Measurements of Skin Colour

  • Deepani Munidasa
  • Gerrit Schlippe
  • Sharnika Abeyakirthi
Part of the Updates in Clinical Dermatology book series (UCD)


Skin pigmentation is extremely variable and shows vast differences among continental populations and thus is the most striking aspect of human phenotypic variability. The colour of the human skin depends on ethnic origin, gender, age and behavioural factors. At individual level, a person’s natural skin colour at non-sun-exposed sites is lighter than at exposed sites. Many disease processes do directly or indirectly affect the colour of the skin and result in localized or generalized changes in skin pigmentation: melasma, facial melanoses, lichen planus pigmentosus and vitiligo to name a few.

Skin colour depends on the way the skin, particularly the epidermis, interacts with ambient light and the presence of chromophores (melanin in keratinocytes, oxyhaemoglobin and deoxyhaemoglobin in the dermal capillaries).

The instruments for measuring skin colour (pigmentation and erythema) are designed based on two main principles: reflectance spectrophotometry and tristimulus colorimetry. The light reflectance data from the skin are converted into indices or colorimetric values for the estimation of chromophores in the skin. Therefore, mainly a combination of three colour values (L *(white-black, brightness), a* (red-green) and b* (blue-yellow) are used to and described in the CIE colour space (“CIELAB” or CIE 1976 L *a*b*) or the ITA° is calculated with the formula: ITA° = [arc tan(L*−50)/b*] 9180/3.14159. Based on the ITA° value, skin colour types are classified into six groups, from very light to dark skin.


Skin pigmentation ITA Melanin Sun exposure Fitzpatrick Spectrophotometry Colorimetry 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deepani Munidasa
    • 1
  • Gerrit Schlippe
    • 2
  • Sharnika Abeyakirthi
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of DermatologyAnuradhapura Teaching HospitalAnuradhapuraSri Lanka
  2. 2.Dermatest GmbHMünsterGermany
  3. 3.Department of DermatologyPanadura Base HospitalPanaduraSri Lanka

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