The Fitzpatrick Classification Scale:

The Fitspatrick Classification Scale was developed in 1975 by Harvard Medical School dermatologist, Thomas Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD. This scale classifies a person’s complexion and their tolerance of sunlight (reaction to ultraviolet radiation). It is used by many practitioners to determine how someone will respond or react to facial treatments, and how likely they are to get skin cancer.

  • Type I – Very white or freckled skin, always burns with sun exposure (very fair; often in people with red or blond hair and blue eyes)
  • Type II – White skin, usually burns with sun exposure (fair; often in people with red or blond hair and blue, green, or hazel eyes)
  • Type III – White or olive skin tone, sometime burns with sun exposure (fair; seen in people with any hair or eye color)
  • Type IV – Brown skin, rarely burns with sun exposure (common in people of Mediterranean descent)
  • Type V – Dark brown skin, very rarely burns with sun exposure (common in people of Middle-Eastern descent)
  • Type VI – Black skin, never burns with sun exposure

The patient’s skin type is an important factor used by dermatologists and other health care providers (e.g., dermatologic surgeons [dermasurgeons], certified laser technicians, aestheticians) to help determine which cosmetic procedure, or combination of treatments, is best for each patient.

In general, skin types I–III have a lower risk for problems (e.g., skin discoloration, blotchiness, darkening or lightening of the skin [hyper- and hypopigmentation], burns, scarring) following cosmetic skin treatments and skin types IV–VI have a higher risk.

Certain cosmetic procedures, such as dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and some laser treatments, should be performed with caution on people with skin types IV–VI. In these patients, the risks are weighed against potential benefits, and other treatments (e.g., nonablative laser rejuvenation) may be considered.

Other factors to be considered include the following:

  • Age of the patient
  • Area of skin to be treated
  • Level of skin damage (e.g., mild, moderate, severe; often caused by sun exposure)
  • Treatment goals (e.g., reduce fine lines, wrinkles, skin discoloration)