Fitzpatrick who?

An important tool in a dermatologist’s arsenal is the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale. This system was originally conceptualised in 1975 by Thomas Fitzpatrick who was an academic dermatologist.  

The scale was originally created to categorise patients who were receiving natural and therapeutic ultraviolet (UV) radiation therapy and to determine skin cancer risk. Skin types I – IV were the first to be introduced to the scale with V and VI following in 1988.

The scale is defined by the skin’s response to UV exposure, for example, burns, tanning tendencies, and melanin pigmentation. The table below shows examples of each skin type as defined by the Fitzpatrick scale

The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale

Fitzpatrick’s system remains arguably the most used skin categorisation technique due to its simplicity, validity, and longstanding use throughout research, including research in dermatology unrelated to oncology.

Whilst there have been alternate scales created, the Fitzpatrick scale requires no specialist knowledge to be applied to clinical settings including history taking or examination. This means you can use this at home to determine your own risk, however if ever unsure or concerned, consulting a dermatologist or medical professional is best.



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