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Last summer, I worked with CMPF and learned about their UV reflectance camera that they use to illustrate sun damage. I was so thrilled when they brought the camera to my high school this spring for a health fair. It was fun for me to see the reaction of my classmates when they saw their skin on the monitor.

UV reflectance photography highlights pigment changes from sun exposure. The way that it works is that the camera has specialized light filters that helps to visualize excess melanin that isn’t necessarily visible on the skin’s surface. It also helps visualize melanin deposited in the skin. Melanin, or pigment, is kind of like your body’s natural sunscreen that stands between your cells’ very important DNA and the sun’s potentially dangerous photons (light energy). The more melanin one has the less sun sensitive they are. Freckles and moles are the result of excess melanin production that is most often related to overexposure to UV light. Both freckles and moles serve as the indicator of sun sensitivity and skin cancer risk. However, it is important to realize that even-toned skin can actually have DNA damage secondary to overexposure to the burning or tanning rays too.

UV reflectance photography is an extremely useful tool for showing people how damaging the sun can be. The distribution of freckles across the nose and cheeks is a clear indicator of the effect of the UV rays on the skin. Freckles develop most commonly on the nose and cheeks because they are in a direct line with the sun when it is strongest at midday and over their heads. This is also the most common site for skin cancer to develop.

My classmates reacted with shock when they saw how damaged their skin was. The foundation teacher also used the camera to demonstrate that sunscreen provides a barrier between the skin and UV Rays. When the student applied a chemical sunscreen to their skin it appeared black and the SunAWARE teacher was able to illustrate if my classmate missed a spot. It’s terrific technology that provides two important lessons about sun safety. For an illustration of this technology go to:

Below is an example of UV reflectance photography. The left photograph shows the persons skin as we usually see it, which at surface value does not appear too damaged. The photograph on the right is the UV photo. Notice the darker gray spots, they are freckles (sun damage) on his face that is concentrated in areas of high UV exposure. These photographs help illustrate changes from the sun and the need for sun protection.

Normal PhotoUV Photo

This image shows the effectiveness of SPF 50 sunscreen using a UV reflectance camera. Solid dark represents well-distributed sunscreen and protected skin.


If you have the opportunity to see your skin through one of these super cool cameras, be sure to know what you’re looking at and, more importantly, ask questions if you don’t! There are ways to correct damage that has already been done, and of course to prevent further damage, always be SunAWARE.

Quincy High Girls UV










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