What is Skin Tone?

Skin tone is determined by the density and the distribution of melanin in the epidermis. Melanin, a naturally occurring sun-block that protects our skin cells from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, is a pigment produced by specialized cells in the basal layer of the epidermis known as melanocytes. This melanin is then passed to other cells in the basal layer, giving rise to skin pigmentation. All ethnic groups actually have a similar number of melanocytes in their skin. What differs between ethnicities is the level of melanocyte activity, combined with how the cells are composed and grouped together. These differences result in different shades of skin. 

Skin Tone Affects: 

  • Which Ingredients You Should or Should Not Use
  • Types of Treatments to Which Your Skin Will Respond Positively or Negatively
  • Skin Issues or Conditions to Which You Are More Prone
  • How Skin Issues or Conditions Present Themselves
  • How Your Skin is Affected by Skin Issues or Conditions 
  • How Your Skin Reacts to Irritants or Trauma
  • How Fast Your Skin Burns or Tans in the Sun
  • Sensitivity To Chemicals, Temperature, Dryness, and Inflammation

**Categories below are based on the Fitzpatrick Scale, developed in 1975 to help determine your skin’s risk of skin cancer/sun exposure, based on tone.

**Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all skincare attributes, concerns, needs, or effective ingredients. Individuals may experience components listed under other skin tones. 

Mahogany / Deep

Category V: Dark brown skin that rarely burns, tans quickly and easily. Those with Type V most likely have dark hair and dark brown eyes as well. 

Category VI: Black skin that never burns and always tans quickly. This skin type is the deepest shade, and also most likely has dark hair and dark eyes.

Key Attributes:

  • More resistant to developing fine lines and wrinkles
  • Low levels of ceramides, making it prone to dryness
  • More likely to experience discoloration and hyperpigmentation
  • Greater natural protection from sun damage due to melanin-rich characteristics
  • A thicker dermis layer, due to more collagen, giving the skin more flexibility and strength

Common Concerns: Dark Spots, Melasma, Hyperpigmentation, Pigment Disorders, Eczema, Keloids, Acne Scarring

Skin Tone Needs: Products that have brightening properties and promote rapid cell turnover. Calming properties to decrease inflammation that causes dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Exfoliating products to promote cell turnover.

Key Ingredients To Look For: Ceramides, Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Licorice Root, Lemon Peel Powder, Fruit Enzymes, Kojic Acid, Retinol

Olive / Medium 

Category III: Olive or honey-like skin tone that sometimes burns and tans very slowly. The corresponding hair color for this is light to dark brown, and eyes are most likely brown or hazel. May also develop freckles.

Category IV: Medium brown skin that rarely burns, tans quickly, and rarely develops freckles. Think of a more caramel-like skin tone with dark brown hair and brown eyes.

Key Attributes:

  • Predisposed to visible age spots and dark under-eye circles
  • More resistant to developing fine lines and wrinkles
  • Thinner skin, making it prone to dryness
  • More likely to experience discoloration 
  • Greater natural protection from sun damage due to melanin-rich characteristics
  • A thicker dermis layer, due to more collagen, giving the skin more flexibility and strength

Common Concerns: Under Eye Circles, Dark Spots, Pigment Disorders, Eczema, Acne Scarring, Hyperpigmentation, Melasma

Skin Tone Needs: Products that are hydrating. Products that have brightening properties and promote rapid cell turnover. Calming properties to decrease inflammation that causes dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Exfoliating products to promote cell turnover.

Key Ingredients To Look For: Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Licorice Root, Kojic Acid, Retinol, Green Tea, Vitamin C

Ivory / Light

Category I: Pale, porcelain skin that never tans, always burns, and always develops freckles. There is never a time where Type I doesn’t burn and the skin is also easily prone to, or naturally has some redness. The corresponding hair color for this skin type is red or blonde, and eyes are most likely blue, green or gray.

Category II: Fair, beige-toned skin that almost always burns and does not easily tan. This is a sandy-like complexion that’s still very fair but is able to tan, and likely develops freckles. The corresponding hair color is anywhere from  dark blonde to light brown and eyes are most likely blue, green, or gray.

Key Attributes:

  • Prone to redness and irritation. Very prone to rosacea
  • Predisposed to premature aging, including wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots
  • More susceptible to sun damage due to lack of melanin

Common Concerns: Rosacea/Redness, Visible Aging, Sun Damage, Dry Skin, Skin Cancer

Skin Tone Needs: Products that include calming / soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Products that focus on hydrating the skin, and anti-aging.

Key Ingredients To Look For: Collagen, Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Antioxidants (especially Vitamin C), Retinol, Alpha Lipoic Acid, DMAE, Niacinamide, Squalene, Centella Asiatica, Azelaic Acid