In order to examine the skin types for you and for us in detail, we spared no expense and efforts and made an interesting experiment. We packed 4 interns in a plane and sent them to the equatorial island of Bali: James from North Ireland, Julia from Germany, Julie from France and Giulio from the south of Italy. Once there, we put our subjects in four sun loungers on the beach in the sun and pressed a Balinese employee of the hotel a stopwatch in the hand, who lingered in the shade of a palm tree. He started to take the time.
Let´s see how long it will take for sunburn to set in.
The stopwatch showed no more than 10 minutes and the red-haired James, visibly sweaty, already left his sun lounger and sought protection from the sun. 6 minutes later, blonde Julia wiped the drops from her forehead and followed James. Julie stayed in the sun until the 29th minute passed, brushing her brown hair out of her face and also disappearing. All alone, the black-haired Giulio began to get bored and went out of the sun after a total of 45 minutes – he was thirsty and did not want to be alone on the beach. The Balinese pressed the last time on the stopwatch…and wondered what was going on there. Experiment done!
Well, let´s be honest…it was just a thought experiment – because of all the time we invest in Julie Soléy we only had the time to do the experiment mentally.
But what does this thought experiment show us?
The experiment illustrates the characteristics of the four different skin types classified by the American dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1975, which are still valid today. For the sake of completeness, it has to be said that in the classification he referred to the so-called “white skin type” and later added two other types: the dark-skinned and the black skin type. However, these two are not as relevant to our study on sunscreen and therefore do not occur in our mental test setup. In the following, let´s consider the skin types one to four, to which Fitzpatrick attributed the following properties.
Celtic type (skin type I)
The North Irish James represents this skin type. His very light skin doesn´t tan under the sun, but forms freckles. He has red hair, weak pigmented nipples and a very high risk of sunburn. The self-protection time of his skin, so the time in which he can safely stay in the sun without the use of sunscreen, is below 10 minutes.
Nordic type (skin type II)
In our thought experiment Julia from Germany should represent this skin type. She could also come from the Scandinavian region, as the name of this skin type suggests. She has a fair skin, which only tans slowly and weak and also tends to freckles. Further features of her skin are the moderately pigmented nipples, as well as the high sunburn risk. Without sunscreen, the self-protection time of her skin is between 10 and 20 minutes.
Mixed type (skin type III)
This skin type is the most widespread throughout Central Europe and is represented in our experiment by the French Julie. She has a medium complexion and her skin tans slowly progressing to light brown when exposed to sunlight. Her skin will not develop freckles and her nipples are moderately pigmented. Compared to the first two skin types her sunburn risk is greatly reduced. She can easily stay in the sun for 20 to 30 minutes without sunscreen.
Mediterranean type (skin type IV)
As the name of this skin type suggests, we are here in the Mediterranean, where the southern Italian Giulio comes from. Even without the sun, his skin is already light brown or olive and tans quickly and intensely. Black hair, dark nipples and the fact that he almost never gets sunburn complete the range of properties of this skin type. Without sunscreen, he can stay in the sun for more than 30 minutes – unless of course he feels lonely or thirsty.
|characteristics||skin type I||skin type II||skin type III||skin type IV|
|hair||red, blonde||blonde, brown||light-brown, brown||dark brown, black|
|eyes||blue, sometimes brown||blue, green, grey||grey, brown||brown/ dark|
|sunburn||always strong||more often strong||rare and morderate||hardly ever|
|Eigenschutzzeit||5-10 minutes||10-20 minutes||20-30 minutes||~40 minutes|
Since you can now determine your skin type and are aware of the properties of your skin, you can find the optimal sunscreen for your skin type based on our article “SPF and UVA – what does it mean for me and my skin type?”.
Have fun tanning!