Invisible Light Lets Us See What The Sun Does To Our Skin
By Kyle Hill on August 17, 2014
The difference between how much of our skin we can actually see and what is invisible to us is startling.
We’ve used ultraviolet (UV) light for over a 100 years to document the hidden changes to our skin. When skin is exposed to damaging radiation from the Sun, its pigments are shuffled around, cells deform and die, and dangerous clusters can form. But while sun damage like freckles are easy to spot, most of the changes are not. One way to get around this is to use the the invisible wavelengths of UV light and the body’s response to damage to our advantage.
Below, photographer and filmmaker Thomas Leveritt decided to bring this dermatological technique to the public, and filmed people in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with a UV filter. His equipment only picked up the UV radiation bouncing off of people’s faces. While most people’s skin looked fine, the spots where the skin did not reflect UV light — clumps of pigment under the skin or other damages — looked dark. In effect, UV damage from the Sun produced areas of skin where UV was no longer reflected. The differences freaked everyone out:
Because the changes seen under UV light can be so stark, dermatologists occasionally use UV photography to search for damage and to monitor treatment programs for skin conditions. It’s not just for freckles either, UV photography can be used to pick up the precursors of skin cancer.
Of course, you can protect yourself from the ionizing radiation of the Sun with proper clothing and sunscreen. And Leveritt’s video vividly demonstrates just how good sunscreen is at blocking UV light:
Seeing how dramatically the people in the video reacted to themselves in UV, sunscreen advertisers have probably missed out on a huge advertising opportunity here. It’s hard not to protect your skin after seeing how the Sun sees you.