You may have seen the Fitzpatrick skin types mentioned on my website, so I thought it would be useful to give a quick introduction to what they are and what they mean.
The Fitzpatrick scale is a way of classifying a person’s skin type according to how it reacts to sun exposure. There are six different types on the scale, ranging from Type I, which always burns in the sun and never tans, through to Type VI, which never burns.
The scale has been around since 1975, when Harvard dermatologist Thomas B Fitzpatrick developed it as a way to estimate how different types of skin respond to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Although excessive sun exposure is bad for all skin types, people with skin types I and II are at most risk, and are also the most susceptible to photoageing – the premature ageing that comes from UV light exposure.
Your score on the scale is calculated based on several factors, including your eye colour, how many freckles you have, your natural hair colour and your own experience of how your skin reacts to sunshine.
Knowing your Fitzpatrick skin type will help to tailor your skin care regime. I assess clients’ Fitzpatrick skin types as part of my initial consultation, it’s a really useful factor in working out which products will work best for you.
You can work out your own Fitzpatrick skin type by answering these eight short questions. Keep a note of your score for each question, then add them all up at the end:
Score: 0-6 points = Type I
You are very fair skinned, and always burn in the sun. This makes you very susceptible to skin damage as well as skin cancers. You should always use a sunscreen with an SPF or at least 30, cover up as much as possible and seek shade whenever you are out in the sun.
Score: 7-12 points = Type II
You often burn and only rarely tan in the sun. This makes you highly susceptible to skin damage as well as skin cancers. You should always use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, cover up as much as possible and seek shade whenever you are out in the sun.
Score: 13-28 points = Type III
You sometimes burn and sometimes tan in the sun. You are susceptible to skin damage as well as skin cancers. You should make sure to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, cover up when you can and seek the shade when the sun in strongest – between 10am and 4pm.
Score: 19-24 points = Type IV
Your skin tans easily and you are less likely to burn. However you are still at risk from damage; use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and seek out shade between 10am and 4pm when the sun is at its strongest
Score: 25-30 points = Type V
Your skin tans very easily and you rarely burn, but you still need to take care of your skin. You should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every day, and seek out the shade when the sun is at its strongest (between 10am and 4pm). One type of melanoma, acral lentiginous melanoma, is more common among darker-skinned people. Because this tends to appear on parts of the body not often exposed to the sun, it is still important to check your skin regularly for signs of change.
Score: 31 points or more: Type VI
Although your skin does not burn, dark-skinned people are still at risk of skin cancers. You should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and seek out the shade when the sun is at its strongest (between 10am and 4pm). As for Type III above, acral lentiginous melanoma is actually more common among darker-skinned people. As this tends to appear on parts of the body not often exposed to the sun, for example palms and the soles of the feet, it is still important to check your skin regularly for signs of change.
Whichever of the Fitzpatrick Skin types you are, you should always keep a close eye on your skin, and look our for any suspicious growths or changes to your moles. It is recommended that you do a full top to toe check of your skin once a month. If you have any concerns at all about your skin, especially moles or growths, consult your GP: skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable.
If you want to find out more about why it is important to where sun screen, even on a rainy day, click here.