Mya Care Blogger 29 Feb 2024

The countless products and routines available for skincare can help achieve a clear complexion. Yet most of them do not work for all types of skin. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to determine the needs of your specific skin type. Fortunately, part of the secret to determining what gives you radiant, clear skin lies in your particular skin tone.

Each skin tone faces distinct challenges, such as varying sensitivity to sun exposure, types of hyperpigmentation, and dryness or oiliness. The two types of melanin largely govern how the skin interacts with the environment and in which environment the skin thrives best. Understanding these differences is critical to crafting a personalized skincare routine that shines in any circumstance.

This article delves into the relationship between skin tone and skincare needs, providing tips for achieving a healthy and radiant complexion.

Understanding Skin Tone and the Fitzpatrick Scale

Skin tone guides the color of your skin, which depends on the amount of melanin present. Melanin is an antioxidant pigment that gives skin, hair, and eyes their color. In the skin, cells called melanocytes produce the melanin pigment.

Melanin has two forms: eumelanin (brown) and pheomelanin (red[1]).

  • Eumelanin is responsible for producing brown or black pigmentation in the skin. It is the most common form of melanin and determines the overall shade of the skin tone. Eumelanin is more abundant in darker skin than lighter skin. The ability of eumelanin to absorb and scatter the sun's UV rays makes darker skin less prone to sunburn and sun sensitivity.
  • Pheomelanin, conversely, produces red or yellow pigmentation in the skin. It is responsible for freckles, red hair, and the pink or peach undertones in fair skin. It does not provide as much protection against UV radiation as eumelanin and can make skin sensitive to sun exposure.

The presence and ratio of eumelanin and pheomelanin in the skin determine the specific skin tone and its unique characteristics.

What Is the Fitzpatrick scale?

The Fitzpatrick scale is a subjective scoring system used by dermatologists to categorize different skin types based on their response to sun exposure.[2] It helps determine the skin's sensitivity to the sun and its unique characteristics. A dermatologist also uses Fitzpatrick skin typing to gauge the sensitivity and suitability of laser treatments and other cosmetic procedures.

The scale ranges from Type I to Type VI, with Type I being the lightest and most sun-sensitive and Type VI being the darkest and least sun-sensitive. These six skin types correlate to six primary skin tones: fair, light, medium, olive, tan, and dark. Each skin tone has distinctive characteristics and requires different levels of care.

Skincare Challenges Based on Skin Tone

Every skin type is prone to the following challenges; however, the degree to which they are affected differs due to the unique characteristics of eumelanin and pheomelanin.

The following section discusses these conditions in more depth.


Skin exposure to environmental pollutants is unavoidable in today's world. A large portion of these comprise heavy metals.[3]

Studies have revealed that melanin is an antioxidant with a negative charge capable of binding to positively charged metal ions, such as heavy metal particles. This understanding partially explains why those with lighter skin and lower melanin levels may be more sensitive to cosmetic products and various other skin exposures.

When choosing cosmetics, those with lighter skins may do better with products higher in antioxidants and lower in detergent ingredients.

Sun Protection

Everyone must protect their skin from the sun's harmful UV rays regardless of skin tone. Those with fair and light skin tones are more prone to sunburn and should take extra precautions by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.[4]

People with medium, olive, tan, and dark skin tones should still use sunscreen to protect against sun damage and premature aging.

Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Sun-related skin damage accumulates over the lifespan, leading to wrinkles, dark age spots, and reduced skin flexibility. This lifelong process is known as photo-aging.

People with darker skin are less affected by sun-related damage during their younger years. As a result, signs of aging can take 10-20 years longer to show in those with deeper skin tones than those with lighter skin[5]. Despite these findings, sun exposure is not the only factor that can lead to premature skin aging. Other factors that can also contribute include smoking, dehydration, and stress.

People of all skin tones need to shield their skin from the sun. Those with lighter skin may need to stay out of the sun for longer and use antioxidant-enriched products that aim to repair damaged skin more often than those with darker skin tones.

Moisturization: Which Skin Type Is More Prone to Dryness?

All skin tones require proper moisturization to maintain a healthy and hydrated complexion.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association demonstrates that those with medium skin tones are less prone to dry skin than those with lighter or darker skin. Several studies still need to find a correlation between skin tone and moisture loss or have revealed contradictory results. Skin dryness can also differ according to body area.

Dryness may be more noticeable in darker skin and may have a higher prominence due to containing a lower level of skin proteins called ceramides. These contribute to the skin's structure and help to hold in more moisture. Other skin proteins can also contribute to skin dryness[6], which may explain the higher incidence of dry skin conditions in those with lighter skin. More research is required to draw firm conclusions.

