- Fitzpatrick skin type V is characterized by brown or dark brown skin that tans readily and very rarely burns with sun exposure.
- This type is at increased risk of developing hyperpigmentation and vitamin D deficiency compared to types I–IV.
- Asian people within this group have the highest risk of developing hyperpigmentation while black people are the most likely to have dry skin.
- Skin type V are unlikely to develop sun-induced skin cancer, but should still be mindful of early warning signs, as they can be difficult to recognize on darker skin.
The Fitzpatrick skin type scale classifies skin into six distinct types based on color and response to sun exposure. Skin type V is distinguished by brown skin that tans readily and is highly resistant to sunburn.
Compared to types I–IV, people within this group are at elevated risk of vitamin D deficiency, and may develop hyperpigmentation as a result of inflammation caused by acne, sun exposure and certain treatments.
Skin type V comprises a range of people from a variety of backgrounds, including those of African, Middle-Eastern, Latin American, South and Southeast Asian descent. Although most people of this skin type share the same basic skin care needs, black and Asian demographics will face additional challenges.
Asian people with type V are at increased risk of developing hyperpigmentation compared to other people in this group; black people are more prone to skin dryness. These risks can be mitigated by implementing a carefully structured skin care routine.
How Do You Know You Have Skin Type V?
Human skin and hair color is determined by a combination of two types of melanin. Eumelanin, the darker pigment, can be either brown or black. Pheomelanin is the lighter of the two, and may be yellow, pink or red.
The brown color of skin type V is a result of it containing more eumelanin and melanosomes—cellular structures that carry melanin—than types I–IV. Skin of this type, however, is still lighter than type VI, as it contains a slightly higher ratio of pheomelanin.
Typical features of type V include:
- Medium to dark-brown skin
- Dark-brown eyes
- Dark brown or black hair
Reaction to sun exposure:
- Burns very rarely; tans readily
- Develops a deep, dark-brown color
Skin type V vs. skin type IV
Skin type V can be distinguished from type IV in the following ways:
- Darker skin than type IV, which typically has light-brown or olive skin
- More likely to have black hair than type IV, which usually has dark-brown hair
- Slightly more resistant to sunburn than type IV
Skin type V vs. skin type VI
The following characteristics distinguish type V from type VI:
- Lighter skin than type VI, which will have very dark-brown skin
- May have dark brown or black hair; type VI will always have black hair
- Slightly more likely to burn than type VI, which almost never burns
Skin Type V Safety Profile
Although type V individuals are very resistant to sunburn, they are still at risk of developing skin cancer as a result of long-term sun exposure. They are also at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Darker skin is more vulnerable to developing hyperpigmentation as a result of inflammation, with Asian people being especially at risk. For this reason, potentially irritating skin care products and professional procedures should be avoided.
The two forms of melanin differ in how they react to sun exposure, and this accounts for the difference in how the six Fitzpatrick skin types tan or burn.
Eumelanin absorbs ultraviolet (UV) radiation and has a mild sun protectant effect. Pheomelanin instead generates reactive oxygen species when exposed to UV radiation. These chemicals trigger a state of oxidation that exacerbates damage to the skin.
Type V’s high eumelanin content ensures a lower risk of developing sunburn and skin cancer due to sun exposure. However, this type is still vulnerable to developing cancer as well as premature signs of skin aging due to long-term exposure to UV radiation.
This type is also at an increased risk of developing hyperpigmentation, which can be triggered or worsened by sunburn inflammation.
Vitamin D deficiency
Despite its dangers, a small amount of UV exposure is essential for human health. UV radiation is the driving force behind the synthesis of vitamin D, an important nutrient for the health of muscles, bones and teeth, as well as for regulating the body’s calcium and phosphate levels.
Because those within the type V group have a high eumelanin content in their skin, a large amount of the UV radiation they are exposed to is absorbed without contributing to vitamin D production. As a result, they are more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency.
This deficiency can lead to many health concerns, such as depression, low bone density and an increased risk of influenza, heart disease and cancer.
Although type V skin is relatively resistant to the damaging effects of UV exposure, the use of tanning beds is not recommended. Tanning beds increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer and signs of aging, and do not contribute significantly to vitamin D synthesis.
Other treatments to avoid
Some topicals and professional procedures can cause skin to become dry, irritated and inflamed, and may increase the risk of hyperpigmentation – particularly for those of Asian descent. As such, this group is advised to avoid these treatments.
