In a project titled “Ultraviolet Beauties,” Brooklyn-based artist Cara Phillips used ultraviolet photography to expose sun spots and other blemishes in people’s skin that the human eye can’t see.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Phillips said she was inspired by the medical portraits she had seen in dermatological offices, which might be used for cosmetic consultations. The photos were taken of random people on the streets of New York and are meant to “reveal flaws beneath the skin,” she told the website.
The photos also send a horrifying message about the effects of sun exposure.
“It’s not truly a scientific test,” said Jill Waibel, a board certified dermatologist in Miami, but it can be “a powerful tool for patients in denial that they are doing too much sun.”
When our faces and bodies are exposed to the sun, it causes melanin, a dark pigment found in the skin’s surface, to clump together. This is what causes freckles, sun spots, and other brown spots.
The photos, taken using ultraviolet light, show the clumping of the pigmentation that is not yet visible on the surface, according to Tom Rohrer, a Boston-based dermatologist.
The images are not a marker for skin cancer or other pre-cancerous lesions, said Rohrer, but it does show the amount of sun damage. Additional sun damage might increase the size and number of these small clumpings.
Fair-skinned people and those with light or red hair, for example, show more damage to their skin than people with darker skin.
“When you see patients who have a lot of brown spots, it shows that there is damage that is occurring and that can lead to skin cancer,” said Waibel.
One out of every five Americans will get skin cancer at some point in their lives. Waibel recommends visiting the dermatologist once a year for a skin cancer screening.
Check out the ultraviolet photographs below, then head over to Phillips’ website to see more of her artwork.
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