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Is this numerical system the key to finding your perfect skincare routine?

Traditionally, the Fitzpatrick scale, a numerical classification identifying six skin types, was used to “classify how skin responds in the sun. For example, if someone would tan or burn without wearing an SPF,” explains Lindsay Tallant, national training manager at advanced skincare distributor Dermapure. Increasingly, however, the scale, developed in 1975 by dermatologist Thomas B Fitzpatrick, is slowly being incorporated in the creation of skincare, make-up and aesthetic products. Uoma Beauty’s founder Sharon Chuter was an early adopter of the Fitzpatrick scale (it inspired her skincare-infused foundation line). So what’s your type – and what does that mean for your regime? Read on to find out...

Type VI

Never burns. Typically deeply pigmented dark brown to darkest brown in colour.

The Fitzpatrick scale has been pivotal in ensuring the narrative changes around darker skin tones. As Dija Ayodele, author of Black Skin: The Definitive Skincare Guide, says, “It encourages developers to think widely about providing solutions for darker skin tones.” Enter 456 Skin, whose formulations target the needs of skin types IV, V and VI: to prevent dehydration; effective but safe hyperpigmentation treatment; smart oil regulation; skin revitalisation; and strengthening the skin barrier.

Type V

Rarely burns. Tans very easily. Typically dark brown in colour.

High-performance skincare brand SkinCeuticals used the Fitzpatrick scale to prove sunscreen alone was not enough to prevent premature ageing and discolouration, two common skin concerns among those with type V skin. When exposed to light sources, they found pigmentation for skin type IV and V increased by 18.1 per cent, compared to 4.3 per cent for skin types I and II. Its antioxidant serums, such as CE Ferulic and Phloretin CF alongside sunscreen will increase protection against visible light exposure.

Type IV

Minimally burns. Typically light brown to olive in colour.

“This type is high risk for trauma and chemically caused pigmentation,” says celebrity facialist and skincare expert Lisa Harris. “I would advise being very careful with high-strength peels, as they could cause pigmentation or dermal pigmentation, which is inflammation.” Type IV-friendly skincare, such as PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Overnight Mask, (tested on a diverse range of skin types and Fitzpatrick phototypes for maximum efficacy), reduces inflammation, soothes irritation and speeds up barrier repair.

Type III

Tans uniformly, sometimes resulting in mild sunburn. Typically beige in colour.

“Skin types I to III are at higher risk of sunburn and skin cancer due to UV damage – though everyone should always apply SPF. So type III needs a high-powered sun cream and ingredients that calm and reduce redness,” shares Lizzie Shaw, brand manager at PCA Skin. Pigmentation issues typical in this skin type can be treated with standard medical-grade lasers and aesthetic treatments. Anything stronger requires aesthetic clinics that factor in the Fitzpatrick scale. This will ensure optimum results and avoid adverse reactions.

Type II

Tans minimally, usually burns. Typically fair in colour.

Daniel Chang, medical director of the Korean Medical Aesthetics Clinic, explains that this type “has a very high risk of skin cancer... therefore are advised to take extreme care and use sunscreen”. Type II complexions can be improved by using humectants to retain moisture, retinoids to slow premature ageing, emollients to combat dry skin and vitamin C to increase collagen production.

Type I

Never tans, always burns. Typically very pale in colour.

Those with type I skin have a thinner epidermis than those with type VI skin, so it is recommended they avoid products with glycolic acid (can be irritating), use barrier-supporting skincare and high-factor sun protection. “PCA Skin’s Weightless SPF, with 8.4 per cent zinc oxide, provides broad-spectrum UV protection by reflecting, scattering and absorbing UV rays,” says Shaw. As skin type I is more susceptible to burning and peeling, products with calming properties will always be hugely beneficial.

This article was originally published on Vogue UK.

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