Skip navigation

When do I need to protect myself?

Skin type + UV index

The UV index is a useful tool that tells us how strong the sun’s UV rays are and when we might be at risk of burning. The higher the value, the greater the risk of sunburn and the less time it takes to damage your skin.

The UV index varies depending on where you are in the world, the time of year, the weather, the time of day and how high up you are compared to sea level. The UV index is not always highest when it’s hottest.

By knowing your skin type and using the UV index, you can work out when you need to protect yourself from the sun.

Experts have identified six different skin types. Colour and tone vary a lot within each skin type, but it is a useful guide. Choose the description that most closely matches your hair and eye colour and what would happen to your skin in strong sun if it were not protected. Then match your hand colour to the photo. This will tell you what your skin type is.

Type I

Often burns, rarely tans. Tends to have freckles, red or fair hair, blue or green eyes.

Type II

Usually burns, sometimes tans. Tends to have light hair, blue or brown eyes.

Type III

Sometimes burns, usually tans. Tends to have brown hair and eyes.

Type IV

Rarely burns, often tans. Tends to have dark brown eyes and hair.

Type V

Naturally brown skin. Often has dark brown eyes and hair.

Type VI

Naturally black-brown skin. Usually has black-brown eyes and hair.


Skin type chart

Check out this table of the different skin types and the UV index to see when you might be at risk of burning.

Sun chart


Between October and March in the UK, the UV index is normally lower than 3, so even people with fair skin shouldn’t need to protect themselves.

You can check UV index forecasts for different parts of the UK at the Met Office website , and on many weather forecasts.

Shadow rule 

Another handy tip to help you work out when the sun might be strong is the ‘shadow rule’. It’s simple and especially useful if you don’t have access to the UV index for the day, but it can’t reflect your skin type and individual risk of burning. All you need to do is to look at your shadow – if it is shorter than your height this means that the sun’s UV rays are strong.

During these times you may need to protect yourself from sunburn.