Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.
Freckles, sunspots, moles, oh my! We all know the visible results of one too many sunny summer days, but these signs only occur after the damage has been done. And, these are not the only signs of sun damage; there are even more lurking beneath the surface of your skin. Using a special UV-light camera, it’s possible to see beyond what's invisible to the naked eye.
Our skin is harmed by cumulative exposure to UV light — both UVA (slightly longer wavelength) and UVB (slightly shorter wavelength). UVA penetrates deeper into our skin and is responsible for damaging underlying collagen; this leads to sagging, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. UVB mostly damages the upper layers of skin; these are the rays that cause sunburns and damage to the DNA of the epidermis.
Sun-damaged skin will produce excess melanin in affected areas. As soon as you step into the sun, your melanocyte skin cells “see” the UV radiation using a photosensitive receptor (much like the receptors in your eyeballs) and begin producing more melanin. This melanin acts as cellular shield, absorbing some of the damaging rays and protecting your DNA against damage. So, the relative accumulation of this pigment — which can be seen on the visible spectrum as freckles and sunspots — can reveal how much overall sun damage a person has experienced in his or her lifetime. The UV camera simply reveals more melanin accumulation than we could ever see unassisted, and the damage appears as dark spot on the skin. UV cameras also reveal dry skin, which appears as a greenish glow or as bright green spots where the dry skin has flaked off. Ahead, 14 portraits that prove there's more to your skin than meets the eye.