The Fitzpatrick Skin Scale

Contrary to what you might think of someone with a name like Fitzpatrick, he was a very sober guy by the name of Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick way back in 1975 and had nothing to do with potatoes, it was the same year that Angelina Jolie was brought into the world, *heavy sigh*, I digress ……

Dr. Fitzpatrick was a Harvard dermatologist and developed the scale which classifies the amount of melanin that’s been transferred to the skin’s keratin cells. It ranges from a numerical value Type 1 to Type VI and takes in to account several factors such as your genetic disposition, your tanning habits and your reaction to being exposed to the sun.

Dr. Fitzpatrick first classified skin types 1-3 based on his study in Brisbane, Australia in 1972 of his outdoor sunscreen study. Using fair skinned Aussies he distributed their skin responses of midday sun exposure into the 3 main sun reactive categories :

  1. Those who burn easily and don’t tan at all
  2. Those who burn easily and tan with difficulty
  3. Those who burn moderately and show immediate pigment darkening and tan moderately after about 60 minutes of midday sun exposure.

In 1972 the United States FDA adopted Fitzpatrick’s classifications for the evaluation of sun protection factor or SPF values of sunscreens and like so many other things American good or bad, the world adopts.

So where do you fit in this classification system ?

Skin shades differ because of the amount of melanin found in various ethnic groups. All skins have the same melanocytes in them …. Uhh ? Melanocytes are the cells that manufacture melanin ….. there are differences in the size and distribution of the melanosome granules though, the granules are larger in dark skins than in light skins.

In Asian skin types the melanosomes are relatively large and distributed singly and in groups in the skin ...... African/Caribbean skin types the melanosomes are larger, heavily pigmented and scattered throughout the epidermal cells and therefore capable of producing large amounts of melanin that determines the depth of skin colour. White skin types have smaller melanosomes with less melanin that are distributed in clumps in the keratinocytes.

Though darker skins are typically oiler and thicker, reactions can be just as intense as those on lighter skin. ‘Black’ skin is prone also to excessive cell turnover and dead skin cell buildup called hyperkeratosis so dark skin still needs sun protection and greater exfoliation than fair skin types. Asian skin has a tendency to become hyper pigmented so sunscreen and a gentle exfoliation is a must.


Links for skin types:type 1 - type 2 - type 3 - type 4 - type 5 - type 6 - type 7

Here’s an interesting link to an online test the ‘take the test’ and fill out the questionnaire, when you click the result it’ll tell you what skin type it’s determined you are and then a whole heap of foundations recommended. Unless you’re planning some serious covering up of your beard stubble this coming Saturday night I’d just ignore the sales pitch of makeup.

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Remember, ‘natural’ hair colour is probably when you were still in early teenage years and before the rebellion years of dying your hair fluoro orange. Choose your skin type based on your skin tone in areas that aren’t exposed to the sun regularly like your sensitive and luscious inner thighs, or that area under your triceps when you check out your ‘guns’ development, exposing them every time you pose in the mirror at the gym hoping everyone around you is watching out of the corner of their eyes.

Type 1

  1. Type 1 has very fair skin, freckles are common and you’ll have blonde or red hair with light coloured eyes. You will always burn and never tan

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Type 2

  1. If you’re a type 2 you’ll be fair skinned and typically have light coloured eyes and light coloured hair. You’re a person who burns easily and tans with difficulty.

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Type 3

  1. Sorry to say and nothing personal, but …. You’re common. Having beige undertones, your skin is fair but your eye and hair colour will vary. You’ll burn easily and you tan with difficulty.

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Type 4

  1. You’re everywhere in Melbourne, type 4 has Mediterranean Caucasian skin with medium to heavy brown/beige pigmentation. If you’re a type 4 your rarely burn and always tan.

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Type 5

  1. This is more along the Mideastern skin types and be brown to dark brown in colour, you’re rarely sun sensitive and always tan … some would say this is ideal skin type for you sun worshipers out there.

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Type 6

  1. You’ll have very dark brown or ‘black’ skin if you’re a type 6, you’ll never burn and tanning is very easy for you.

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Ummmmm so now what Mr.Fitzpatrick ...... can anyone help me with this one then ?


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Site Last Updated: 21/08/2018