Fitzpatrick Skin Type & Laser/IPL Treatments

If you are considering a laser or light-based skin treatment, then you may have come across mention of the ‘Fitzpatrick Scale’.

The Fitzpatrick scale is a way of classifying human skin colour on a scale from light to dark. It was developed in 1975 by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick as a way of estimating how the different types of skin would respond to ultraviolet light and how likely they are to burn.

This is important, as the amount of pigment in the skin can also have a bearing on how suitable treatments such as laser or IPL would be for an individual, based on the amount of melanin in their skin and its propensity to burn.

Fitzpatrick Scale

Influence of pigmentation on skin cancer risk

Fitzpatrick skin types

The 6 types are summarised:

  1. Type I:
    • Highly sun-sensitive, always burns, never tans.
    • White or pale skin, red/blonde hair, blue/green/grey eyes
  2. Type II:
    • Very sun-sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally
    • Pale white skin, blonde hair blue/brown eyes
  3. Type III:
    • Sun-sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.
    • Pale to light olive skin, brown hair, brown/green eyes
  4. Type IV:
    • Minimally sun-sensitive, rarely burns, always tans to moderate brown
    • Light to mid brown skin, brown/black hair, brown eyes
  5. Type V:
    • Rarely burns, tans darkly easily
    • Medium to dark brown skin, dark brown/black hair, brown eyes
  6. Type VI:
    • Almost never burns, always tans darkly
    • Black skin and hair, dark brown eyes

Skin Type and Laser/IPL Treatment

Light-based treatments are generally recommended for patients with skin type I-IV. They can be especially helpful in treating pigmentation disorders such as melasma or redness. This is because light based treatments work by targeting areas of contrast in the skin, which is more obvious in patients with lighter skin types.

As a general rule, laser and IPL treatments are not considered to be advisable for patients with skin type V-VI, as the lasers can struggle to distinguish marks and inflammation reliably in darker skin types. They can also overstimulate the melanin and cause pigmentation problems to become worse. Most practitioners will advise an alternative treatment.

3D face scan

Diagnosing Skin Type

The information above is a summary and a generalisation provided as a guide. For full information it’s best to get a diagnosis from an experienced laser practitioner.

A good practitioner will give honest advice about the most appropriate treatments based on accurate assessment.

At Quinn Clinics in Bristol, we use 3D cameras prior to consultation to gain in depth information about the type and condition of the patient’s skin.

This enables us to provide precise advice based on detail the eye cannot see. It can accurately assess skin type regardless of any tan, pigmentation or inflammation.

We aim to give the best possible advice for the patient, considering all aspects of safety as well as likely outcome of treatment. We work hard to deliver results you’ll be delighted with, but without any compromise or risk.

If we advise against Laser Skin Treatments (or CO2 Fractional Laser) or IPL Facial ‘Laser’ Treatments (or M22) then don’t worry because we will be able to offer an alternative treatment that will be safer and/or more effective based on your personal requirements. Quinn Clinics has a range of high tech solutions that would be rare on Harley Street. It is our policy to invest in the best for our patients.

Alternatives to laser/IPL

As Quinn Clinics is a doctor owned and led business, clinical standards are very high. Staff are fully trained and will give informed and honest advice as to what sort of results you might expect. Here are a few treatments to consider:

About Quinn Clinics

Advanced Skin Treatment Clinic, Bristol

Quinn Clinics was established in 2006 and offers a full range of cosmetic, medical and laser skin treatments. The company has 2 highly equipped skin clinics in Bristol. The main clinic and head office is based in Redland and a second city centre clinic opened in 2021 at Harvey Nichols.

As well as popular medical cosmetic injections, the clinics can offer the latest skin rejuvenation technology including IPL, laser and CO2 fractional laser, radio-frequency and ultrasound treatments. In addition to a host of advanced skin treatments, Quinn Clinics also offers non-surgical body shaping with the biggest selection of treatment technology in the South West.

The company has 2 highly equipped skin clinics in Bristol.

Laser Treatments & Fitzpatrick Skin Types
Article Name
Laser Treatments & Fitzpatrick Skin Types
For laser, IPL or light-based skin treatments, results and safety can vary by skin type. the Fitzpatrick scale indicates melanin in skin and propensity to burn.


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Quinn Clinics

Bristol Clinic & Head Office
4 Redland Court Road,
Bristol, BS6 7EE



+44 (0) 117 924 4592


Mon: 10.00 – 18.00
Tue: 12.00 – 20.00
Wed: 10.00 – 18.00
Thur: 12.00 – 20.00
Fri: 10.00 – 18.00
Sat: 10.00-14.00
(First of the month only)


Inside Harvey Nichols

New Clinic

27 Philadelphia St, Quakers Friars, Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3BZ



+44 (0) 117 435 0397


Mon: 10.00 – 18.00
Tue: 10.00 – 18.00
Wed: 10.00 – 18.00
Thu: 10.00 – 18.00
Fri: 10.00 – 18.00
Sat: 10.00 – 18.00
Sun: 11.00 - 17.00