Everything you need to know about the Fitzpatrick Scale

Everything you need to know about the Fitzpatrick Scale

Did you know that your skin’s got a number? Here’s why knowing it can come in handy


FITZPATRICK If you had to describe your skin’s colour or tone, what would you say? Fair? Olive? Dark? No doubt you’d be on the money – because let’s face it, you probably know your skin pretty well. But it turns out that in the dermatological or ‘skin’ world, there’s a much more accurate way of classifying skin types.

It’s called the Fitzpatrick Scale. Originally developed in 1975, based on the amount of melanin – that’s the pigment that determines skin colour – in the skin, and therefore the skin’s response to being exposed to the sun, the scale has six skin types. Numbered one to six, each type has some standout or typical features.

What’s the value of knowing your number? On top of being a useful and scientifically proven way of determining skin cancer risk, your Fitzpatrick Scale number can determine which treatments are and aren’t suitable for your skin type. 


Let’s take pigmentation, for example. Your Fitzpatrick Scale type gives you an indication of how likely you are to develop pigmentation, but also how you can treat it. So, while Clear Skincare’s Overnight Peels are suitable for all skin types, Laser Pigment Removal is only suited to Fitzpatrick Scale skin types 1-4.


And while we’re on the topic of treatments, it’s a good time to highlight that your Fitzpatrick Scale skin type will be determined on the day you arrive for your treatment. So if you’ve recently been exposed to the sun or you’re wearing fake tan on the day, your skin type may be higher than usual, and that may affect the type of treatment you can have.


So, what is your number? You can take a quiz to find out, but for starters, here’s a quick rundown of the key characteristics of all six Fitzpatrick Scale skin types, as well as a bit of celebrity inspo to help make things a bit clearer.


Fitzpatrick Skin Type 1

Typical Features: Pale white skin, blue/green

Tanning Ability
Always burns and never tans. 

In The Real World, Think...
Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Emma Stone, Ed Sheeran and Prince Harry.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 2

Typical Features: White skin 

Tanning Ability
Burns easily and tans minimally

In The Real World, Think...
Margot Robbie, Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift, Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman.


Fitzpatrick Skin Type 3

Typical Features: Darker white/light brown skin

Tanning Ability: Sometimes burns but slowly tans to a light brown

In The Real World, Think... 
Megan Fox, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 4

Typical Features: Moderate brown skin

Tanning Ability:
Rarely burns and tans easily.

In The Real World, Think...
Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Oh, George Clooney, Dev Patel and John Legend.




Fitzpatrick Skin Type 5

Typical Features:
Dark brown skin

Tanning Ability:
Very rarely burns and tans darkly easily

In The Real World, Think...
Beyonce, Thandie Newton, Halle Berry, Will Smith and Donald Glover.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 6

Typical Features:
Deeply pigmented dark brown to black skin

Tanning Ability:
Never burns and always tans darkly. 

In The Real World, Think...
Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy.