Relationship between skin color and sun exposure history: a statistical classification approach.
ABSTRACT In this study our aim was to determine the biophysical values of constitutive skin color in Caucasians and to define the correlation between skin color and phototype assessed according to the Fitzpatrick method. Constitutive skin color was measured on the buttock, with a Minolta CR-200 colorimeter, in a population-of 557 consecutive subjects belonging to phototype categories I, II, III and IV. The colorimeter expresses the results in five different color systems. We used the "Yxy" and L*a*b* systems, which are the most widespread in dermatology. Statistical analysis of the data showed that the "Yxy" system is even more discriminant than the L*a*b* system when the Fitzpatrick classification scheme is adopted as the reference and shows a poor ability to correctly classify the intermediate phototypes (II and III). On the contrary the "Yxy" system performs well in distinguishing phototypes I and IV. To establish whether this low discriminating capacity for phototypes II and III is related to a low discriminating capacity of the method suggested by Fitzpatrick or by our procedure, an objective technique (minimal erythemal dose) should be used to evaluate the percentage errors of classification of both the Fitzpatrick method and instrumental measurement of skin color. The results of such a study are extremely important because the evaluation of skin color is objective, simple and has potential applications in dermatology and cosmetology.