Those with fair and light skin tones may need more gentle, hydrating products to avoid irritation and dryness. Those with medium, olive, tan, and dark skin tones may be able to use a broader range of moisturizing products but should still pay attention to their skin's specific needs.

Eczema is more likely to arise in children with type I, II, and VI skin tones, yet not as much in type V[7]. As explained above, this may result from lower skin protein concentrations. Those with dehydrated skin may benefit from moisturizers that contain ceramides and other proteins that can enhance skin moisture retention.

Rosacea is a skin condition that is more common in lighter-skinned individuals. The reason for this is largely unknown, although it may be related to the pro-oxidant properties of pheomelanin. Rosacea increases skin inflammation, giving the skin a red appearance.[8] The skin is more prone to overgrowth, dryness, lumps, and acne. A dermatologist may recommend gentle skincare products for those with rosacea and medications such as steroids to control flares.

Hyperpigmentation and Even Skin Tone

As mentioned earlier, those with medium, olive, tan, and dark skin tones may experience discoloration and an uneven skin tone. People with these skin tones are also more prone to hyperpigmentation, dark patches caused by uneven melanin production. Sun damage, inflammation, and even acne can trigger it.

To address these concerns, dermatologists might recommend products to brighten and even out the skin tone with ingredients like:

  • Vitamin C
  • Retinol
  • Kojic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Glycolic acid

Those with fair and light skin tones may also benefit from these ingredients but should use them with caution as they may be more prone to irritation.

Retinoid Use

Those with a darker skin tone are often more sensitive to using retinoids than those with lighter skin. Prescription retinoids can control severe cases of acne, hyperpigmentation, melasma (skin cancer), psoriasis, and wrinkles[9]. It increases skin growth, exfoliation, and renewal. It can also cause the new skin to have less available melanin due to its ability to inhibit tyrosinase, an enzyme crucial for melanin production.

Those with darker skin can tolerate more retinoids than those with lighter skin. However, they are more prone to skin irritation when applying topical retinoids to lighten their skin until they have adjusted. Recommendations suggest starting slowly with small doses and building up to an optimal dose when treating either acne or hyperpigmentation. Other products can help reduce hyperpigmentation, too, as mentioned above.

Those with lighter skin may only be able to tolerate a low-dose retinoid regimen for acne. While it takes longer to work, many people discover that the results are worthwhile.

Oil Control and Acne

All skin tones can experience acne. Those with dark skin tones may be at a higher risk for possessing more wax esters in their skin. Deeper shades may also face the additional challenge of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) - dark marks left after blemishes heal.

A combination treatment that targets excess oil production, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation may be highly beneficial for those with darker, acne-prone skin.[10]

What Fitzpatrick Skin Types Reveal About Skincare

Understanding your skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale can help you define your unique skincare needs, including sun protection and moisturization, and address specific concerns like hyperpigmentation or dryness.

The ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin in each skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale can vary. Generally, the higher the skin type number on the scale, the higher the ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin and the less sensitive the skin is to skincare products[11].

It is important to note that these characteristics can vary from person to person and that there are many exceptions to the Fitzpatrick scale. It is always best to consult a dermatologist or skin care professional for tailored advice based on your skin type and concerns.

Here is a breakdown of the Fitzpatrick scale:

Type I: Fair Skin

  • Very fair skin with pink or peach undertones that always burns and never tans.
  • People with Type I skin can have light-colored hair and blue or green eyes.
  • Type I skin has the lowest ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin.
  • More susceptible to environmental elements such as pollution and harsh chemicals.
  • Prone to sunburn, redness, irritation, and dryness.

Type II: Light Skin

  • Fair skin that burns quickly and tans minimally with slightly more yellow undertones than fair skin.
  • Those with Type II skin often have light-colored hair and blue or green eyes.
  • Type II fair skin has a slightly higher ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin than Type I.
  • Prone to sunburn and skin sensitivity.
  • Possible discoloration.

Tailored Skincare for Lighter Skin Types I-III

Those with lighter skin tones can keep their skin glowing with the following recommendations:

  • Always wear SPF 30+ sunscreen daily. Remember to reapply after swimming or sweating.
  • Exfoliate your skin with gentle products to reveal fresher skin. Consider using chemical exfoliants like AHAs (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids).
  • Select skincare products specifically designed for sensitive skin to soothe and prevent irritation.
  • Keep your skin healthy by using gentle cleansers and moisturizers.
  • Address hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and dryness by incorporating hyaluronic acid for hydration and niacinamide to minimize pores and control oil production.
  • Use products that incorporate antioxidants to protect your skin from free radicals and prevent wrinkles.

