How to Determine Your Skin Tone

Importance of Knowing Your Skin Tone

Knowing your skin tone is probably most important when it comes to preventing skin cancer. If you are a skin tone type I, II or III, you are at a much greater risk for developing skin cancer [source: American Cancer Society]. You simply don't have as much melanin in your skin as people who are types IV, V or VI. That means you need to do more to protect yourself. It's as simple as wearing sunscreen every day.

Those with darker skin tones don't get off scot-free, either. No one is immune to ultraviolet rays. In other words, just because you're a type VI doesn't mean you can't get skin cancer [source: American Cancer Society]. You might be able to get away with wearing a lower SPF sunscreen than your fair friends, though.

Also, people with darker skin sometimes need different treatment for certain skin conditions than their pale counterparts. This is because melanin, which is located in the upper layer of the skin, tends to react when that area is irritated. Make sure a dermatologist has experience dealing with patients of your skin color before you go in for a visit [source: Marcus].

It also helps to know your skin tone for cosmetic purposes. Face it: cosmetics cost money, so you might as well make sure you're using the products that suit you. Determining your correct skin tone will help you pick out more complementary shades of makeup and clothing. Doing some preliminary research before hitting the mall will better ensure you select items that make you look your best.

Determining your skin tone isn't hard. In fact, you've probably already done it. So put this knowledge to use. Protect yourself from UV rays, and make your natural skin type work for you. Every skin color has its advantages and disadvantages -- you just have to find out what they are.

Read on to learn more about skin tone.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Cancer Society. "Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection." May 21, 2009. (accessed 07/20/2009)
  • Leider, Polly. "The Right Hair Color Can Do Wonders." CBS. March 27, 2006. (accessed 8/6/2009)
  • National Geographic. "Skin." (accessed 07/20/20090)
  • Thompson, Rick O.D., F.A.A.O. "What is Albinism?" NOAH. 2007. (accessed 07/20/2009)
  • Marcus, Mary Brophy. "Under the skin of Color; Patients' ethnicity can change face of dermatology. USA Today. April 8, 2008. (accessed 8/6/2009)
  • Commonwealth of Virginia. "Fitzpatrick Skin Type." (accessed 8/5/2009)
  • Jewish Museum Berlin. Homepage. (accessed 8/5/2009)