Sun and Skin Types

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

by 0 comments

Summer ballA person’s complexion and their tolerance of sunlight are measured using the Fitzpatrick Classification scale. It was developed in 1975 by Harvard Medical School dermatologist, Thomas Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD., and used by practitioners to determine how someone will respond or react to facial treatments such as successful laser, light therapy and peels and how likely they are to get skin cancer. It is important to understand that not all facial treatments are suitable for all skin types.

Fitzpatrick Classification scale

Skin Type

Skin Colour



White; very fair; red or blonde hair; blue eyes; freckles Always burns, never tans


White; fair; red or blonde hair; blue, hazel, or green eyes

Usually burns, tan with difficulty


Cream white; fair with any eye or hair colour; very common

Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans


Brown; typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin

Rarely burns, tans with ease


Dark Brown; mid-eastern skin types

Very rarely burns, tans very easily



Never burns, tans very easily

This scale is a guide and is not intended to replace the advice of your practitioner.


It’s white and goopy. Some brands remind me of the beach which, in itself can be a bit of a downer… but I digress. Sun protection factor (SPF) is a number on a scale for rating the degree of protection provided by sunscreens. No sunscreen can filter out 100% UVRs so even while wearing sunscreen, it is possible for you to tan. Your chosen sunscreen should protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

Types of sunscreen

There are two types of agents used to screen the sun’s rays, physical agents and chemical agents.

Physical sunscreen agents use their opaque property to block out the sun as they sit on top of skin to prevent UVRs from entering. (think: White paste on cricketers noses). These types of sunscreens should be the LAST product applied to the skin, even after the moisturer. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are most common physical sunscreen agents.

The upside is that they are very effective at screening UVRs; the downside is that using it on darker skins can result in a ghastly grey complexion.

Chemical sunscreen agents penetrate layers of the skin and protect it from within and as such should be the FIRST product put on the skin after cleaning. There are a host of these agents used in sunscreen products e.g. Dixoybenzone, Oxybenzone, PABA… and new ones are created every year, many of them unpronounceable. 

The upside is that as they penetrate the skin, and thereby does not affect skin tone – a plus for darker complexions. The downside is some chemical sunscreen ingredients may irritate sensitive skin.


Lotion up!


Related posts: Sunkissed beauty  

Leave a Reply



Featuring Recent Posts Wordpress Widget development by YD