Amazing, slightly scary video reveals what our skin looks like under ultraviolet light
Friday, August 22, 2014, 9:17 AM
Look at the people around you. Look in the mirror. The complexions you see may appear to be smooth and healthy, but if your eyes could see into the ultraviolet end of the light spectrum, you could see a very different story.
The video above is the work of photographer Thomas Leveritt, who threw a filter in front of a video camera lens, so that it would only pick up the ultraviolet light being reflected off everything in the camera's view.
When we hear about ultraviolet light, it's always about the three types - UVA, UVB and UVC - ranging from least energetic to most energetic, thus least damaging to most damaging. UVC is so energetic that it can actually kill living cells. The ozone layer and oxygen molecules in the atmosphere take care of the vast majority of UVC, though, so (normally) none of it reaches the ground. The ozone layer also blocks most of the UVB range, so only the longest wavelengths of those get through, and it's mostly those and the range of UVA wavelengths that reaches us here on the ground.
While those wavelengths that reach us aren't immediately dangerous, and they can even promote the production of vitamin D in our bodies, they can still cause damage to our skin - UVB especially, but also UVA with enough exposure to it. We tan. We burn. We freckle. After years, it can all add up to a lot of damaged skin cells. This can result in cancer, but even if it doesn't, the effects add up.
That's what Leveritt's camera is showing us. All of the freckles and dark patches that show up with the UV filter in place are, effectively, damaged parts of our skin that no longer reflect UV light.
The striking part is when Leveritt gives the people sunblock to apply to their face. Sunblock absorbs UV light, rather than reflecting it or allowing it through. So, to the camera it looks like they are rubbing ink into their skin.
At the very least, this is just a remarkable look at what a simple change in perspective can show us.
However, at the same time, it also goes to show how covering up and wearing sunblock is probably a good idea, especially on high UV Index days, and how it's a really good thing that the world was able to come together for the Montreal Protocol, to prevent our ozone layer from being completely eroded away.
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