Your Fitzpatrick skin type is important to your health. It reveals your susceptibility to sunburns and skin damage including skin cancer and photoaging. You can determine your own by taking a quiz related to genetic disposition, reaction to sun exposure, and tanning habits. For each question of the quiz, there are four possible responses, and for each response, there’s a score. At the end of the quiz, add up your total score to find your skin type¹.
Individuals with skin type 1 are at the highest risk of developing sunburns and skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, while individuals with skin type 6 have the lowest risk². However, a low risk is still a risk, which is why sun protection is important for everyone – celebrities included. Anderson Cooper (1), Diane Keaton (2), and Hugh Jackman (3) have all had skin cancer.
Skin types 1 (left) through 6 (right)
It’s easy to incorrectly assume your skin type based on your skin colour. Although skin colour is a factor, there’s much more to it. Traits like freckles, eye colour, hair colour, how your skin reacts to the sun, and how often you tan can give insight into your likelihood of developing a sunburn and/or skin cancer. It’s also important to note that in the skin type quiz, skin colour is based on the colour of your unexposed skin¹. If you use the colour of your skin that has been exposed to UV radiation, you may get an inaccurate result.
If you have a condition that can be treated with UV phototherapy, knowing your skin type is especially important. It can indicate how much UV radiation you can be exposed to before developing a sunburn (the minimal erythema dose or MED). Furthermore, individuals with skin types 1-3 are better candidates for laser hair removal, chemical peeling, dermabrasion, and topical bleaching, while those with skin types 4-6 are more likely to experience negative side effects from these procedures³.
- Canadian Dermatology Association. (n.d.). Know Your Skin Type. Retrieved June 23, 2016
- Skin Cancer Foundation. (2016). Where Does Your Skin Fit In? Quiz. Retrieved June 23, 2016
- Sachdeva, S. (2009). Fitzpatrick skin typing: applications in dermatology. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology 75(1):93-6. Retrieved June 23, 2016