Effects of sunlight on light and dark skin

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The effects of sunlight on human skin vary significantly based on skin type, particularly between light-skinned and dark-skinned individuals. This synthesis explores the differential impacts of various components of sunlight, including visible light (VL) and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, on these skin types.

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Sunlight comprises multiple types of UV rays

I. Dark skin and light skin react differently to sunlight

1. Visible Light and Pigmentation in Dark Skin

Visible light (VL)1 induces more intense and longer-lasting pigmentation in dark-skinned individuals (skin phototypes IV-VI) compared to ultraviolet A1 (UVA1)2.

Of course, light-skinned are also affected but to a lesser extent. However, you should not be subjective and use sun protection regularly.

2. Visible Light and Erythema in Light Skin

The combination of VL and UVA1 can induce erythema (skin redness) in light-skinned individuals (skin phototypes I-III), a novel finding as erythema was previously attributed mainly to UVB and short wavelength UVA.

3. UV Radiation and Skin Damage

  • UV radiation, particularly UVB and UVA, causes acute effects such as sunburn, tanning, and DNA damage, leading to long-term consequences like photoaging and skin cancer.3
  • Light-skinned individuals are more susceptible to these harmful effects, including higher incidences of basal and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma

II. Note

Sun exposure is essential for synthesizing vitamin D, which is important for overall health. People with darker skin need higher doses of UVB to produce enough vitamin D.

Depending on your geographical location and the seasons of the year, as well as the air quality, you can find the most ideal time for sunbathing. Sunbathing time must also be suitable for each person’s physical condition and skin type.

Regardless of whether you have dark skin or light skin, outside of ideal times, everyone should use proactive sun protection measures to eliminate sun damage.

  1. Visible Light and the Skin – Ezekwe – 2022 – Photochemistry and Photobiology – Wiley Online Library ↩︎
  2. Relationship between skin color and skin response to ultraviolet light ↩︎
  3. Toxic effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin – ScienceDirect ↩︎
By Daphne Merritt

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