Von Luschan's chromatic scale

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Not to be confused with Lüscher color test.
Von Luschan's chromatic scale
Geographic distribution of skin colors for native populations prior to 1940.

Von Luschan's chromatic scale is a method of classifying skin color. It is also called the von Luschan scale or von Luschan's scale. It is named after its inventor, Felix von Luschan. The equipment consists of 36 opaque glass tiles which were compared to the subject's skin, ideally in a place which would not be exposed to the sun (such as under the arm). The von Luschan scale was used to establish racial classifications of populations according to skin color; in this respect it is in contrast to the Fitzpatrick scale intended for the classification of the skin type of individuals introduced in 1975 by Harvard dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick to describe sun tanning behavior.[1]

The von Luschan scale was used extensively throughout the first half of the 20th century in race studies and anthropometry. However, it was considered problematic, even by its practitioners, because it was very inconsistent. In many instances, different investigators would give different readings of the same person. The von Luschan scale was largely abandoned by the early 1950s, replaced instead by methods utilizing reflectance spectrophotometry.

The following table correlates the von Luschan scale to the Fitzpatrick scale of skin types now in use in dermatology[citation needed]:

Fitzpatrick type von Luschan scale Also called
I 1–5 Very light or white, "Celtic" type[2]
II 6–10 Light or light-skinned European[2]
III 11–15 Light intermediate, or dark-skinned European[2]
IV 16–21 Dark intermediate or "olive skin"[2]
V 22–28 Dark or "brown" type
VI 29–36 Very dark or "black" type


  1. ^ Fitzpatrick TB: Soleil et peau [Sun and skin]. Journal de Médecine Esthétique 1975; 2:33-34
  2. ^ a b c d these are commonly encountered names for the types, e.g. US Army "Healthy Skin Campaign" goldnbrown.co.uk, hautzone.ch etc. Archived August 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading[edit]

  • von Luschan F (1897). Beiträge zur Völkerkunde der Deutschen Schutzgebieten. Berlin: Deutsche Buchgemeinschaft.
  • von Luschan F (1927). Völker, Rassen, Sprachen : Anthropologische Betrachtungen. Berlin: Deutsche Buchgemeinschaft.

External links[edit]