At the end of the day, your skin is all that stands between you and the world, so taking care of it is important. It’s the largest organ you have, and one of the few that is almost constantly exposed to the elements. That means that skin is different—though not unrelated to—caring for the rest of your body.
And although some skincare tips are beneficial to everyone, skincare isn’t one-size-fits-all. Depending on where your skin falls on the complexion spectrum, it has unique and specific needs.
This guide to skin complexion has everything you need to know about the six different types of complexion, including how to identify and care for each type. Plus, we’ve thrown in some additional steps everyone can take for healthier, happier skin.
Type 1: Very Fair or Extremely Fair Skin
Known as type one skin, very fair or extremely fair skin is the lightest of the skin complexion types. This lighter skin tone has very little melanin and appears pale white in color. It’s characterized by extreme susceptibility to:
People with very fair complexion types often have an eye color that is light blue, gray, or green and a hair color that is either red or light blond.
An effective skincare routine for very fair skin is nothing without sunblock. When applying your daily skin care products, at least one should contain SPF. SPF is crucial to preventing harm caused by sun damage, beyond the occasional sunburn. If you have a very fair complexion type, learning exactly what helps sunburn and taking those additional preventative steps to protect your skin is essential.
Type 2: Fair Skin
Type two skin is known as fair skin. People with this fair skin type of complexion often have a blue, green, or gray eye color, along with lighter hair color. They have slightly darker skin than very fair skin, although it is still susceptible to frequent burning and freckling, especially after prolonged exposure to the sun.
Unlike type one skin, however, people with fair skin are likely to tan after a burn. They’re also likely to experience skin peeling as a sunburn heals. That said, people with fair skin should still be diligent about applying sunscreen, limiting their sun exposure, and wearing protective clothing.
The care needs of fair skin types of complexion are unique. They include:
- Prioritizing hydration – Fair skin tends to run on the dry side, so if you have fair skin, be sure that you’re using hydrating face washes and moisturizers with hydration-locking ingredients, such as the Calm On Foaming Cream Cleanser and the Daily Calm Lightweight Moisturizer.
- Avoid harsh chemicals – Look out for super-astringent cleansers and avoid those that are heavily fragranced. There’s a good chance they’ll only irritate fair skin.
- Opt for products that include SPF protection – From your moisturizer to your foundation, try to use products that include SPF in their ingredients. Although a moisturizer with SPF shouldn’t be used as a replacement for sunscreen, they’ll give you added protection.
Type 3: Medium Skin
Medium skin is the third type of skin complexion. It’s recognizable for its light beige color, although it may have richer, slightly gold undertones. Although it’s darker than fair and very fair skin, it may still burn occasionally, so protecting it from the sun is important. Instead of freckles or peeling, however, those with a medium skin type will experience rather tanned skin following a burn.
Among complexion types, medium skin is right in the middle. People with medium skin complexion types might also have light brown hair or dark blonde and brown or hazel eyes.
Caring for medium skin means:
- Avoiding harsh exfoliants – Your medium skin is still sensitive to the sun, so you don’t want to risk damaging the layers of it that protect you from the UV rays.
- Use gentle cleansers and toner – Medium-types benefit from cleansers that aren’t so astringent they dry skin out. Toners that help your skin soak up moisture are also a good idea.
Type 4: Olive or Light Brown Skin
Number four among skin complexion types is olive skin, which appears light brown in color. If you have this type of complexion, your hair and eyes are probably dark brown in color. You may experience sunburn on occasion, although you’re more likely to develop tan skin following sun exposure.
That said, the sun can still be detrimental to your skin even if it isn’t causing sunburn. If you have this type of complexion, you should still keep the sunblock handy, apply it regularly when you’re in the sun, and limit your exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
One of the biggest risks of this skin type is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH. PIH occurs after the skin becomes inflamed, resulting in discoloration, typically turning the skin one of the following colors:
To avoid PIH, your skincare routine should favor products that won’t irritate your skin. Familiarize yourself with how to read and understand the ingredient labels on the products you use so that you can avoid harsh fragrances, along with other ingredients.
