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[4 min read] How to classify skin types

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Performing aesthetic treatments in primary care requires a basic knowledge of facial anatomy. Only with the proper understanding of all the anatomic features that make the skin and the structures beneath a doctor can ensure the safety and efficacy of cosmetic procedures. The accurate recognition of skin types is a fundamental skill for anyone practising aesthetic medicine.

For further information on this topic, you may be interested to learn more about the HealthCert Professional Diploma program in Aesthetic Medicine.

There are two essential methods to classify skin types, that’s by:

  1. Fitzpatrick Skin Phototype, and
  2. Cosmetic Characteristics of the Skin


The Fitzpatrick Scale is a standard for physicians in determining a skin phototype. The method looks at the amount of pigment (melanin) and classifies the skin by reaction to sunlight exposure. This classification aids the prevention of UV light-related damage, including skin cancer. It also determines the appropriate Sun Protection Factor (SPF).

The cosmetic classification looks at all the skin balancing factors, such as:

  • Natural hydration ability,
  • Sensitivity level,
  • Sebaceous secretion (oil production), and
  • Genetics

According to this, there are five types of skin. These are:

  • Normal,
  • Dry,
  • Oily,
  • Combination, and
  • Sensitive skin

Skin phototypes (The Fitzpatrick Scale)

According to the Fitzpatrick Scale, there are six (I to VI) skin phototypes:

  • Skin Type I is a pale white skin that never tans and burns every time. The potential of UV damage with this skin type is substantial. People with skin type “I” usually have blue or green eyes and blond or red hair.
  • Skin Type II is fair skin that may tan but easily burns. People with fair skin usually have blue eyes and a high risk of UV-related skin damage.
  • Skin Type III is a darker white skin that burns initially but tans later.
  • Skin Type IV is light brown skin that tans easily but may also burn.
  • Skin Type V is brown skin that tans intensely and burns rarely.
  • Skin Type VI is dark skin that never burns and always tans intensely.

Cosmetic skin types

Because of their specific cosmetic characteristics, each skin type requires different care. With proper training in aesthetic medicine, it is easy to tell these skin types apart.

Normal skin

Normal skin has an even texture. It looks clear and usually lacks imperfections. The skin of this type is not too oily nor too dry. So, it does not require any special care.

Dry skin

Dry skin is not dehydrated because it does not lack moisture but natural oils. Such skin is prone to cracking. It feels rough and tight and may have a dull complexion. People with dry skin are prone to developing atopic dermatitis and are more likely to contract skin infections.

Oily skin

Oily skin looks shiny and moist. Due to excessive sebum production, such skin may appear dirty and be prone to acne flare-ups.

Combination skin

The mix of dry and oily skin traits makes up a combination skin type. In certain areas, it produces more oil, while others remain normal or dry. The so-called T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) is usually the greasy part, while the cheeks are dry.

Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin is delicate. It reacts strongly to various stimuli, such as:

  • Heat,
  • Cold,
  • Dry air,
  • Humidity,
  • Sunlight,
  • Scratching,
  • Injuries, and
  • Infections

– Dr Rosmy De Barros

Read another article like this one: Considerations for the safe practice of dermal fillers


  • Gupta V, Sharma VK. Skin typing: Fitzpatrick grading and others. Clin Dermatol. 2019;37(5):430-436. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2019.07.010
  • Pons-Guiraud A. Dry skin in dermatology: a complex physiopathology. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2007;21 Suppl 2:1-4. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2007.02379.x
  • Hong JY, Park SJ, Seo SJ, Park KY. Oily sensitive skin: A review of management options. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020;19(5):1016-1020. doi:10.1111/jocd.13347
  • Youn SW, Na JI, Choi SY, Huh CH, Park KC. Regional and seasonal variations in facial sebum secretions: a proposal for the definition of combination skin type. Skin Res Technol. 2005;11(3):189-195. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0846.2005.00119.x

4 comments on “[4 min read] How to classify skin types

  1. Very interesting information .thanks you.
    But a question is one person can have differents types of skin depending to the region of the body?

  2. Thanks for the enlightenment about skin types classification for it’s so helpful as a GP aspiring for aesthetic dermatology

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