UVA, UVB, UVC — nope, not a roll call for universities in Virginia. We’re talking about the three types of ultraviolet radiation. (But we bet you knew that.) While you’re probably most familiar with the first two, UVC is starting to come up in discussions around sun protection. Though UVC rays from the sun are dispersed in the atmosphere before they reach our skin, UVC exposure via compact fluorescent light (you know, those energy-saving curly bulbs) has been shown to cause skin damage, according to a 2012 Stony Brook University study. (The researchers noted that it’s not significant enough for consumers to stop using the bulbs; they just cautioned against using them directly against your skin. Not like you would. Think of how hot that would get!)
Still, however much you may not want to deal with it, or hope it won’t affect you, UV damage is real, and you should be using SPF every day — even if you spend most of your time indoors. But it’s also something the beauty biz sometimes uses as a scare tactic. Skin-imaging devices, such as Visia, can show patients the extent of a lifetime of skin problems — often as a precursor to getting them to sign up for a fancy laser treatment or some other procedure in order to "turn back the clock" (ugh).
The truth is that a good dermatologist doesn’t need to use this kind of imagery to know how to treat sun damage or related aging concerns. And even if you do decide to give lasers a go and blast a few sun spots here and there, there’s no laser powerful enough to zap away everything you’d see in one of the UV photographs we're about to show you.
Yet there is something fascinating (and scary) about seeing how your skin looks in one of these pictures. Photographer Cara Phillips decided to turn the UV images she had captured into a project. Phillips, a former model, uses her work to “explore personal and larger cultural pressures” that surround women and their perception of beauty and aging.
“Art is a great place for us to work out our societal neuroses and examine the times we live in,” says Phillips. “As a former child model, who spent my formative years in front of the camera, I was drawn to the idea of exploring both the relationship between the subject and photographer and what an image can reveal.”
Ahead, she gives us the backstory on her photo series and tells us how comfortable — or uncomfortable — her subjects were in their own skin.