Skin types

Skin Types

There is always a little initial confusion when a new Ellipse user learns about Skin Types. Even worse, the patient or client can be worried to overhear a comment like “she is a Skin Type 4; we need to be careful”. It is important that the operator and client communicate clearly about this, and that both remember that communication involves listening as much as talking.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, a Harvard dermatologist, devised a simple grouping patients according to their response to a set amount of sunlight.

The standard method of classifying skin type is the Fitzpatrick scale, from 1 to 6.


The type or coloring is determined by the amount of pigment (melanin) contained in the skin cells, and this is determined by heredity and race. Skin type is not changed by exposure to sunlight, nor by age.

As well as determining the default energy of a treatment, skin type also determines the length of time taken to produce a reaction to that treatment. Darker skin types respond more slowly to intense pulsed light and their therapeutic window for treatment (the zone where a beneficial result occurs without the risk of side-effects) is smaller. This means that the risk of side-effects is higher in darker skin types. It is essential to determine the skin type accurately to assess both the risk of side effects and the response time. The following points should be noted:

●  Hair color may be artificial.

●  The patient may be wearing colored contact lenses.

●  The apparent skin color may be the result of cosmetics or sun exposure. The actual skin color is better determined by parting the hair and examining the scalp, since hair normally protects the skin of the scalp from suntan.

Explain to the patient when asking about skin reaction to UV light (sunlight) that you need to know the response of unprotected skin, without sunblock.

Using a scored questionnaire (such as that available for download from Ellipse4Physicians) can make it easier to determine the Fitzpatrick skin type.

If a patient is of mixed ancestry, it can be difficult to determine the skin type, and users should use the higher of the two possible types.

As well as determining the suitability of a patient for treatment, skin type also helps to determine which handpiece (applicator) to use in order to achieve the maximum result. An example of this is PDT-enchanced treatments.

About ellipseblogger

Ellipseblogger is the collective name for the various service staff of Ellipse A/S; manufacturers of laser and Intense Pulsed Light (I2PL) solutions for aesthetic dermatology since 1997. Please note that this blog reflects our worldwide applications of Ellipse systems of which some may not be currently cleared for sale in the US.

Posted on January 18, 2013, in Basics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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