Treatments to avoid include the following:
- Laser hair removal
- Tattoo removal
- Intense pulsed light treatments (although weaker settings of IPL present a decreased risk)
- Chemical peels
- Topical bleaching agents
Protection Measures for Skin Type V
People with type V can typically spend as much as 60 minutes in the sun each day without risking sunburn. However, to ensure safety and protection from the damaging effects of long-term sun exposure, sunscreen should always be applied.
Select a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and apply it 15–30 minutes before going outdoors. Sunscreen should be applied at the end of a morning skin care routine, and before any makeup is applied.
During prolonged periods in the sun, wear UV protective sunglasses, as well as clothing that covers the arms and legs.
Prevention and treatment of Vitamin D deficiency
To ensure an adequate vitamin D level, it is recommended that people with skin type V spend at least 25 minutes in the sun each day. Those who are unable to do so can substitute sun exposure with 800–1000 IU of daily vitamin D supplementation.
Some may also wish to combine supplements with an increase in consumption of vitamin D- rich foods. These include eggs, fish and red meat.
Skin care routine for skin type V
As people with this skin type are more prone to developing hyperpigmentation, they are advised to avoid harsh exfoliants such as sugar scrubs and chemical peels. These products carry a risk of causing inflammation, especially when used on dry or sensitive skin, and inflammation is a common trigger for the development of hyperpigmentation.
Skin brightening agents should also be avoided, as well as any products containing parabens or artificial fragrances. These can also cause irritation and inflammation.
Black and Asian individuals with type V skin will face additional skin concerns. In order to address their different needs, both groups should build their skin care routines accordingly.
Skin care for black people
Black people are at a higher risk of skin dryness when compared to other demographics within this group. This dryness can lead to flaking, irritation and a weathered, ashy complexion. As such, it is important to keep skin moisturized.
Moisturizer should always be a step immediately after cleansing. The use of gentle cleansers and moisturizing toners that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin or ceramides will also help to prevent skin from losing moisture.
Skin care for Asian people
People of South and Southeast Asian descent face an increased likelihood of developing hyperpigmentation compared to others within the skin type V group.
To reduce their chances of developing hyperpigmentation, Asian people should opt for especially gentle cleansers to reduce the risk of irritating or damaging their skin.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Although the type V group is at a lower risk of developing skin cancer in comparison to skin types I–IV, this group should still be mindful of its signs, which are often difficult to detect on darker skin. If this is your type and you notice any of these signs, speak with a doctor as soon as possible.
There are three primary forms of skin cancer; each is marked by a unique set of symptoms when it appears on dark skin. Basal cell carcinoma develops as translucent, shiny bumps, while squamous cell carcinoma triggers open sores, scaling and wart-like growths.
Melanoma is a rarer but more severe form of skin cancer that disproportionately affects those with darker skin. It presents as dark, inky blotches, which develop from within the melanocytes, the cellular structures responsible for melanin synthesis.
|Cancer||Symptoms||Appearance on Dark Skin|
|Basal cell carcinoma||Shiny, raised bumps that appear on the face and neck||Bumps are slightly translucent, and may be dark brown or black|
|Squamous cell carcinoma||Extreme inflammation, redness, scaling, sores and growths resembling warts||Bumps develop on the lower body, particularly the waist, legs and feet|
|Melanoma||Irregular dark, inky blotches that appear all over the body, and become swollen and bumpy as the cancer progresses||Blotches may be dark brown or black|
Fitzpatrick skin type V is characterized by brown skin that tans readily and is resistant to sunburn. Although sun damage is less of a concern for people with this skin type, they are highly susceptible to developing hyperpigmentation and vitamin D deficiency.
Those with type V should avoid treatments that may cause inflammation, as these are a common trigger of hyperpigmentation. These include irritating skin care products such as topical bleaching agents and chemical peels, as well as laser and skin resurfacing procedures.
The risk of vitamin D deficiency can be mitigated with 25 minutes of daily sun exposure. If adequate sun exposure is not possible, it can be substituted with a combination of supplements and a diet that includes vitamin D-rich foods.
Black people with skin type V should choose skin care products that encourage moisture retention to prevent skin dryness and an ashy complexion. If you are of Asian descent, you face an increased risk of inflammation-induced hyperpigmentation compared to others within this group, so be sure to select gentle and nonirritating skin care products.
Although type V individuals are more resistant to sun damage than those within types I–IV, they are still at risk of developing skin cancer due to long-term exposure to UV radiation. For this reason, they should always practice sun safety, avoid tanning beds, and be mindful of signs of skin cancer, which often go unnoticed on dark skin.
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