The spectrum of skin color varies. Just as we don’t get to choose what environment we are born into, neither do we get to choose our skin color. Therefore, we should be proud of our skin whatever color or shade. After all, it is one of the most important and largest organs of our body. Yes, skin is an organ. It’s an organ that protects us from the immediate environment; our personal body amour and first line of defense. Since it has to last us life long it is important to determine what skin type we have, to set up a protective plan of action.
There are 6 known skin types on the Fitzpatrick Scale, also known as Skin Photo Type (SPT). These types are based on the skin’s ability to tan or not and is determined by where your ancestors have evolved: closer to the equator or further away. Knowing your skin type lets you know your skin cancer risk. Although subjectively scaled, skin typing has been valuable in determining protection options to those more susceptible to sun damage. Determining your skin type is easy. Just take this questionnaire:
There are other ways to determine a more accurate reading of your skin color type. Some devices can measure your melanin, hemoglobin, and skin reflective properties, such as the Dermatone Skin Analyzer. This will give you a more accurate reading that correlates to the more subjective Fitzpatrick scale. Of course, this dermatologist administered exam is not quite as cheap as a simple questionnaire. Either way, both tests will give a number that compares your skin to others, allowing you to see how your skin holds up in protecting you from sun damage.
Knowing your type of skin may influence you to be more protective of it. A person of skin type 5 would need to wear much less sunscreen than a fair skin type 1 in order to achieve the same level protection. Then again, it would take less time for a skin type 2 to tan than it would a skin type 4. It is important to be aware of the risks of tanning due to the harmful effects of long term exposure to UV, regardless of skin type. Skin type assessment is also important in certain conditions, such as depigmentation, photosensitivity, and eczema to name a few. This skin typing may influence a doctor’s treatment options.
Whatever skin color you possess, the most important thing is to be comfortable in it. Protect your skin, and be proud of your type, but most importantly protect what protects you. You will be wearing it for the rest of your life!
Savhdeva S. Fitzpatrick Skin Typing: Applications in dermatology, Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2009; 75; 93-96