Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Most people know that the sun damages skin. This damage can lead to freckles, wrinkles, sun spots, or even cancer. Of all the skin cancers, melanoma is the most deadly. Yet many people do not wear sunscreen on a daily basis. Some refuse to do so for one reason or another while others simply have not incorporated it into their morning routine out of laziness or even simply because they have just forgotten to do so. Some actively choose not to wear sunscreen out of disbelief or a lack of information. But an NBC News article shows how one photographer and artist by the name of Thomas Leveritt creates a visual argument that should convince everyone to wear sunscreen.
Leveritt took one camera that showed people as they see themselves in a mirror and had an ultraviolet camera that showed their reflections with a UV lens. The difference was astonishing. Where in the first camera, skin looked flawless and clear, and in the other the person could see all the sun damage, from major to minor. Someone with no freckles as we see them normally might have hundreds under the UV camera. It really was enlightening.
Then he asked each person to put on sunscreen, and wham! They each saw an incredible difference. A Slate article about the video explains that “The camera detects UV from the Sun that’s reflected off people’s skin; the point of sunscreen is to absorb that UV so it doesn’t even reach the skin. Since no UV is reflected from sunscreen, it appears black in the video, even though in visible light it looks white. It looks like people are smearing crude oil on their faces.”
By watching this video, viewers can see how dramatic the protection is that sunscreen provides. It is obvious that the skin is protected with even just a little smudge.
Slate writer Phil Plait identifies the three varieties of UV: UVA, UVB, UVC. UVC is the worst and brings enough energy to kill cells. The good news is that the sun does not emit a ton of UVC and what it does emit, the Earth’s air and the ozone layer absorb. UVB is the next most dangerous, and most of it is also absorbed in the ozone. Too much UVB exposure, though, damages skin, causes sunburn, destroys vitamin A, and causes cancer. In small amounts, UVB is good for producing vitamin D in the skin, but too much can be deadly. UVA is the least dangerous but still not completely safe. Serious long-term exposure can lead to cancer and it also destroys collagen in the skin thus causing aging such as wrinkles, freckles and sun spots. All three can lead to melanoma, which leads to the death of 9,000 people a year.
What is of particular interest here is that Leveritt simply wanted to shoot the video for the art of it as well as to showcase the cool technology. As he told Fast Company reporter Jeff Beer, he primarily used three Canon cameras: a modified Canon 7D, a regular Canon 7D, and a Powershot.
“I figured out how to get enough light into a DSLR to let it record at sub 380nm wavelengths–it’s a pretty interesting problem–and then had this almost magical camera lying around, which takes great pictures. (I) found that people reacted so strongly and interestingly to seeing themselves in UV, I decided I should capture that. I messed around with various beamsplitter/teleprompter/coaxial rigs to get the right shot, before getting something which looked about right,” Leveritt told Beer.
Despite the fact that Leveritt’s sole purpose was not to inform others of the impressive benefits of sunscreen, his project does just that. Through the visual, we see the argument supporting the necessity of sunscreen. When a face goes from freckled and speckled to completely black and obviously protected, even the staunchest suspect cannot deny that sunscreen blocks out dangerous UVA and UVB rays. Plus, it is pretty emotional to see the reactions of those who participate as they see their faces first in the regular camera and then in the UV one.