Skin Type - Do You Need a Sunscreen for Dark Skin?

Before you choose a sunscreen for dark skin the first step to good skin health is being knowledgeable about your darker complexion. Melanin is the chemical that determines the color of skin. The more melanin there is in a person’s skin, the darker that person’s skin will be. The number distribution and type of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the skin, determine your skin color. Dermatologists refer to the degrees of pigmentation in skin as “skin types.” Skin types range from very little pigment (type 1) to very darkly pigmented (type 6). How easily you burn depends on your skin type and how light or dark your skin is.

Fitzpatrick Classification for Sun-Reactive Skin Types

Skin Type


Reaction to UVA

Reaction to Sun

Type ICaucasian; blond or red hair, freckles, fair skin, blue eyesVery SensitiveAlways burns easily, never tans; very fair skin tone
Type IICaucasian; blond or red hair, freckles, fair skin, blue eyes or green eyesVery SensitiveUsually burns easily, tans with difficulty; fair skin tone
Type IIIDarker Caucasian, light AsianSensitiveBurns moderately, tans gradually; fair to medium skin tone
Type IVMediterranean, Asian, HispanicModerately SensitiveRarely burns, always tans well; medium skin tone
Type VMiddle Eastern, Latin, light-skinned African American, IndianMinimally SensitiveVery rarely burns, tans very easily; olive or dark skin tone
Type VIDark-skinned African AmericanLeast SensitiveNever burns, deeply pigmented; very dark skin tone

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