how to determine your tanning skin type

How to determine your skin type

Unsure how to work out your and your clients’ skin type? This is essential to ensure that you are advising your clients correctly and not encouraging any overexposure or increasing their risk of burning. Although it is ultimately the tanner’s responsibility to avoid overexposure and burning, as a salon staff member, you will also be relied on for clear advice, especially from new tanners. Below, we have provided the Fitz Patrick Scale to demonstrate the six different tanning skin types, as well as how to identify these. Each tanning skin type can spend a different amount of time tanning without risk of burning. With this in mind, it is essential to know the differences between these different skin types.

The Fitzpatrick scale details six different skin types. However, this can sometimes be lessened into four skin types:


For those who have skin sensitivities, this may not be to do with your skin tone, but still is relevant for salon staff to be aware of.


Skin types 1 – 2 


Skin types 3 – 4


Skin types 5 – 6

Further detailing on skin types

Following information from The Sunbed Association, we have noted below descriptions of the skin types, as well as their reactions to tanning. 

This should affect the amount of time a tanners spends on a sunbed, with lower skin types starting off with significantly lower minutes than higher skin types. All skin types should start off low, and build up their exposure gradually to minimise the risk of overexposure and burning. 

Skin Type 1

Skin description: Very fair skin. Usually lots of freckles, red or sandy hair. Blue or grey eyes

Reaction to tanning: High burn risk; skin turns red and peels. Advised not to tan in sunlight or use a sunbed

Type 2

Skin description: Fair skin, possibly with freckles. Blonde to brown hair. Green or grey eyes

Reaction to tanning: High burn risk. Great care should be taken in tanning. Tanning tends to be light and gradual

Type 3

Skin description: Fair to light brown skin tone. No freckles. Dark blond or brown hair, grey or green eyes

Reaction to tanning: Medium risk of burning. Capable of building up a moderate tan

Skin Type 4

Skin description: Light brown skin tone. Dark brown hair and eyes

Reaction to tanning: Burning is rare, tanning is rapid and deep. (See additional note below)

Type 5

Skin description: Deep brown skin. Dark hair and eyes

Reaction to tanning: Burning is seldom. Tanning is rapid and deep. This type of skin has its own natural protection. (See additional note below)

Skin Type 6

Skin description: Very dark skin. Black hair and dark eyes

Reaction to tanning: Never burns in natural sunlight. (See additional note below)

Skin Types 4, 5 and 6: These skin types need to exercise precaution on initial exposure. Initial exposure should also be moderate. This particularly applies if living in the UK and Ireland as natural skin protection factor is depleted through lack of regular exposure to sunshine.