Skin Types and Risk

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Your likelihood of burning or tanning is based on your skin type and the amount of UV exposure you receive. Dermatologists classify skin type into 6 subgroups, based on how your skin reacts to UV rays. These subgroups are sometimes called “Fitzpatrick photo types,” named after the physician who first classified them. People with skin types I and II are at highest risk.

Type I: Very fair skin with red or blond hair, light eyes, and freckles. Always burns; unable to tan; most sensitive to sun exposure. (Northern European or Irish ethnicity)

Type II: Usually fair skin. Burns easily, tans minimally even when trying to tan.

Type III: Light skin. Burns moderately, tans gradually and evenly to light brown. Most Caucasians are type II or type III.

Type IV: Olive skin. Burns minimally, always tans well to medium brown. Most Hispanics, Asians, and those from the Middle East are type IV or type V.

Type V: Brown skin. Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark brown. (Those with Indian and some African ethnic heritage are type V).

Type VI: Black skin. Never burns. Least sensitive to UV exposure. African heritage. Although people of all skin types are at risk for skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure.

Learn More About Melanoma in People of Color
Learn More About Sunburns

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