The term “fair skin” is typically used to describe a human skin color that is usually considered the lightest natural shade. People with this sort of skin are typically of Caucasian or East Asian descent, though it can occur in people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Many cultural researchers believe that the very light skin tone originated in people living in Northern Europe and Northeastern Asia, where the sun’s rays aren’t naturally as strong. Due to global migration and genetic spread, fair skinned people are located all over the world today and are present in many different ethnic groupings. There are a couple of different broad types of skin in this category, but in most cases the “fair” designation only relates to the outward color — this type of skin is often just as prone to dryness, oiliness, and breakouts as any other. There are usually increased risks of sun damage, though, and people with this sort of coloring often have to be really careful about taking protective measures to avoid sunburn.
Geographical and Evolutionary Background
Cultures that are typically associated with a fair complexion are from Europe and Asia, probably because these regions traditionally see weaker sunlight; scientists believe that areas with weaker sunlight naturally promoted lighter skin since, at least from a biological standpoint, the body didn’t need as many defenses against radiation in these zones. There does tend to be a lot of debate when it comes to exactly how fair skin evolved, though. Some believe that skin went from dark to fair due to a change in diet as human groups migrated north. Others surmise that it was due more to the sun’s relative strength or weakness. The sun is not as strong at the poles as it in equatorial climates, and lighter skinned mutations may have been better able to survive and repeat in these places.
Sun Damage Concerns
One of the biggest risks of fair skin is sun damage. The skin is the body’s first defense against outside elements, but this also makes it one of the most exposed. Most people have some natural defenses in their skin to protect against sun and other environmental damage, but these protections are usually the lowest in fair or very light skin. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are often able to more quickly penetrate the barriers of light skin, and sunburns often happen more quickly and often more severely as a result.
Dermatologists and skin care experts typically recommend that all people wear sunscreen and take other precautions to limit sun exposure, though these warnings are often the strongest for people with very pale skin. Skin roughness, dark splotches, and wrinkles often occur sooner and may be more apparent for these people, and the damage of burns is often worse.
There are a number of variations to this skin tone. Some people may have a rosy tint due to the presence of blood vessels near the surface of the skin, while others may have a lot of freckles and some may have a very clear, consistent complexion with cooler undertones.
In general, fair complexions can be divided into three different groups. Group one includes those that have pale skin with few or no freckles and green or blue eyes. When exposed to the sun, group one individuals’ skin will usually burn, and then suffer from peeling. People who have freckles and a fair complexion are sometimes labeled as having an “English rose complexion,” especially women who also have red hair. Anyone can have this type of skin, though. Fair skinned individuals with an Asian background typically have darker hair and freckles are less common — but they can still happen.
Group two individuals have light skin, usually blue eyes, and either brown or blonde hair. While the skin will burn and peel, as with group one, those in group two usually have the ability to tan slightly. The third group includes those individuals with light skin, brown eyes and dark hair. These people are less likely to burn and more likely to tan in sunlight.
Skin Types Impacted
The “fair skin” designation is typically assigned purely on the basis of color, without regard to actual skin type. People who have this sort of complexion can have skin that is oily, prone to breakouts, or dry; the same as anyone with any other tone. In most cases, fair is simply a matter of pigmentation and doesn’t change the way the skin functions.
What Is Fair vs Light Skin?
When determining the color and complexion of your skin, it comes down to two main factors. One is the primary surface color of your skin, and the second factor is your skin’s undertone.
The primary surface color of fair skin is the absolute lightest natural shade of surface skin color there is. If you are trying to imagine who might have this type of skin, it is people who are usually of East Asian or Caucasian descent. However, thanks to globalization, people in all different cultures from all over the world can have fair skin.
You can also expect specific characteristics from most all fair complexions. In addition to their ashen skin, you will have difficulty finding freckles if they have brown or blonde hair. Red-heads are the exception; if you find a red-head with fair skin, which is likely, they are apt to range from no freckles at all to a face full of freckles.
The undertones of people with fair skin are cool, warm, and neutral and range from pinks and greens to yellows and blues. Fair-skinned people generally have pink and blue undertones.
Those with very fair skin tend to have blue or green eyes with pigment a little lighter than those who are darker complected. The lighter eyes in fair people make them extremely sensitive to the sun. If you notice a fair-skinned person out in the sun, offer them a pair of sunglasses and some SPF. Not only are their eyes more sensitive, but their skin is likely to burn and then peel painfully. Those with fair skin do not tan; they only shift between painful pink and fair.
Light skin is the next color selection up from fair skin, though still in a similar category. Nearly anyone from any culture or place can have light skin. While it is not as sensitive as the skin of those with fair complections, those with light skin still need to be careful in the sun.
You can expect a person with light skin to typically have blue or brown eyes with blonde or brown hair. As an interesting combination of skin traits, their eyes are darker than those of the fair-skinned, and they generally see very few red-heads in the light-skinned group. Green eyes are an outlier in the fair-skinned category, but they do exist.
The undertones of people with light skin are cool, warm, and neutral and range from pinks and greens to yellows and blues. Light-skinned people generally have green and yellow undertones.
In the sun, those with light skin are still apt to burn. Depending on whether or not they have cool or warm undertones, they might tan or not. Some light-skinned people peel, and some do not.
It is also important to mention that while light skin and fair skin are merely ticks away from one another on the complexion color chart, light-skinned takes on a different colloquial and cultural meaning in most of the United States. Light-skinned generally refers to a person of color who has a lighter complexion. While this seems similar to the topic of light skin as it is formally categorized in reference to the complexion, it is not.
How To Get Fair Skin?
Typically, fair skin is something that you have from birth. Many people hold the misconception that your skin’s complexion is the same as your skin's condition. While you may be born with fair skin, you are likely not born with acne scars or hyper-pigmentation or any significant number of things that people try to correct about their skin.
If you are genuinely wondering how to lighten the color of your skin, there are some methods of skin bleaching that exist in the world, though they have debatable side effects on the actual condition of your skin. The best way to protect your skin from the effects of sun and additional pigmentation is to use a higher SPF sunscreen and wear sunhats, if you must go out into the sun. Exfoliating regularly will help new cells regenerate to stay fresh and rosy.
How To Tan With Fair Skin?
Unfortunately, the bronze beauties that you see roaming the beaches were likely never fair-skinned, to begin with. Fair skin does not tan very well. Whether through years of evolution from not being near enough to the sun or just by the fundamental lack of that sweet, sweet melanin, fair skin just doesn’t bake to a golden brown in the sunlight like other complexions. Some people have had positive results with tanning drops and bronzing lotions for brightening fair skin without the sun's rays.