Type III: Medium Skin

  • Light to medium skin that has a warm, golden undertone.
  • The skin sometimes burns, yet often gradually tans to a light brown.
  • People with Type III skin usually have brown hair and hazel or brown eyes.
  • Type III light to medium skin presents a balanced ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin.
  • Medium skin tones have a lower risk of sunburn and sensitivity than lighter skin tones.
  • They may be prone to hyperpigmentation and dark spots.

Type IV: Olive Skin

  • Medium to olive skin tone with a green or yellow undertone, rarely burns, and tans to a moderate brown.
  • People with Type IV skin typically have dark brown hair and brown eyes.
  • Type IV medium to olive skin has a higher ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin than Type III.
  • Less prone to sunburn and sensitivity
  • May have excess oil production and enlarged pores

Tailored Skincare for Medium Skin Types III-IV

The following suggestions can keep your skin radiant if you have a medium skin tone:

  • For acne, use gentle cleansers, spot treatments, and oil-free moisturizers. Also, try using AHAs or BHAs in spot treatments and serums for exfoliation and deep pore cleansing.
  • To brighten your skin, look for products with niacinamide, AHAs/BHAs, glycolic acid, retinol, and vitamin C serums, as they can even out skin tone and boost radiance.
  • If you have combination skin, use light moisturizers for oily areas and richer creams for dry patches.
  • For hydration, use lightweight, oil-free moisturizers that balance oil control and hydration.
  • Occasionally, clay masks or salicylic acid skin formulas can help absorb excess oil without stripping moisture.

Type V: Tan Skin

  • Tan skin is dark brown with a warm, golden undertone that rarely burns.
  • People with Type V skin often have black hair and brown eyes.
  • Type V dark brown skin has a higher ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin than Type IV.
  • The eumelanin content gives the skin more of a bronze effect.
  • This skin type is less prone to sunburn and sensitivity
  • May experience discoloration or uneven skin tone

Type VI: Dark Skin

  • Dark skin has a deep, rich complexion and warm, dark brown undertones.
  • People with Type VI skin usually have black hair and brown eyes.
  • Type VI skin has the highest ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin.
  • Least prone to sunburn and sensitivity.
  • Prone to hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
  • Studies suggest this type has a lower level of ceramides relative to cholesterol in the skin matrix.

Tailored Skincare for Deeper Skin Types V-VI

The tips listed below can help maintain your skin's vitality if you possess a darker skin tone:

  • Protect your melanin with daily SPF 30+ to prevent dark spots and PIH.
  • Use products made for deeper skin tones to avoid irritation and lightening.
  • Consult a dermatologist for specialized treatments for melasma.
  • Prevent keloid formation with gentle care and silicone scar sheets.
  • Moisturize regularly and seek a dermatologist's help for managing eczema.
  • Fade dark spots and even skin tone with gentle exfoliation and ingredients like glycolic acid, vitamin C, and kojic acid.
  • Start slow with retinol and choose gentle formulas to avoid irritation. Listen to your skin and adjust accordingly.

Tips for Acquiring a Healthy and Radiant Complexion

Now that we have explored the relationship between skin tone and skincare needs, here are some general tips for achieving a healthy and radiant complexion:

  • Those of any skin tone should wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect their skin from the sun's damaging UV rays.
  • Use gentle and non-irritating products, especially if you have fair or light skin.
  • Incorporate brightening and exfoliating products into your routine to address discoloration and uneven skin tone.
  • Choose makeup shades and formulas that complement your unique skin tone and enhance your natural features.
  • Age, lifestyle, and even where you live can affect your skin. Remaining hydrated, eating a healthy diet, and getting sufficient sleep can all contribute to a healthy glow, no matter your shade.
  • Conduct a skin analysis to determine your specific skin care needs and adjust your routine accordingly.

Conducting a Skin Analysis

Conducting a skin analysis to determine your specific skin type is vital. A skin analysis involves examining your skin's texture, tone, and overall health to determine the best action for achieving a clear complexion.

A dermatologist can offer you a professional skin analysis and provide in-depth information on how to go about caring for your skin type. They may use tools such as a magnifying lamp or a skin scanner to get a closer look at your skin and provide personalized recommendations.


In conclusion, skin tone does play a significant role in skin care needs. Understanding your skin tone and conducting a skin analysis can help determine effective actions to achieve a healthy complexion. Always protect your skin from the sun, use gentle and appropriate products, and address any specific concerns based on your skin tone. You can accomplish a radiant and glowing complexion with the proper skincare routine.

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