, , , , , , , ,

I recently saw a thought-provoking question which asked “Does Complexion Play A Role In Skin Care?” (by the blogger Tassie Small from theskinnyonskin101.com – original post here.) Often when we think or talk of tailored skincare, we envision skin types and use terms such as Oily, Dry, Normal and Combination. ‘Complexion’ on the other hand, is something we often place in the sole realm of makeup.  What we tend to forget, is that our complexion – essentially our skin colour, should play a factor in deciding which types of products we should buy. In Tassie’s post, she mentions the use of the United Colors of Benetton Fitzpatrick Scale, used by estheticians/cometologists/dermatologists to categorise the different skin tones. I have reproduced the scale below:

Gratuitous visualisation of the Fitzpatrick Scale using models that don’t actually represent the average person

Fitzpatrick Scale

  1. Type 1 – White Very Fair; Red/Blonde Hair; Blue Eyes; Freckles – Always Burns, Never Tans
  2. Type 2 – White Fair; Red/Blonde Hair; Blue/Green/Hazel Eyes – Usually Burns, Tans With Difficulty
  3. Type 3 – Cream White; Fair; Any Combination Hair/Eye Colour (Common Type) – Occasional Mild Burns, Gradual Tans
  4. Type 4 – Brown; Typical Mediterranean Caucasian Skin  – Rarely Burns, Tans With Ease
  5. Type 5 – Dark Brown; Middle Eastern Skin Types – Very Rarely Burns, Tans Very Easily
  6. Type 6 – Black – Never Burns, Tans Very Easily

For this scale to be of any use, we have to understand that we age in two ways; Chronological Ageing, and Photoaging. The first, nothing or anyone can avoid as a matter of life, however the second is to a large degree,  dependent on our skin colour, and understanding this means that we can slow it’s effects.

Broadly speaking, the darker the skin colour the larger the melanosomes which contain the pigment melanin and affords the most protection from the sun. Very Pale skins (Types 1 & 2) produce virtually no melanin, and Black Skins (Type 5 & 6) product the darkest and thickest melanin out of all. However, if you’re darker skinned, don’t be fooled into a sense of security about the effects from the sun; darker skins may not photoage as fast as lighter skins, but the risk of skin cancer is still present.                                                                                                     The bottom-line is that everyone must incorporate sun protection into their skincare. Dermatologists recommend that a broad-spectrum sunscreen be used with a minimum SPF of at least 30, (a shot glass full to cover the body) applied 20 minutes before you expose your skin to the sun and re-applied every 2 hours or as and when needed i.e post swimming. Sunscreen should be used every day of the year –You may also find it interesting to know that sunscreen is even required on cloudy days, as 80 percent of the UV rays from the sun still manage to reach the ground! Click here for a previous post I did with my recommendations for sunscreen that I have personally tried and used.


Unfortunately, the sun is only one aspect of photoaging. Your skin tone also makes you more prone to certain things:

Fair Skin (Types 1 – 3) – The lack of/no melanin in these skin types mean that people in this group tend to see wrinkles appear faster than those with darker skin tones

Olive Skins to Darker Skins (Types 3 – 6) – Although higher amounts of melanin in this group mean that wrinkles don’t appear until later (late 40’s – 50’s), the flipside is that those who belong in these skin types are more prone to hyperpigmentation. There is also a higher risk of long term scarring from skin irritations such as acne and dry skkin patches, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Black skin especially is prone to age spots, dark patches of skin and brown growths (harmless) on the skin known as Seborrheic Keratosis.

If you keep in mind your complexions as well as whether you have an oily/normal/dry/combination skin, you’ll be more able to delay the effects of photoaging and more importantly, protect your health. However, if there’s only one thing you take away from this post, and I can’t labour this point enough! let it be that you must wear sunscreen!!!!!!!!