When PIH does occur, knowing how to apply concealer properly can help you keep an even skin tone appearance until your symptoms improve.
Type 5: Brown Skin
Among the types of complexion, the fifth type is brown skin. This color is a few shades darker than olive. People with type five complexion types very rarely experience sunburn, although tanning is very likely. Their hair is usually dark brown or black.
Brown skin is especially prone to a condition known as hyperpigmentation, which causes the skin to visibly darken in small or large patches all over the body. Sometimes, hyperpigmentation is caused by an overproduction of melanin, which is what gives all skin its color. But other factors, like skin inflammation, can also play a part.
For that reason, people with type five skin should be wary of products that irritate their skin and cause inflammation. Instead, opt for gentle products that calm and refresh your skin, like our Gentle Gel Cleanser made with chamomile and calendula extracts.
Type 6: Black Skin
The last of the skin complexion types is black skin. This is the darkest skin on the spectrum thanks to an increased supply of melanin. This melanin helps protect darker skin from sunburn, which very seldomly occurs.
This skin complexion type is also susceptible to hyperpigmentation, which means that if you have type six skin, you should avoid any products that could cause it. Again, inflammation is among the biggest risks here. That means your skincare products should be non-abrasive and free of fragrances and harsh chemicals that dry out skin, like Alcohol or SLS and SLES.
Tips for Caring for All Types of Complexions
Although certain aspects of your skincare routine, like the specific products you use and how frequently you use them, should reflect the needs of the various reflection types, there are still things everyone can do to take care of their skin.
To that end, here are a few tips for caring for your skin, no matter your complexion type.
#1 Be Smart About the Sun
No matter its color, your skin needs to be protected from the sun. Prolonged exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays can cause:
- Skin cancer
- Loss of elasticity
A sunblock with an SPF level that’s appropriate to your skin tone is your best defense against the sun. Be diligent about picking the right sunscreen and limiting the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight.
#2 Have a Routine
Healthy skin doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you accomplish without sustained efforts. Committing to a nutrient-dense, glowing skin routine is crucial to long-lasting skin health.
For all types of complexions, an optimal skincare routine includes:
- Washing twice a day
- Moisturizing twice a day
- Using toners to lock in moisture
Overnight serums with gentle exfoliants, periodic skin care masks, and moisturizing hydrogel creams are all vital components as well.
#3 Be Gentle With Your Skin
Your skin is delicate, so you should handle it with caution. To a certain extent, that means choosing cleansers, make-up, and other products that work with your complexion. But it also means taking additional steps to pamper your skin, like:
- Avoiding long baths and showers
- Using warm instead of hot water
- Drying your skin by lightly patting it with a towel
#4 Be Wise About Food
Your diet plays a huge role in the health and appearance of your skin, so make sure that you’re eating foods that promote healthy skin. As a bonus, you’ll find that skin-healthy foods are good for the rest of your body as well. They include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins
Consuming foods that are rich in healthy fish oils—and low in saturated and trans fatty acids and refined carbohydrates—can help reduce blemishes.
Honest, For Honestly Healthy Skin
No matter your complexion type, Honest has the clean beauty products you need to achieve healthy-looking, radiant skin. It’s our mission to provide people everywhere with safe products that work.
But we don’t merely give you the tools you need for healthy skin—we’re here to support you even after your purchase with valuable resources and information for looking and feeling your best.
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Fox, Jacob. (2019, October 4.) Skin Type IV: How to Recognize It, Risks and Recommendations. Derm Collective. Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://dermcollective.com/skin-type-iv/#
Fox, Jacob. (2019, October 4.) Skin Type V: Identifying Your Skin Type, Risks & Recommendations. Derm Collective. Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://dermcollective.com/skin-type-v/
De Pierto, MaryAnn. (2022, March 7.) Hyperpigmentation: What Causes Skin to Darken? Healthline. Retrieved June 7, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/hyperpigmentation
Fox, Jacob. (2019, October 4.) Skin Type IV: Identifying This Skin Type, Risks and Recommendations. Derm Collective. Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://dermcollective.com/skin-type-vi/#
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