Fitzpatrick scale and Spray Tanning

skin types and tanning

What the Fitz!

It all started back in 1975 when Thomas Fitzpatrick a Harvard University Dermatologist developed the Fitzpatrick scale (Prototype scale) as a useful way to determine skin type and skin cancer risk.  Experts established the Fitzpatrick skin types by asking people how their skin reacted to the sun. The results showed clear trends that allowed researchers to identify six different ‘skin types’ according to how much melanin was present.

Responses to these questions determine what number on the Fitzpatrick scale you or clients are:

  • Eye Colour
  • Hair colour
  • Skin colour (before sun exposure or exposed areas)
  • How many freckles do you have on exposed areas of your skin
  • How does your skin respond to the sun
  • Does your skin tan
  • How deeply does your skin tan
  • How sensitive is your face to the sun
  • When did you last expose your body to the sun for tanning

Skin type is then broken down into 6 characteristics

Understanding the Fitzpatrick Scale and Skin Types is beneficial for Sunless tanning as well as direct sun exposure and the damage that can occur to skin.  Where we sit on the Fitzpatrick scale is a characteristic present at birth and can be used to identify one’s skin colour or pigmentation. .  Keeping in mind that pale or white skin burns easily, tans slowly and poorly, needing more protection against sun exposure while darker skin rarely if ever burns and tans easily.  It makes sense that Skin Types I-III would fake tan.

**Regardless of whether you have a sunless (fake) tan or some direct sun exposure, sunscreen is always essential.

The Fitzpatrick scale is a great tool for determining what percentage of DHA would be best to avoid over development with sunless tanning. When used in conjunction with your clients underlying skin tone you can easily determine which tan base is best suited to deliver an amazing colour..

DHA is the colourless, colouring agent in your solution that tans the first layer of your skin to mimic your natural tan. Your first layer of skin can only absorb a certain amount of DHA. So, for example if you or a client are

  • Skin type 1-3 you might want to only use 6% -10% DHA solution.
  • Skin type 4-5 you should stick with 6% to 8% this adds just enough colour to boost the natural radiance and even out your skin tone.

There are 3 main bases with tanning solutions; GREEN, VIOLET and BROWN. Knowing your skin tone and choosing the correct colour will help neutralise your skin tone to give you the best possible natural looking glow, that won’t look FAKE. 

Green base: Green is opposite to pink / red on a colour wheel which means it neutralises the skin with pinky red skin tones. Typically you’re Skin type 1 and 2.

Green base suits almost all types of skin tones but are perfect for lighter complexions with cool or warm undertones.

Violet based: Violet is opposite to yellow on a colour wheel which means it neutralises skin with yellow or olive undertones. Typically you’re Skin type 4 and 5.

A violet base on a type 1 or 2 can look too reddish and should be avoided. 

Chocolate based: A chocolate base colour is perfect for those already brown or olive toned or who brown easily.  Typically you’re Skin type 4, 5 and 6.

A brown base can be used that is not really suited to Skin type 1 and 2 but it may throw some pinky, red or even orange tones.

Skin tones

Cool, warm, or neutral undertones are the colours that come through your skin from underneath the surface to affect its overall colour complexion. It is not about how light or dark your skin is, people of all skin colours, from very fair to deep, can have cool, warm, or neutral undertones.

Do your veins appear bluish or more deep purple?

If the answer is yes, you are likely in the cool-toned spectrum.

If your veins appear greenish, you most likely skew toward the warm-toned.

Those with neutral undertones will have difficulty discerning either colour—it will just all look neutral.

  • Cool: Hints of bluish, pink, or a ruddy complexion.

  • Warm: Skin skews yellow, sallow, peachy, or golden.

  • Neutral: Has no obvious overtones of pink or sallow skin, but rather the skin’s natural colour is more evident.

Difference between cool tones and warm tones.

Consider these points for tanning

First time tanners or new clients for your business should always have a patch test and/or questions asked based on the Fitzpatrick Scale to determine their Type and what they want their end shade to look like.

If they have used sunless tanners before, what were their results?

Did light or dark products work best? Then you should also choose a similar product, in the same DHA range.

Retail products are not as dark as professional grade sunless tanning solutions, and a product labelled “dark” may not be as dark as other competitors “dark”.  Offer a range of tans to support your clients desired tan.

Do they turn orange easily? Then be careful not to apply to dark (too high a DHA level) or over saturating the skin with tanning solution. 

Salon tanning solutions vary in processing times from express 20minutes for the lightest tone of a particular percentage (%) of DHA through to 8 hours.  It is important that clients follow the instructions for the result and don’t wear the tan longer than indicated.

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