What Is the Fitzpatrick Scale & How It’s Used in PMU

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on August 22, 2023
What Is the Fitzpatrick Scale & How It’s Used in PMU
⏱️ 6 min read

PMU artists need to know a lot about skin. The theory behind PMU is just as important as practice, and certain parts of it are absolutely crucial for getting the results right.

The Fitzpatrick scale is one of the most important notions and PMU artists have to be well-versed in using it.

Let’s walk through the different skin types according to the Fitzpatrick scale and explain how they help PMU artists do their best work.

What Is the Fitzpatrick Scale?

The Fitzpatrick scale is a classification system of human skin types. It’s based on how a person’s skin reacts to sun exposure. It’s also called the Fitzpatrick phototype, the Fitzpatrick skin type chart, and the skin phototype table.

This system was developed by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick in 1975. He was an American dermatologist at Harvard Medical School. It’s commonly used in dermatology, cosmetics, and PMU.

The Fitzpatrick Scale by PMUHub

Why Is the Fitzpatrick Scale Important in PMU?

When it comes to cosmetic tattoos, the Fitzpatrick scale is a great diagnostic tool. Artists can use it together with the standard skin categorization (dry, normal, oily, combination). It gives a more well-rounded picture of the client’s skin type.

This is important because it determines how the skin is going to behave during and after PMU treatments. Each Fitzpatrick skin type is different regarding:

  • Oiliness
  • Texture
  • Thickness
  • Pigment depositing
  • Color intensity
  • Stroke clarity
  • Fading rate
  • Required touch-up frequency

For example, the skin types 5 and 6 tend to be more on the oily and textured side. Faster fading and messy lines are a problem for them.

Find more info on microblading melanin rich skin here.

By contrast, the types 1 through 3 have more obvious differences in undertones. It can be tricky to mix the right shade of pigment for their PMU.

Pigment mixing is especially touchy for brown cosmetic tattoos. The Fitzpatrick scale can help you here by narrowing down the possible undertones. Then you just apply pigment color theory to make the best choice.

Scroll to learn how to classify skin according to the Fitzpatrick test.

Here’s a useful tool for figuring out skin undertone on Fitz 1-3:

What Is the Fitzpatrick Test?

The Fitzpatrick test is how you figure out where your or your client’s skin belongs on the Fitzpatrick scale.

You look at 3 trait groups and their factors, find the ones that apply to you or your client, and add up the scores. The total score gives you your Fitzpatrick skin type.

The 3 trait groups and their factors are:

  • Genetic traits (your physical characteristics)
  • Sensitivity (how you react to sun exposure)
  • Intentional sun exposure (your tanning habits)

If you’d like to take the test for yourself, you can do so right here. Just go through the table below and note down your numbers, add up all your points, and find your score in the classification below. Let’s go!

Fitzpatrick skin type test

What Are the Fitzpatrick Skin Types?

There are 6 skin types according to the Fitzpatrick scale. They talk about skin colors in terms of natural human pigmentation: how we look before and after sun exposure. Every color category spans several ethnic groups.

We’ll give an overview of each skin phototype below. Where on the Fitzpatrick scale does your skin fit?

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 1 (Score 0-6)

The Fitzpatrick skin type 1 refers to pale white skin. This skin phototype is extremely sensitive. It always burns in the sun and never tans. People with Fitzpatrick skin type 1 usually experience painful sunburn, possibly with blisters, and then peel after.

This skin phototype is quite common among very pale, red-haired Caucasians.

Which Pigments to Use on Fitz 1?

Fitz 1 has noticeably cold blue or violet undertones, so these people benefit from warm PMU pigments with a yellow base.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 1 (Score 0-6)
Image source: Freepik

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 2 (Score 7-13)

The Fitzpatrick skin type 2 refers to average white skin. This skin phototype is very sensitive. It burns easily and frequently. People with Fitzpatrick skin type 2 can achieve minimal tanning with difficulty. They also peel after sunburn.

This skin phototype is common among fair skinned, fair-haired Caucasians and Northern Asians.

Which Pigments to Use on Fitz 2?

These people aren’t quite as pale as Type 1s but they do still have blue undertones in their skin. Generally, yellow-based or otherwise warm PMU pigments work for them.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 2 (Score 7-13)
Image source: Freepik

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 3 (Score 14-20)

The Fitzpatrick skin type 3 refers to light brown skin. This skin phototype is still sensitive and sometimes burns. It tans slowly and only up to light brown. People with Fitzpatrick skin type 3 experience only moderate sunburn compared to types 1 and 2.

