It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. I am sitting at the park trying desperately to multitask a client file and keep my eye on my (almost) 6 year old in the sea of children in green T-shirts. It’s a beautiful day in sunny San Diego. Spring is almost here, raising its flag that great weather is here to stay.
While I welcome this change of season, it presents a whole new challenge to one’s skin care approach. Watching all of the green Leprechauns frolic in the park, got me to thinking about Fitzpatrick, wondering if any of the moms and dads that accompany these joyous little people know who the heck Fitzpatrick is? Does he have a pot of gold?… Or is he the drunken cousin of Saint Patrick? …..The answer is yes and no, respectively.
In 1975, T.B. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard Dermatologist, developed a scale to classify the response of different skin types to UV light. This scale measures genetic disposition, reaction to sun exposure and tanning habits.
While there is no documentation of T.B’s drinking proclivities, he certainly has provided us with a pot of gold when it comes to deciphering our skin type and subsequent treatment protocols.
Here is the Fitzpatrick Scale:
White; very fair; red or blond hair; blue eyes; freckles. Always burns, never tans (scores 0-7).
White; fair; red or blond hair; blue, hazel or green eyes. Usually burns, tans with difficulty (scores 8-16).
Cream white; fair with any eye or hair color; very common. Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans (scores 17-25).
Dark Brown; typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin. Rarely burns, tans with ease (scores over 30).
Dark brown; Middle Eastern skin types (scores over 30).
Black. Never burns, tans very easily. Unless You Live Under a Rock…
Type 1-3 are pretty self explanatory. Unless you have been living under rock, you know that these skin types must avoid UVA , UVB and IR . Daily sunscreen is imperative and don’t even think about the tanning bed- you are most susceptible to pre-cancerous lesions and possible melanoma.
Types 4-6: You Aren’t Out of the Woods
But what about Fitzpatricks 4-6? The beautiful Olive, Brown and Black skins? You, my friends, are not out of the woods. You too, are susceptible to the aforementioned. In addition, you may not “burn”, so to speak and you may be able to carry off that “sun-kissed” look. However, in addition to cancer, you are at risk for PIH. (I’m not entirely convinced “they” didn’t make it sound like a venereal disease just to scare you……( I digress)). PIH is the acronym for Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. This condition occurs when the skin produces too much melanin as a result of an injury or an over stimulation to the skin as in the case of burns , scratches, fungus or acne. This includes not only sun damage but laser treatments, chemical peels hormonal acne.
It is important that you know your skin type intimately, to receive the proper care and treatment both at home and in the salon. DO NOT assume the person selling you your laser treatment , tanning session or skin care prescription knows this information. If they do not mention it, ask. If they don’t know what you are talking about-RUN!!!
Happy Fitzpatrick’s Day!