How does the skin sense sun light? An integrative view of light sensing molecules

Leonardo Vinicius Monteiro de Assis, Paulo Newton Tonolli, Maria Nathalia Moraes, Maurício S. Baptista*, Ana Maria de Lauro Castrucci

*Corresponding author for this work
10 Citations (Scopus)


The consensus on the effects of excessive sun exposure on human health has long emphasized the negative effects of solar UV radiation. Nevertheless, although UV radiation has been demonized, less is known about the consequences of sun exposure while using sunscreen, which can lead to high visible light exposure. UV and visible light play key roles in vitamin D synthesis, reduction of blood pressure, among other beneficial effects. In this review, we aim to provide a comprehensive view of the wide range of responses of the human skin to sunlight by revisiting data on the beneficial and harmful effects of UV and visible light. We start by exploring the interaction of photons in the skin at several levels including physical (depth of photon penetration), chemical (light absorption and subsequent photochemical events), and biological (how cells and tissues respond). Skin responses to sun exposure can only be comprehensively understood through a consideration of the light-absorbing molecules present in the skin, especially the light-sensing proteins called opsins. Indeed, many of the cellular responses to sun exposure are modulated by opsins, which act as the “eyes of the skin”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100403
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology C: Photochemistry Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 06.2021

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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