Fitzpatrick Skin Scale

Uneven Skin Tone: A Side Effect from Laser Treatments?

Do you know how likely your skin is to burn? This is pertinent knowledge when it comes to laser treatments at our med spa, the Laser Café, in San Diego, California. We must ID your skin to see how it may react to treatment and perform at the right protocol to get results. Our goal is to maximize your aesthetic rejuvenation while minimizing unwanted side effects.  With the Fitzpatrick Skin Scale, you can ID your skin before you come in. When you tell us your Fitzpatrick skin type, you help us determine how to proceed with your skin treatment!

uneven skin tone san diegoWhat is the Fitzpatrick Skin Scale?

The Fitzpatrick Skin Scale is a classification system invented in 1975. It is used to determine skin color. It is a numerical system that classifies skin into six types (Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, Type V and Type VI) based on what numerical score you get (ranging from 0 to 36). These numerical scores are based on an older von Luschan scale. Here are the ranges per skin type:

Type I: Scores 0 to 6

Type II: Scores 7 to 13

Type III: Scores 14 to 20

Type IV: Scores 21 to 27

Type V: Scores 28 to 34

Type VI: Scores 35 to 36

The lower your score, the fairer the skin. The higher the score, the more deeply pigmented your skin is.

What Exactly is Fitzpatrick Skin Scale Measuring?

While the system seems to measure the level of pigmentation in the skin, the real variable of interest is how skin responds to UV light. Excessive sun exposure or UV exposure can create pigmentation. Some laser treatments can also pigment skin. Typing your skin can help us determine your likelihood to get treatment-induced pigmentation and can serve as a guide for the kinds of laser settings we should use, kind of lasers to abstain from and what laser treatments you may best benefit from. Keep in mind: The Laser Café serves everyone, but instead of being color-blind, we customize treatment to your skin color!

uneven skin tone san diegoBurning & Tanning

As a general rule of thumb, you can measure skin type based on skin’s reactivity to the sun. The two experimental variables of interest are tanning and burning. Do you burn, and if so, how soon after being in the sun? Do you tan, and if so, how deeply? We can gather such information by asking many related questions, but the activity is for you to get a realistic impression of your skin type. What is your type?

Type I: Burn rather than tan
Type II: Usually burns, tans minimally

Type III: Sometimes slight burn, tans uniformly
Type IV: Burns minimally, tans well
Type V: Rarely burns, tans easily
Type VI: Never burns, never tans

Find Out Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type

It is difficult to reflect on experiences and ascertain exactly how one tans. Another important factor to consider is genetics. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, additional factors to consider beside burning and tanning include variables such as eye color, hair color, skin color and freckles. Here is how the authority on skin cancer measures Fitzpatrick skin type! Go through each item to find what describes you, and add up your score for a cumulative total.


Fitzpatrick Skin Scale: Self-Assessment

1. Eye Color:

Light blue, light gray or light green = 0

Blue, gray or green = 1

Hazel or light brown = 2

Dark brown = 3

Brownish black = 4

2. Natural Hair Color:

Red or light blonde = 0

Blonde = 1

Dark blonde or light brown = 2

Dark Brown = 3

Black = 4

3. Natural Skin (Before Sun):

Ivory white = 0

Fair or pale = 1

Fair to beige, with golden undertone = 2

Olive or light brown = 3

Dark brown or black = 4

4. Freckles on Unexposed Skin:

Many = 0

Several = 1

A few = 2

Very few = 3

None = 4

5. Skin’s Response to Sun:

Always burns, blisters and peels = 0

Often burns, blisters and peels = 1

Burns moderately = 2

Burns rarely, if at all = 3

Never burns = 4

6. Does Skin Tan?

Never, Only burns = 0

Seldom = 1

Sometimes = 2

Often = 3

Always = 4

7. How Deep is Tan?

Not at all, very little = 0

Lightly = 1

Moderately = 2

Deeply = 3

Skin is Dark Already = 4

8. How Sensitive is Face to Sun:

Very sensitive = 0

Sensitive = 1

Normal = 2

Resistant = 3

Very resistant/never had problem = 4

Add up your total score from these 8 criteria and see what range you fall in to get your Fitzpatrick skin type. What type are you?

uneven skin toneWhy We Care About this Score

If you have darker skin type and more melanin, your skin may be more sensitive to light energy. On the contrary, if you have lighter skin, we may be more aggressive with the laser’s settings. Either way, we set our protocols to your skin type to reduce the possibility for damage to melanocytes or pigment-producing skin cells, which can create side effects such as scarring, burns, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, skin discoloration and blotchiness. Basically, uneven skin tone can happen following cosmetic treatments, but not if we know your Fitzpatrick skin type.

Avoid Uneven Skin Tone as a Side Effect of Laser Treatments

The Laser Café is eager to help you achieve skin that looks and feels more youthful. This may take time and diligence on your part as you wear sunscreen everyday, but it also depends on you getting the laser treatments that work for you. After you determine your score, please share that knowledge with us when you come in for your consultation! Our professionals will test your skin type further, but getting an initial number based on your self-assessment helps us to get closer to your true skin type.


What are ways you protect your skin in the sun? Share with The Laser Cafe by tweeting us at @lasercafemedspa!

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