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.