The Latest Derm-Term That’s Got Everyone Talking

Within the esthetician and dermatology industry, there are countless terms and phrases used by professionals and clients alike. Whether referring to various products, different skin types, or services, it can be challenging to keep up with the latest terminology—currently, The Fitzpatrick Scale is the new kid on the block.

You Totally Have a “Type”— A Fitzpatrick Skin Phototype, To Be Exact

Although it’s new information to many of us, The Fitzpatrick Scale was developed back in 1975 by Dr. Thomas B Fitzpatrick, a dermatologist at Harvard Medical School. Today, it goes by a couple of other names, like The Fitzpatrick Skin Phototype Scale, or Fitzpatrick Skin Phototypes (FSP).

Breaking Down the Background of Fitzpatrick’s Findings in Skin Treatment

When learning about the origins of FSP, many questions may come to mind. First of all, what was the reason behind Dr. Fitzpatrick’s research? How did he create his scale and its variations? What did the results confirm? To find the answers, it’d be easier to start from the beginning.

The Test

The FSP scale has been quite helpful in the world of skincare. However, preliminary testing was necessary for the doctor as well as his colleagues and patients to gain a better understanding of one’s skin type and its vulnerability. Certain skin conditions are easily addressed using phototherapy. This procedure shines ultraviolet light waves upon exposed skin for a set amount of time to treat those struggling with uneven skin tones and hyperpigmentation. Melanin is a cluster of molecules responsible for skin, hair, and eye color.

However, hyperpigmentation is an abnormal increase in melanin, causing the skin to look blotchy in certain areas. In most cases, sunburn can trigger hyperpigmentation, appearing as brown, black, grey, red, or pink splotches on the skin. Other factors such as hormonal imbalances or skin injuries can result in discolored or inflamed skin as well.

Dr. Fitzpatrick’s scale was initially created to determine the likelihood of a patient’s skin burning or suffering hyperpigmentation while undergoing phototherapy treatment.

The Scale

Nearly fifty years ago, when Dr. Fitzpatrick developed the FSP scale, it ranged from roman numerals I-IV. Thirteen years after the scale was first introduced to the world, roman numerals V and VI were added. The modern-day scale is from 1 to 6. On the lowest end is Fitzpatrick skin type1, the lightest skin, hair, and eye color, and therefore, the skin is most susceptible to sunburn under UV exposure.

On the highest end of the scale is Fitzpatrick skin type 6—this is the darkest skin, hair, and eye color, least likely to burn, but instead, will tan or get darker. You can learn your FSP by asking your esthetician, but there are also FSP charts you can review online to find out for yourself.

The Results

As the amount of melanin varies from person to person, so do our placements on the FSP scale.

Dr. Fitzpatrick’s findings indicate that those with a higher skin phototype were those whose skin had higher pigmentation. Therefore, darker skin has less propensity to burn than lighter skin that scores lower on the Fitzpatrick scale.

These days, FSP may be used to describe a person’s complexion and overall skin type, determining how it’ll respond to UV light. Thanks to Dr. Fitzpatrick’s dynamic scale, dermatologists and plastic surgeons can measure FSP to learn how patients’ skin will respond to chemical peels and laser treatments. More importantly, a person’s FSP can also reveal their risk of skin cancer due to the sun’s UV rays.

Does FSP Dictate How Your Skin Should Be Cared For?

No matter where it falls on the scale, every skin tone requires a unique regimen based on its condition. Whether light, dark, or in between, your skin needs TLC that keeps it clean and moisturized, protects it from the sun, prevents breakouts and blemishes, and helps it stay hydrated. The bottom line is, you can achieve the healthy, youthful-looking complexion of your dreams regardless of having a lower or higher Fitzpatrick Skin Phototype.

There are several things you can do to help your skin stay happy, including:

· Washing and moisturizing your skin daily

· Keeping up with monthly facials

· Completely removing makeup before bed

· Avoiding chemicals unless prescribed by a doctor and used only as directed

The Importance of Sunscreen for All Skin Colors

Last but certainly not least, applying sunscreen to your face and neck protects your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Don’t be misled; sunscreen is essential for everyone, no matter their ethnicity or skin complexion. Perhaps the biggest and most dangerous misconception regarding darker skin is that because it doesn’t burn as easily, it’s exempt from the consequences of sun exposure, but that’s not true. It’s important to note that even the deepest skin tone needs protection and proper screening for potentially life-threatening skin disease, such as melanoma.

As the weather is warming up, and the sun’s making its grand appearance a lot more often, sunscreen for the face and lips is the most important step of your morning skincare routine.

Now, next time you’re discussing skincare with your friends or esthetician, you can impress them with your new-found knowledge of Dr. Fitzpatrick—tell them all about his skin phototype scale and how it made impressive improvements in the industry that are still being used and refined to this day.