What are the Fitzpatrick categories of skin types and how are they used to prevent sunburn?

Updated: Nov 08, 2018
  • Author: Christopher M McStay, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

Lighter-skinned individuals are affected more frequently and severely. Skin types are traditionally classified into the following Fitzpatrick categories, based on an individual's tendency to tan, burn, or both (see the Table below).

Table. Fitzpatrick Skin Types and Recommended Sunscreen Sun Protection Factor (SPF) Levels [2, 10, 17] (Open Table in a new window)

Skin Type

Description

Skin Color

Routine SPF

SPF for Outdoor Activity

I

Always burns, never tans

White

15

25-30

II

Always burns, tans minimally

White

12-15

25-30

III

Burns minimally, tans slowly

White

8-10

15

IV

Burns minimally, tans well

Olive

6-8

15

V

Rarely burns, tans profusely/darkly

Brown

6-8

15

VI

Rarely burns, always tans

Black

6-8

15


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