Fitzpatrick Skin Type Chart Explained

By January 23, 2011Skin Care

Are you ready for a pop quiz? Wait, don’t panic. It is a test about your skin—just a few simple questions about your genetic disposition, reaction to sun exposure and tanning habits. You should already know the answers. Ready?

Click here to take the Fitzpatrick Skin Type quiz.

That’s it, just an easy couple of questions. In fact, you have just used the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Chart developed in the 1970’s to help doctors when evaluating patients and their risk for skin cancer. This test can now also be used for determining the effectiveness of many treatments, including laser hair removal.

Generally, the higher your number on the chart, the darker your natural skin tone. Please be advised that this does not give you free license to go without sun screen. In fact, sun protection is a daily necessity no matter what skin type you are.

Each person’s skin responds differently to ultra violet radiation. For many people, the initial reaction is to turn red (erythema). This adaptive response is the skin’s way of telling a person to get out of the sun. It also shows doctors that the immune system is healthy and, in fact, that healing has already begun.

Tanning is the skin’s secondary response, which is a way for the skin to protect itself from further exposure.  This response varies greatly among different people, even those with the same ancestry. For example, one Northern European with fair skin and freckles may burn repeatedly and never tan, while another of the same heritage may burn once and then tan.

Information obtained from skin type tests such as the Fitzpatrick skin type chart is very important to dermatologists and laser technicians because it determines their method of treatment and its effectiveness. In fact, many treatments use ultra violet light, such as laser hair removal and the results will vary according to the patient’s skin type.

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