensuring patients maintain their optimal skin health.” In this blog, Dr. Sander provides more details about Fitzpatrick skin types and how you can determine your type.
What Are the Fitzpatrick Skin Types?
The Fitzpatrick skin type (phototype) is a classification system developed in 1975 by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick. The Fitzpatrick skin phototype helps people and their dermatologists to determine their skin type and plan for their skincare needs by determining how skin responds to sunlight. Specifically, the Fitzpatrick skin types are determined by the amount of melanin, or pigment, found in a person’s skin cells.
According to Dr. Sander, “One of the great things about the Fitzpatrick skin type classification is that it allows the dermatologist to account for a wide array of variables. It provides insight into a wide spectrum of skin types which can be extremely beneficial in helping to guide skincare routines to keep patients looking and feeling their best. Most importantly, understanding where they fall within the Fitzpatrick skin phototype can help patients take appropriate steps to protect their skin from sun damage and serious health concerns like skin cancers.”
There are six Fitzpatrick skin types as outlined below:
- Type 1 – Typically very light skin, hair, and eyes. Skin always burns and often freckles after sun exposure and does not tan.
- Type 2 – Light skin tone, eyes, and hair. Often burns and may freckle or lightly tan.
- Type 3 – Slightly darker, golden skin tone. May have darker hair or eye color. Skin might burn, freckle, or tan, depending on the extent of sun exposure.
- Type 4 – Light brown or olive skin, darker hair and eye color. Skin may burn, doesn’t typically freckle, and tans readily.
- Type 5 – Brown skin with dark brown or black hair and eyes. Skin isn’t likely to burn or freckle and tans darkly.
- Type 6 – Darker pigmented brown and black skin with hair and eyes that are also very dark brown or black. Skin is unlikely to burn or freckle and tans darkly.
How Do You Determine Skin Type?
Now that you’re aware of the different Fitzpatrick skin types, you can take the quick quiz below to determine your type. Simply keep track of the number of points you receive for each answer to determine where you fall within the Fitzpatrick skin type classification system.
What is your eye color?
- 0 – Blue, gray, green (especially pale shades)
- 1 – Blue, gray, green (may be darker shades)
- 2 – Blue or hazel
- 3 – Dark brown or hazel
- 4 – Brownish black
What is your natural hair color?
- 0 – Red or pale blonde
- 1 – Blonde
- 2 – Dark blonde to light or reddish-brown
- 3 – Brown to dark brown
- 4 – Black
What best describes your skin tone before sun exposure?
- 0 – Very pale, white, with reddish undertones
- 1 – Very pale
- 2 – Pale with some brown or olive tones
- 3 – Light brown or darker olive tones
- 4 – Dark brown to black
Do you have freckles?
- 0 – Numerous freckles on both frequently sun-exposed and unexposed areas
- 1 – Several freckles on both frequently sun-exposed and unexposed areas
- 2 – Few freckles mainly on frequently sun-exposed skin with a few appearing on unexposed areas
- 3 – Very few freckles typically on frequently sun-exposed areas of skin
- 4 – No freckles
Does your skin burn?
- 0 – Burns quickly and severely with significant redness, pain, blistering, and peeling
- 1 – Some burning with blistering and peeling after extended sun exposure
- 2 – Sometimes burns and peels usually with prolonged sun exposure without appropriate sun protection
- 3 – Rarely burns
- 4 – Never burns
Does your skin tan?
- 0 – Skin rarely or never tans
- 1 – May tan lightly after burning
- 2 – Tans readily but may also burn
- 3 – Tans readily and rarely burns
- 4 – Tans deep brown or black quickly
Results: Find Your Skin Type!
- Type 1 – 0 – 7 points
- Type 2 – 8 – 13 points
- Type 3 – 13 – 21 points
- Type 4 – 21 – 27 points
- Type 5 – 28 – 34
- Type 6 – 35 or more points
How Does Your Skin Type Impact Skincare & Skin Health?
According to Dr. Sander, “Skin types are an important way to understand how your skin is likely to respond to sunlight, determine best skincare practices, and even pick the right cosmetics. However, many people who fall into the Fitzpatrick skin types that are less likely to burn think that means the sun won’t impact their skin health. This is not the case. Even if your skin doesn’t have an immediate adverse reaction to sun exposure by burning, there are still numerous long-term adverse effects, including sunspots, accelerated aging, and skin cancer. No matter what your skin type, you need to regularly perform self-checks for skin cancer and visit your dermatologist once a year for a professional screening.”
Everyone should take precautions to protect their skin from both the short and long-term effects of sun exposure by wearing sunscreen every day and limiting overall time spent in the sun, especially if you live closer to the equator as this increases the risk for sun damage. Every person’s skin is unique, but there are some basic skincare recommendations that individuals within each Fitzpatrick skin type category should keep in mind, including:
- Type 1 – Take extra steps to protect skin from the sun and limit exposure to UVA/B rays of all kinds. You should also take care to protect your eyes from the sun by wearing glasses that block UV rays. Perform monthly skin self-checks and note any changes that may indicate skin cancer, and schedule annual professional screenings with your dermatologist.
- Type 2 – Protect skin from the sun and limit exposure whenever possible. Wear sun-protective glasses, hats, and other items to further reduce your risk. Perform monthly skin cancer self-checks at home and visit your dermatologist for an annual professional screening.
- Type 3 – Wear sunscreen daily, limit sun exposure, and wear protective sunglasses. Perform a monthly at-home skin cancer screening and visit the dermatologist each year for a professional exam.
- Type 4 – You are significantly less likely to burn, but sunscreen, sunglasses, and other protective steps are still important to prevent the long-term impacts of sun exposure like sunspots, fine lines and wrinkles, and skin cancer. You should also perform at-home skin cancer self-exams and attend yearly professional screenings with your dermatologist.
- Type 5 – You are unlikely to experience sunburns, but you should still wear sunblock to limit the impact of sun exposure on your skin for the long term. You should also take special care when performing at-home skin cancer screenings as people with darker skin tones are less likely to notice the early warning signs of skin cancer. You should visit your dermatologist annually for a professional exam.
- Type 6 – Sunscreen application is less essential to prevent immediate burning, but it can still help to promote overall skin health, reduce the signs of aging, and minimize the risk for skin cancer. People with very dark skin are less likely to notice the early warning signs of skin cancer, so it’s important to carefully examine skin at home at least every few months and visit a dermatologist annually for a professional exam.
Want to Create the Perfect Skincare Routine for Your Skin Type?
If you’re looking to improve your skincare routine to address the needs of your Fitzpatrick skin type, a board-certified dermatologist at U.S. Dermatology Partners would love to help. You can schedule a consultation visit at one of our dermatology practice locations by taking just a few minutes to fill out our simple online request form. Once we receive your scheduling request, a team member will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.
Find a location near me