03 May 2018

The 6 different skin types

What type of skin do you have? Do you tan easily or do you burn?

There are six different skin types. The six skin types are scaled according to the amount of pigmentation in your skin and how it reacts to sun exposure (whether it burns easily or tans). The scale ranges from 1 (high risk) to 6 (low risk), and considers skin colour (pale white to black).

Your natural skin colour influences the risk of skin cancer, but many of us tend to think we are darker than they actually are. Your skin type cannot be changed and doesn’t vary according to how tanned you are – it is determined by your genes.

Type 1

Pale skin, highly sun-sensitive, always burns, never tans.

Type 2

Fair skin, very sun-sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.

Type 3

Sun-sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.

Type 4

Generally olive coloured skin, less sun-sensitive than other skin types, rarely burns, always tans to moderate brown.

Type 5

Naturally brown skin, not very sensitive to the sun, rarely burns, tans well.

Type 6

Black skin, rarely burns, not sensitive to the sun, deeply pigmented.


Once you have identified your skin type you should follow the below precautions when exposing yourself to sun. Don’t forget in Ireland it is recommended that you wear SPF throughout the months April to September even if you are only getting limited sun exposure as UVA and UVB rays can be still be high.


Skin types 1 & 2 are at the highest risk of developing skin cancer particularly if you have regular exposure to sun.

  • Use a sunscreen with a high SPF.
  • Limit your sun exposure and seek shade whenever you’re out in the sun.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to offer more protection to your head and face
  • Wear sunglasses with high level UV protection
  • Check your skin from head to toe each month.
  • Have an annual skin check up with a doctor.

If your skin is type 3 to 6, you still have some risk of skin cancer from sun exposure, especially if use tanning beds. You should still use sun protection when exposed to the sun, even though your risk is lower than people with type 1 or 2 skin.

For maximum protection, you should follow these tips:

  • Limit your sun exposure.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your head and face.
  • Wear sunglasses with high level UV protection
  • Wear sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or greater.

Check your skin from regularly for changes e.g. new moles or ones that have changed and have an annual skin check up with a doctor.


When to get screened

If you’re at an increased risk of skin cancer, you should have regular skin exams. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be checked. While it is recommended that all skin types have an annual check, some individuals may need a more regular exam.

See more information about Staying Safe in the Sun here.

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