Fitzpatrick scale

While most people associate different skin types with categories such as oily, dry, combination or sensitive skin, the Fitzpatrick Scale classifies 6 different skin types based on their melanin content. This needs to be considered in all laser procedures, including hair and tattoo removal as well as vascular lesion and pigmentation treatment because different skin types react differently to laser exposure. Therefore, laser treatments need to be customised depending on your client’s skin type and necessary precautions have to be taken before any treatment is carried out. To ensure your client’s safety and health, it is important to know what the Fitzpatrick Scale is and how to use it effectively for treatment. 

What Is the Fitzpatrick Scale and What Are the Different Skin Types? 

The Fitzpatrick Scale classifies six different skin types based on their melanin content. The amount of melanin within the skin is responsible for UV sensitivity. Pale skin doesn’t have a lot of melanin and is consequently a lot more sensitive to UV exposure than darker and more pigmented skin colour. This plays a vital role in laser treatments as different phototypes, or skin types, react differently to laser exposure. 

Type Skin features Sun exposure 
pale or almost white skin, usually associated with light blue or green eyes and red or light blonde hair skin always burns, doesn’t tan 
fair or pale skin, generally associated with blue or green eyes and blonde hair skin burns easily and rarely tans  
fair to beige coloured skin, together with hazel to light brown eyes and dark blonde or light brown hair skin moderately burns and gradually tans afterwards 
olive to light brown skin, usually associated with brown eyes and dark hair skin burns rarely and tans well 
darker shade of brown skin, together with brown to dark brown eyes and dark brown to black hair skin rarely burns and easily tans to a darker colour  
very dark brown skin, generally associated with dark brown eyes and black hair skin never burns but tans darker  
Fitzpatrick scale

Risk of Wrong Laser Usage 

Many traditional lasers have been designed for and tested on skin types 1 to 3, while causing damage to skin types 4 to 6. Fortunately, advancements in laser technologies have since improved, allowing for devices to treat all skin types. However, it is important to determine the right laser setting for each client because what works well on lighter skin types doesn’t necessarily result in the same outcome on darker skin. Incorrectly set laser wavelengths during treatment can lead to hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation on skin types 4 to 6 due to the impact a laser has on the amount of melanin in the area of treatment. Additionally, melanin acts as a chromophore, absorbing the laser’s energy. As darker skin types contain more melanin, more energy is absorbed, leading to a higher risk of injury or scarring to the treatment area. This results in unexpected outcomes and, in worst-case scenarios, medical malpractice suits.  

Therefore, it is important to accommodate these differences and understand the effects of your cosmetic laser on patients of all skin types. Your clinic can achieve a standard of beauty and professionalism by having responsible physicians and beauticians develop customized treatment plans while considering the Fitzpatrick scale that will ensure the desired outcomes along with client satisfaction. 

A Solution to Treat All Skin Types 

Every consultation with a new client should always start by assessing their skin type. This will help you determine the right laser treatment as well as work with the correct settings and therefore ensures effective treatments and client satisfaction. 

While laser hair removal for example works best with higher contrast between the skin and hair colour, the Candela GentleMax Pro offers a dual-wavelength system that ensures maximum results for all skin types. The dual lasers (755nm Alexandrite & 1064nm nd:YAG laser) not only deliver the best results for any skin type, but can also be used for a wide range of other treatments. This includes skin issues such as skin pigmentation, age and sun spots, as well as vascular issues such as spider veins and vascular anomalies.  

Platinum Head

Additionally, our Alma devices, including the Soprano Titanium, Soprano ICE and Soprano ICE Platinum, deliver maximum results for all skin types 1 to 6. Alma provides state-of-the-art technology to ensure safe and efficient treatments as well as client satisfaction. With this wide range of excellent laser hair removal devices, your clinic will be able to provide outstanding results for all your clients no matter their skin type.