Skin type is determined by genetics; your skin type is some combination of your parents. Skin types can vary widely so it is important for patients to be aware of their particular type.
Skin types are divided based on the Fitzpatrick classification. This scale was developed as a way to classify the response of different types of skin to ultraviolet radiation. Although skin colors can be found completely through this spectrum they can be grouped as follows:
As shown by the classification scale, the lighter the skin of a patient, the more likely that patient is to experience sun damage and burns. This rapidly ages the skin and can lead to more concerning conditions such as skin cancer. To protect more sun-sensitive skin, you should take care to avoid prolonged sun exposure.
Even 15 minutes of sun exposure during summer months can result in a burn. When out in the sun, the regular application of sunscreen is recommended, as is wearing sun protective clothing and hats that can shield your skin from the sun's rays.
Even darker skinned patients should take care with their skin, despite the decreased risk of sun damage.
Sunscreens were first developed in 1938 but were not easily available until the 1950’s with the Coppertone brand. The SPF scale was later developed in 1962 and was exploited thoroughly by manufacturers. Because of the inconsistencies in sun protection language used by various manufacturers the Food and Drug Administration stepped in to clarify the situation.
In June 2011 the FDA stated that for a product to be a “broad spectrum” sun block it must protect against UVA and UVB radiation equally and fully. In addition they stated that only products with UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of 15 or higher could claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.
Finally, these products could not claim to be water or sweat proof because they stated that no product was fully water or sweat proof. Therefore, products can only state how long they are viable after water or sweat exposure.