Have you ever heard of phototype? Also known as the Fitzpatrick classification, it is a way of classifying the sensitivity of your skin to UV radiation.

As you know, we are not all equal when it comes to the sun. From one skin to another, the production of melanin can be considerably different. There are 7 phototypes, including the very rare phototype 0, which corresponds to albinos.

It is obvious today that a fair skin is much more sensitive to UV rays than a dark skin, nevertheless sun protection is strongly advised for all skin types, as the consequences of long exposure to the sun are present including skin ageing and skin cancers. For this reason, we encourage you to identify your phototype in order to provide you with advice on appropriate sun protection.

 

Phototype 0 (very rare): very pale skin

Physical characteristics: very pale skin, white (or pale yellow) hair and light coloured eyes.

Phototype 0 is very rare and usually corresponds to people with albinism: a genetic mutation that directly affects the pigmentation of the skin by making it paler (or slightly pinker). Thus, the person with phototype 0 produces little or no melanin, which makes them extremely sensitive to the sun. The risk of burning or skin cancer is much greater.

 

Phototype 1: very fair skin

Physical characteristics: very light skin, red or blond hair, light eyes (blue or green), possible freckles and moles.

Phototype 1 has quite sensitive skin and freckles may appear when exposed to the sun. In this case, the skin is unable to tan and can only withstand sunburn for 10 minutes at a UV index of 10.

 

Phototype 2: very fair skin (possibly tanned)

Physical characteristics: very fair skin, blond or light brown hair, blue, green or grey eyes, freckles visible in the sun, only slightly tanned.

Phototype 2 and phototype 1 share many characteristics such as very fair skin and freckles that are visible in the sun. However, phototype 2 skin can tan, but is still very sensitive to UV radiation.

Thus, it is not possible to tan without sunburns or burns that can occur after 10 to 20 minutes of exposure.

 

Phototype 3: fair (or matt) skin

Physical characteristics: fair (or dark) skin, blond to brown hair, few or no freckles.

Unlike the previous phototypes, phototype 3 is intermediate. It has a skin that is more resistant to UV rays, so its tanning is average and burns are more moderate.

Note that the consequences of sun exposure may vary for phototype 3, depending on hair or eye colour. Phototype 3s with blond hair or light eyes have a faster skin ageing process than brown people with dark eyes.

However, it is important to remain vigilant, as sunburns can occur after about 20 minutes of exposure with a UV index of 10.

Note that phototype 3 has an increased risk of skin cancer from 50 moles onwards and should be monitored by a specialist. 

 

Phototype 4: matt skin

Physical characteristics: dark skin, dark brown or brown hair, brown eyes

Phototype 4 has a skin that is fairly resistant to the sun, it tans easily. It takes 30 minutes of exposure before you get sunburned with a UV index of 10.

We advise you to remain cautious and to use sun protection according to the duration of your outdoor activities.

 

Phototype 5: brown skin

Physical characteristics: brown or dark skin, brown hair, brown eyes.

Phototype 5 has a skin that is very resistant to UV rays, tans easily and only gets sunburned after 60 minutes of exposure.

Same case as for phototype 4, a brown skin is not exempt from sun protection. Skin cancer can occur on all phototypes, even the darkest. Your skin may suffer from dryness and long-term ageing. Therefore, it is also important to moisturise your skin. 

 

Phototype 6: black skin

Physical characteristics: black skin, brown hair, brown eyes.

Phototype 6 has a high resistance to the sun. Their skin produces much more melanin. The consequences of exposure only appear after 90 minutes. Indeed, phototype 6 will not get sunburned (or only slightly), however, it is possible to get blistering burns.

Having black skin is not exempt from sun protection. The impact on skin ageing can be significant. Thus, sun protection should be prescribed. 

 

Depending on my phototype, how long does it take me to burn?

This curve is taken from the scientific study by J. F. Sánchez-Pérez, and shows us the time of exposure to get a sunburn according to one's phototype (1, 2, 3 or 4) and the UV index.

The sun protection to be adapted will therefore depend on the phototype, the UV index and the exposure time. In summer, a UV index of 10 or 11 is common in France today.

 

How to protect yourself from the sun?

Good sun protection should not only depend on the phototype, but also on the exposure time and the UV index. It is clear from the study by J. F. Sánchez-Pérez that all phototypes can get sunburned.

The WHO recommendations for sun protection are as follows:

 

1. Monitor the UV index

The UV index helps you plan your outdoor activities to avoid overexposure to the sun. It ranges from 1 to 12.

While you should always take precautions against overexposure, take special care to adopt sun protection practices when the UV index predicts moderate or higher levels of exposure (level 3 and above).

 

2.Limit time in the midday sun

The sun's UV rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. If possible, limit sun exposure during these hours, especially if the UV index is high and your phototype is light (see J. F. Sánchez-Pérez curve above).

 

3.Limit time in the midday sun

The sun's UV rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. If possible, limit sun exposure during these hours, especially if the UV index is high and your phototype is light (see J. F. Sánchez-Pérez curve above).

 

4.Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen

Clothing and hats offer the best protection - the application of sunscreen becomes necessary on parts of the body that remain exposed such as the face and hands. Sunscreen should never be used to prolong the duration of sun exposure.

  • Loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing will provide good protection from the sun. However, not all clothing protects in the same way, a UPF 50 rating on clothing or hats will give you effective protection, as it will block over 98% of UV rays. Whereas, for example, a linen shirt may have a UPF rating of 5 or less and will therefore allow more than 25% of UV to pass through;
  • A wide-brimmed hat offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, back or neck. Just like clothing, not all hats are equally protective. A UPF50 rating will give you optimum protection.
  • Sunglasses that offer 99-100% UV-A and UV-B protection significantly reduce eye damage caused by sun exposure.
  • Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ (minimum) liberally to areas that remain exposed and apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors. A properly applied SPF15 means that your skin will take 15 times longer to burn than without protection. At Ker Sun, we recommend using SPF 30 or 50 because a sunscreen is never as well applied as it is in the lab and SPF 30 and 50 will give you more peace of mind and safety. Of course, don't forget sensitive areas such as the ears, nose, forehead, eyelids and lips.

 

Why do we recommend sun protective clothing?

Covering clothes give you some sun protection. But when temperatures rise, we like to dress more lightly in thinner fabrics.

Most summer clothing fabrics do not filter UV rays very well. A linen shirt or a light cotton t-shirt will be pleasant to wear in hot weather, but with a low UPF level. Some UV will pass through and you may feel protected when you are not.

For long exposure and for sensitive skin, it is therefore recommended to use UPF50+ certified sun protective clothing, which allows for a light and breathable fabric with a high level of sun protection.

 

Sources :

https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/radiation-sun-protection
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-36850-x
Peau noire, phototype VI : les bons soins solaires - Marie Claire
Phototype et indice de protection solaire - Conseils Bien-être (pharma-gdd.com)
Les bons soins solaires pour une peau phototype IV - Marie Claire
Peau claire à très claire, phototype 1 : la bonne protection solaire - Marie Claire
Phototype de peau : de 0 à 6, comment savoir le sien ? (journaldesfemmes.fr)
Peau et soleil - Le phototype : les différents types de peau - Fiches santé et conseils médicaux (lefigaro.fr)

May 30, 2022 — nihal moudjahed

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