Identifying Sun Damage in Different Skin Tones

We’re all taught to be sun safe and slip, slop, slap—but did you know that sun damage can manifest itself differently depending on your skin tone? 

There is a scale called the Fitzpatrick scale that categorises different skin tones, which helps therapists treat sun damage accordingly. Although there are six specific tones listed on the Fitzpatrick scale, you should familiarise yourself with three broader categories: fair, medium, and dark. 

Do you know how to spot sun damage on your skin? Find out below.

Fair skin tones

Ivory or pale skin; tends to freckle or burn rather than tan.

If you have fair skin, you know all too well that this skin tone is super susceptible to sunburn! Fair skin tones are also at higher risk of skin cancers, sunburn, and other abnormalities. This is because there is less melanin in the skin, which would help to dilute the sun’s harmful effects.

Sun damage in fair skin tones is evident through redness, wrinkles, and extreme dryness.


Medium skin tones

Beige or olive skin; tans fairly easily, burns sometimes.

Medium skin tones have a higher chance of tanning when exposed to the sun prior to burning. This means that they are less likely to burn as severely as those with a fairer skin type. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that medium skin tones aren’t still at risk of sunburn and skin cancers! 

Often people who possess medium skin tones mistakenly think that they can spend more time in the sun without SPF protection because their sun tolerance is higher. Unfortunately, this actually increases their risk of developing skin cancer. We all need SPF, no matter what our skin tone is.

Sun damage in medium skin tones usually takes the form of freckles and sun spots rather than burning or redness.


Dark skin tones

Brown, dark brown, or black skin; rarely or never burns, tans very easily.

Darker skin tones are the most durable under the sun because of their high melanin levels. But, of course, they are still susceptible to sun damage.

The effects of sun damage can be a little harder to spot on darker skin tones—it tends to appear in the form of Melasma, a pigmentation disorder that can cause brownish grey patches. 


Are there any universal symptoms of sun damage?

Yes! There are some symptoms that everyone is susceptible to, regardless of their skin tone. Of course, some of these may be less common for certain tones, but it’s still important to be aware of them for your skin’s safety...

  • Burning and peeling
  • Dehydration: skin can become flaky and dry
  • Melasma: brownish-grey patches of discolouration 
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Actinic Keratosis: rough, scaly patches on the skin in areas of sun damage
  • Premature ageing (because sun damage causes collagen reduction!)


Don’t worry, sun damage is completely treatable! Here’s how...

There are a wide variety of ways you can treat or reverse the effects of sun damage on the skin. Of course, the most effective way to prevent sun damage is to wear SPF every single day—that includes overcast days and days spent mostly inside.

As always, it’s wise to look at the ingredients in your skincare. To treat sun damage, you want to look for ingredients such as... 

  • Niacinamide: works to minimise dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Retinoids: otherwise known as Vitamin A, these encourage cell turnover. Retinol is the most common form found in skin products. 
  • Vitamin C: neutralises free radicals, which repairs existing skin damage
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): aide in treating hyperpigmentation by exfoliating the surface of the skin


Clinical treatments are also a great way to treat sun damage. Here at Lavish, we offer lots of innovative treatments designed to fight sun damage: 

  • Chemical Peels: Lavish offers a wide variety of chemical peel treatments, one of the most popular being the Cosmedix peel, which utilises fruit enzymes and botanicals. This increases cell turnover, softens fine lines and inflammation, and corrects imperfections.
  • Aspect Dr Lactobotanical Peels: this treatment exfoliates the skin, improves pigmentation and redness, and smooths fine lines and wrinkles.
  •  Dermafrac: Dermafrac uses microneedling techniques to deliver essential nutrients to the skin, which makes the complexion look more youthful.
  • Laser Treatments: Laser Genesis & LED Light Therapy calm areas of irritation and brighten the skin by targeting collagen production and pigmentation. 


Want to treat your sun damaged skin? For a tailored sun damage skin care program, please come and speak to one of our qualified clinicians at our Toorak clinic or book an appointment by clicking here.