The Fitzpatrick Scale – What It Is & How It Can Help Your Skin

29th Jun 2020

The Fitzpatrick Scale – What It Is & How It Can Help Your Skin

If you’re interested in cosmetics and beauty, you more than likely know your skin tone like the back of your hand (and know that the back of your hand and face are two completely different shades!). Knowing your skin tone can help you determine the perfect shade of concealer and even whether you can have certain cosmetic treatments.

But knowing your skin tone can tell you a lot more than what makeup to buy – it can help protect your health.
Defining what ‘skin category’ you fit into on ‘The Fitzpatrick Scale’ can help alert you to how vulnerable you are when exposing your skin to the sun.

What is The Fitzpatrick Scale?

The scale was created by Thomas Fitzpatrick, a former chairman at Harvard Medical School. He studied the sun’s effect on the skin - specifically when it came to melanoma – research that is still used today. Fitzpatrick came up with a simple, scientific way to help classify how your skin is likely to react to the sun without having to test it out yourself!

The scale uses physical features to determine this (for example your skin tone, eye & hair colour).

Though knowledge on how to protect yourself in the sun is always important, if you find yourself in particular categories, it can alert you to how vigilant you need to be.

Although the sun has some incredible benefits that aren’t talked about enough, and everyone should aim to get at least some sun exposure each day, we’re sure you know the sun also has potential to damage your skin – and you’re especially susceptible if you have a fairer complexion.

The Fitzpatrick Scale – what skin type am I?

Fitzpatrick skin type 1
Extremely light skinned.
Light blue/green or gray eyes.
Red or light blonde hair.
Skin freckles, burns and peels in the sun, without tanning.

Fitzpatrick skin type 2
Fair skinned with blue, gray or green eyes.
Blonde hair.
Skin usually freckles in the sun, usually burns & peels and rarely tans.

Fitzpatrick skin type 3
Fair - beige skin tone with hazel or light brown eyes.
Hair tends to be dark blonde or light brown.
Skin can freckle or burn occasionally, can tan.

Fitzpatrick skin type 4
Olive or light brown skin.
Dark brown eyes and hair.
Skin usually tans in the sun without freckling or burning.

Fitzpatrick skin type 5
Dark brown skin.
Black eyes and hair. Skin always tans in the sun with minimal burning or freckling.

Fitzpatrick skin type 6
Dark – darkest brown skin with brown – black eyes and hair.
Skin never burns or freckles and always tans darkly.

If you find yourself between two categories, always proceed with caution and class yourself in the lighter of the two categories.

People on either ends of the spectrum need to treat their time in the sun a little differently. Those on the darker end of the spectrum can tolerate and will need more sunlight than those on the lighter end, to ensure they’re producing enough vitamin d.

I’m skin type 1 – 3, how do I treat my skin?

If you are on the lighter end of the spectrum, we recommend investing in a good, organic sunscreen. Protecting your skin properly will help prevent the breakdown of collagen and keep your skin looking younger and healthier for longer.

A great natural chemical-free sunscreen is our certified organic Natural Sun Screen. It is extremely efficient at protecting you from UVB and UVA rays as it has broad-spectrum protection. It is also made up of safe, skin-nourishing ingredients rich in antioxidants which also help to counteract the damaging effects of the sun.

You always want to avoid burning, so don’t spend longer than you can stand in the sun. If desire daily sun exposure, time yourself! Then have your sunscreen to hand afterward.
Thankfully, our sunscreen is physical, meaning the protection is instant on application– so you don’t have to wait half an hour indoors before it absorbs and takes effect!

I’m skin type 4 – 6, how do I treat my skin?

Fortunately, if you have a darker skin tone, handling your time in the sun is a lot easier! Statistically, darker skin types are less likely to develop melanoma, but have been observed to suffer with vitamin d deficiency. This isn’t an excuse to be careless in the sun, but it is recommended to get at least 20 minutes of sun exposure per day.

However, please do keep in mind how much sun exposure you need doesn’t just rely on skin tone, but:

- Your location

- The time of day (midday – 3pm is when the sun is at its strongest)

- Time of year (most people will need more exposure in the winter than in the summer)

- Personal circumstances (e.g. medical history)

No matter what category you fit into, after a certain period, using a natural sunscreen is good practice to protect yourself. If you’d like more information on sun protection, please read our sunscreen FAQs here.

Aside from sunscreen, how else can I protect my skin?

Diet plays a large role in how your skin responds to the sun. Without proper nutrients, you can’t provide your body with the building blocks to carry out what it needs to do - including your skin!
Fruits and vegetables help provide our body with antioxidants to help protect against sun damage.

One study demonstrated the power of a particular antioxidant, astaxanthin. The effect of UVA light was observed across two groups of mice. Group one was detected to have water loss from the skin and skin wrinkling. However, with group two which was supplemented with astaxanthin, no skin aging occurred.

Other studies have also found that higher alcohol and dairy intake can increase the risk of certain kinds of skin cancer.

This doesn’t mean you need to cut out treats altogether, but if you want to help protect your skin, make sure your diet is packed with nutrient-dense, plant-based food.

SkincareAs well as diet providing antioxidants, skincare can too. Make sure tochoose independently certified organic skincare, though! Odylique’s skincare is verified by the Soil Association and we only use the purest, natural ingredients and processes to provide high quality products with ingredients that still have their wonderful benefits in tact!

As well as our sunscreen, most of our products like our Superfruit facial oil and moisturizers are also high in antioxidants to actively nourish the skin and protect it from premature ageing.

Get outside!

Protection isn’t about prevention of the sun completely. As we mentioned earlier, the sun can provide great health benefits,so it shouldn’t be totally avoided. It used to be common practice for hospital patients to be taken outside each day to sit in the sun to speed healing. It has even been found that safe sun exposure can have protective qualities when it comes to cancer. It’s important to know your limits and how long you can spend in the sun without burning, but when you can, enjoy some time outside and soak up that vitamin D!

At Odylique, our aim is to cater for as many skin types as possible, so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us - Email us at or add your question as a comment below – we're here to help!

.graphic-header-image img { display: none; } .graphic-header-info { position: relative; }