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Fitzpatrick Scale: What to Know About Your Skin Type

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The Fitzpatrick scale is a classification system for understanding skin tones. Learn more about your skin type here, and get tips on how you can protect it.

Every body is different. From your hair pattern, eye color, to the largest organ, the skin. Skin color is a direct result of the amount of melanin your skin produces. There are endless shades from fair to dark pigmentations. The Fitzpatrick scale is a general skin type guideline that helps technicians in the healthcare industry understand what type of skin they are working with.

In this guide, we will be breaking down the different skin types categorized by the Fitzpatrick scale and how that affects your tattoo removal outcome. This information will benefit your understanding of how skin type plays a huge role in the tattoo removal industry.

Understanding the Fitzpatrick Scale

The Fitzpatrick scale is a scientific skin type classification that measures the amount of melanin in the skin. This skin tone scale was created in 1975 to classify skin pigmentation into categories to determine how your skin reacts to sun exposure. This scale was originally created to predict the risk of sun damage and skin cancer a person faces based on the category their skin type best fits.

What are the Six Fitzpatrick Skin Types?

There are six broad phototypes on the skin tone scale. You may not entirely fit a category and that’s okay, these are general guidelines to give a technician a better idea of where your skin tone lies on the scale.

In the following sections, we will be breaking down the specs that are typically associated with each skin type category. From skin color, eye color, natural hair color, reaction to sun exposure, and as a bonus, tattoo color can be removed from each skin type.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 1

The 1st of 6 skin types is a fair pigmentation that has no melanin in the skin. This skin tone tends to be highly sensitive to sun exposure which can cause burns and freckles. This skin type is the most susceptible category to skin cancer.

  • Skin Color: Pink
  • Eye Color: Light blue, green, or gray eyes
  • Natural Hair Color: Red, light blonde
  • Reaction to Sun Exposure: Burns with sun exposure, sensitive, freckles, and never tans
  • Ink Color: All colors
  • Fitzpatrick Skin Type 2

    The 2nd of 6 skin types is a light pigmentation that has small amounts of melanin in the skin. This skin tone tends to be highly sensitive to sun exposure which can cause burns and freckles. This skin type would require a significant amount of sun exposure to develop a small tan and is a highly susceptible category to skin cancer.

  • Skin Color: Very pale
  • Eye Color: Blue, green, or gray eyes
  • Natural Hair Color: Blonde
  • Reaction to Sun Exposure: Burns, freckles, and develops a small tan with extreme amounts of sun exposure
  • Ink Color: All colors
  • Fitzpatrick Skin Type 3

    The 3rd of 6 skin types is a medium or olive pigmentation that has a slight green undertone in the skin. This skin tone tends to tan gradually with sun exposure and can burn or freckle but it’s less common. This skin tone requires some sun exposure to develop a tan and is less susceptible to skin cancer than skin types 1 and 2.

  • Skin Color: Light brown, olive
  • Eye Color: Dark blue, green, light brown (hazel)
  • Natural Hair Color: Chestnut, dark blonde, light brown
  • Reaction to Sun Exposure: Burns, freckles, and develops a tan with some sun exposure
  • Ink Color: All colors
  • Fitzpatrick Skin Type 4

    The 4th of 6 skin types is a brown pigmentation that has a significant amount of melanin in the skin. This skin tone tends to tan quickly with sun exposure and is less likely to burn or freckle. This skin tone requires little sun exposure to develop a tan and is less susceptible to skin cancer.

  • Skin Color: Brown
  • Eye Color: Dark brown
  • Natural Hair Color: Dark brown
  • Reaction to Sun Exposure: Rarely freckles, develops a tan with little sun exposure
  • Ink Color: Most ink colors with reduced laser settings
  • Fitzpatrick Skin Type 5

    The 5th of 6 skin types is a dark brown pigmentation that is very melanin-rich in the skin. This skin tone tans very quickly with sun exposure and will rarely burn or freckle. This skin type requires very little sun exposure to develop a tan and is rarely susceptible to skin cancer.

  • Skin Color: Brownish black
  • Eye Color: Dark brown
  • Natural Hair Color: Dark brown
  • Reaction to Sun Exposure: Develops a tan with little sun exposure
  • Ink Color: Some ink colors with reduced laser settings
  • Fitzpatrick Skin Type 6

    The 6th skin type has a black pigmentation that has the most melanin in the skin. This skin tone may tan, but is already the deepest shade of pigmentation and will not burn or freckle. The skin tone requires no sun exposure to develop a tan and is the least likely to be susceptible to skin cancer.

  • Skin Color: Black
  • Eye Color: Dark brown
  • Natural Hair Color: Dark brown
  • Reaction to Sun Exposure: Easily develops a tan with little sun exposure
  • Ink Color: Little ink color with reduced laser settings
  • Protecting Skin Types 1 and 2

    Skin types 1 and 2 have a high risk of developing sun damage, skin aging from sun exposure, and melanoma among other skin cancers. These skin types can protect themselves from the sun by wearing zinc oxide SPF 50 + sunscreen, minimizing time spent in the sun, covering up exposed body parts, or wearing a large hat to protect the face from harmful UV rays. People with skin types 1 and 2 should perform skin self-exams routinely to ensure there are no enlarged moles or strange growths.

    When it comes to laser tattoo removal, you can expect to remove all tattoo pigment colors from the skin. Because the skin has less melanin, the laser is able to target the colored ink particles easily. Difficult colors like red, green, and blue can be removed from skin types 1 and 2.

    Protecting Skin Types 3-6

    Skin types 3-6 still have some risk of skin cancer from sun exposure, but their chances are lower than skin types 1 and 2. Although the risk of skin cancer is lower for skin types 3-6, the Skin Cancer Foundation noted that these skin types are prone to melanoma and are often diagnosed in later stages.

    These skin types can protect themselves from the sun by wearing micronized zinc oxide SPF 50 + sunscreen to reduce the chalky appearance on the skin, minimizing time spent in the sun, covering up exposed body parts, or wearing a large hat to protect the face from harmful UV rays.

    When it comes to laser tattoo removal, the tattoo colors are more limited for these skin types. Ink colors that can be removed from skin types 3-6 are red, blue, and green with reduced laser settings. Reduced settings are important to maintain the integrity of the skin.

    Color tattoos are more difficult to remove on these skin types because the laser could confuse the skin pigmentation with the ink pigmentation. Especially red tattoos, because skin types 4-6 have a red undertone. With reduced settings, a laser tech can slowly and safely remove a color tattoo from skin types 3-6. Learn more about tattoos on dark skin types.

    Benefits of Knowing your Fitzpatrick Scale Type

    Looking to get a tattoo removed? It’s best to understand your Fitzpatrick skin type and what you can expect to see based on the chart provided. It’s important to do your research on your removal options and see an experienced professional who knows how to treat different skin types. Learn more about sun exposure and how to prevent hypo and hyperpigmentation after laser tattoo removal.

    Now that you’ve learned how your skin affects tattoo removal, learn more about the tattoo pain chart and how the placement will affect your removal outcome. Looking to remove a tattoo for a cover-up? Learn more on our tattoo cover up page and book a free consultation with Removery today.

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