This skin phototype is common among darker Caucasians and some Asians. It can feature a warmer, somewhat yellowish or even ochre-like undertone.

Which Pigments to Use on Fitz 3?

This skin type benefits from cooler PMU pigments that balance out the warmer undertone, i.e. pigments with a blue base.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 3 (Fitzpatrick Scale Test Score 14-20)
Image source: Freepik

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 4 (score 21-27)

The Fitzpatrick skin type 4 refers to moderate brown, i.e. olive skin. This skin phototype is mildly sensitive and always tans. People with Fitzpatrick skin type 4 can achieve moderately brown tans and experience only minimal sunburn.

This skin phototype is common among Mediterranean people, Middle Eastern Caucasians, Hispanics, and Southern Asians.

Which Pigments to Use on Fitz 4?

Olive tan tends to have green undertones, so their ideal PMU pigment will have more of a red component.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 4
Image source: Freepik

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 5 (Score 28-34)

The Fitzpatrick skin type 5 refers to medium dark brown skin. This skin phototype is resistant and tans well and easily. People with Fitzpatrick skin type 5 rarely or never burn in the sun.

This skin phototype is common among Hispanics, East Indians, and some Africans. Its rich brown color is a mix of blue, red, and green in various ratios, so individuals with Fitzpatrick skin type 5 can have widely different undertones.

Which Pigments to Use on Fitz 5?

Generally speaking, PMU on a person with cooler brown skin will fade into gray. The pigment should have more orange in its base to counteract that.

Conversely, on skin that’s a warmer brown, PMU pigment will lean towards orange or reddish while breaking down. In those cases, a cooler blue or green base will give the most balanced final result.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 5 on Fitzpatrick Scale
Image source: Freepik

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 6 (Score 35+)

The Fitzpatrick skin type 6 refers to dark brown to black skin. This skin phototype is deeply pigmented and highly resistant. People with Fitzpatrick skin type 6 never burn in the sun.

This skin phototype is common among Indigenous Australians and darker-skinned Africans.

Which Pigments to Use on Fitz 6?

Due to the intense pigmentation, it can be tricky to determine the natural undertone of Fitz 6 skin.

Look at areas that are naturally a little lighter, e.g. the palms of the client’s hands. That’ll make it easier to see whether their skin leans toward warm, cool, or neutral, and help you choose the right PMU pigment for their desired effect.

Just make sure the pigment you go with is dark enough to show against the skin (but never use pure black – some warmth should always be added to it to prevent ashy healing).

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 6 on Fitzpatrick Scale
Image source: Freepik

How Does the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Affect PMU Aftercare?

PMU artists should take their client’s skin phototype into consideration when they give aftercare instructions. Different skin types can benefit from customized details, like after-treatment cleaning, sun protection practices, skin-specific care products, etc.

For example, people who rank higher on the Fitzpatrick scale (types 4-6) often have stronger sebum production and larger pores. That means lower pigment retention and blurry strokes. Their PMU will likely need more touch-up appointments.

People with lower scores (types 1-3) might need fewer touch-ups, but experience more obvious discoloration over time. They will likely need more targeted aftercare products for their healing process.

Since the Fitzpatrick scale is all about sun exposure, different phototypes will need different sun protection measures, but all skin types should wear sunglasses, hats, and protective sunscreen once the micro wounds close up.

The highly sensitive groups (Fitzpatrick skin type 1 and 2) should use broader spectrum products, minimum SPF 30. The less sensitive skin phototypes 3-6 can do with SPF 15 or higher.

The Fitzpatrick Scale Key Takeaways

The Fitzpatrick scale sorts skin into six phototypes based on its behavior in the sun. Each skin phototype features different coloration, sensitivity level, and tanning rate. These factors affect their behavior during and after PMU treatments.

PMU artists should learn the Fitzpatrick scale to help them tailor treatments and aftercare to each client. It can help determine the best pigment undertones, implementation methods, SPF products, etc.

Clients can benefit from learning their Fitzpatrick skin type too. It can clue them in about the ideal cosmetic tattoo choice, custom skin care, and the most flattering color schemes for their makeup in general.

Cover image source: Freepik

SHARE

READ THIS NEXT

Exclusive insights into the PMU industry right in your inbox.

FREE newsletter. 100% good stuff.