Determine your skin tone

In 1975 a Harvard dermatologist, Thomas Fitzpatrick, invented a scale or test for subdividing us all into different skin types. Essentially, it measures skin types from light to dark. But instead of using descriptions with racial overtones, his scale is a system of numbers. This wasn’t, in fact, done to be politically correct, but as a way of scientifically measuring the likelihood of someone responding badly to ultraviolet light (with its potential for skin cancer).

Fitzgerald Scale
Type Usual features Reaction to sunbathing
Type I (scores 0–6) Pale white skin, blond or red hair, blue eyes, freckles Skin always burns and never turns brown
Type II (scores 7–13) The same as Type I, but green or hazel eyes Skin usually burns and only tans slightly
Type III (scores 14–20) White or olive skin tone, no particular hair or eye colour Skin sometimes burns but usually tans moderately
Type IV (scores 21–27) Brown skin Skin tans well and rarely burns
Type V (scores 28–34) Dark brown skin Skin tans very easily
Type VI (scores 35–36) Deepest brown or black skin Skin never tans or burns

The Quiz

You’ll have noticed that I have put scores with numbers next to each Type in the table above. That’s because I’m about to give you a quiz for working out where you are on the scale. The total points will tell you your Type. (This is not invented by me. It is based on a test created by the Skin Cancer Foundation.)

Here is the test. You note down the numbers for each question and add them all up. It’s best to judge yourself on areas of the skin not generally exposed to the sun, and on hair which is not usually coloured.

Part I: Genetic Disposition

Your eye color is:
Light blue, light gray or light green = 0 points
Blue, gray or green = 1 point
Hazel or light brown = 2 points
Dark brown = 3 points
Brownish black = 4 points

Your natural hair color is:
Red or light blonde = 0 points
Blonde = 1 point
Dark blonde or light brown = 2 points
Dark brown = 3 points
Black = 4 points

Your natural skin color (before sun exposure) is:
Ivory white = 0 points
Fair or pale = 1 point
Fair to beige, with golden undertone = 2 points
Olive or light brown = 3 points
Dark brown or black = 4 points

How many freckles do you have on unexposed areas of your skin?
Many = 0 points
Several = 1 point
A few = 2 points
Very few = 3 points
None = 4 points

Total score for genetic disposition (Part I): ______

Part II: Reaction to Extended Sun Exposure

How does your skin respond to the sun?
Always burns, blisters and peels = 0 points
Often burns, blisters and peels = 1 point
Burns moderately = 2 points
Burns rarely, if at all = 3 points
Never burns = 4 points

Does your skin tan?
Never — I always burn = 0 points
Seldom = 1 point
Sometimes = 2 points
Often = 3 points
Always = 4 points

How deeply do you tan?
Not at all or very little = 0 points
Lightly = 1 point
Moderately = 2 points
Deeply = 3 points
My skin is naturally dark = 4 points

How sensitive is your face to the sun?
Very sensitive = 0 points
Sensitive = 1 point
Normal = 2 points
Resistant = 3 points
Very resistant/Never had a problem = 4 points

Total score for reaction to extended sun exposure (Part II): ______

Add up your genetic disposition and sun exposure totals (Parts I and II) to find your Fitzpatrick Skin Type): ______

What to do with this knowledge?

Makeup manufacturers recommend particular products for particular Fitzgerald skin Types. There is no point me setting out a long list of examples because each manufacturer invents its own the colour names. So, I will refer you to a few of their own pages to give you an idea.

Next, determine your undertones

You should know that there is another set of skin factors – your undertones – which have a very important role in any cosmetics or treatment colourings, and the next page deals with that.

Next, determine your undertones