Your Skin Sees The (UV) Light

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New research demonstrates that your skin detects UVA radiation using a light-sensitive receptor previously found only in the eye – and you thought that only your eyes could see.

The new study, published in the journal Current Biology, reports that melanocyte (pigment) skin cells sense light that triggers the production of melanin within hours, apparently in a rush to protect against damage to DNA. Previously, scientists thought that melanin production responded days after UVB radiation had already started to damage DNA.

The process is faster than anything known before showing that the body gets ready to defend itself much sooner than a tan becomes apparent. Rhodopsin, a photosensitive receptor used by the eye to detect light, is critical to this process. As much as researchers have learned, they still have questions. Does rhodopsin act alone or is there another receptor? Do melanocytes immediately begin exporting melanin to other kinds of skin cells or do they hang on to their supply?

The scientists agree that although the skin responds quickly to protect itself against UV radiation that there is no reason for individuals to change what they do to protect themselves. It does NOT mean “Don’t use sunscreen”. View our full selection of sunscreens here.

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