LA vs. NYC Sun Damage: We Asked For UV Photos of Our Skin and Here's What Happened

July 05, 2018
Jessie Quinn
By: Jessie Quinn | by L'Oréal
LA vs. NYC Sun Damage: We Asked For UV Photos of Our Skin and Here's What Happened

Did you know that sun damage isn’t always visible to the naked eye? Two of our editors—one born and raised in LA and the other in NYC—found this out the hard way by taking SkinCeuticals’ SkinScope for a test run and getting UV photos of their skin. Interested to see what years of sun exposure and living in a big city can do to your skin? From sun damage to dark spots to congested pores, we share what happened—and the incriminating UV photos—below. Let’s just say, we’re all stocking up on sunscreen…stat!

It’s no secret that the sun’s harmful UV rays can cause major damage to the surface skin—especially if you don’t do your part to protect And even when your skin looks healthy and fabulous on the outside it may not look as healthy at a deeper level and it may not remain that way forever. We learned this the hard way when we visited board certified-dermatologist and consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman to have a UV image of our skin taken with the SkinCeuticals SkinScope. The SkinScope—in short—is a LED-UV light device that can illuminate skin imperfections (and damage) caused by environmental factors—read: the sun’s UV rays and pollution—and is used by some dermatologists to help determine how environmental factors may have affected the skin and—by proxy—the future of the subjects’ visible skin aging process if the pattern of damage continues unchanged.

Curious to know how our skin measured up, we decided to conduct a little compare and contrast experiment between two major U.S. cities—Los Angeles and New York—to see how living in each big city has visibly affected our skin. Luckily for us, two of our beauty editors grew up on opposite coasts and were willing to act as guinea pigs in our little experiment. See their results—and learn more about the SkinCeuticals SkinScope—ahead.


What Is It?

SkinCeuticals SkinScope is a portable, full-face diagnostic device that dermatologists can use to educate their patients on the importance of proper skin care, as well as better understand their individual skin care needs. With two light settings to choose from—daylight and LED-UV—this useful device can compare what your skin looks like in daylight to what your sub-surface skin looks like when illuminated by the LED light.

According to the brand: “The LED-UV mode illuminates sub-surface imperfections visualized by the fluorescence of the skin.” This can make it easier for the dermatologist—and even you—to get a clearer picture (no pun intended!) of what areas of your complexion are damaged by the sun, congested, need some extra hydration, and so on. While the device itself doesn’t actually take your picture, per se, there is a universal smartphone visor located near the peephole that allows you to snap a selfie to document the consultation—and use as motivation to take better care of your skin moving forward.  

How Does It Work?

While it may sound like a complicated device, the SkinCeuticals SkinScope is actually quite simple. On one end there is black tube-like material that you will stand under and on the other end there is a peephole for the dermatologist to look into and assess your skin.

When the light is turned on—by a switch located near the peephole— both you and the dermatologist (there’s a mirror inside, so you can see your skin imperfections in real time) can assess what the skin looks like under both the daylight setting and the LED-UV setting to better-understand the skin’s sub-layer. The daylight setting can allow the dermatologist to see visible signs of redness, irritation, dryness, oiliness, wrinkles, and pigmentation. While the LED-UV light mode illuminates skin imperfections in different colors, allowing them to see what parts of the skin are healthy-looking, have sun damage, are dehydrated, congested, etc. 

After the dermatologist takes a look at your skin in the SkinScope, she will then help you come up with an action plan for taking care of your skin by using a SkinCeuticals Diagnostic Worksheet. The worksheet maps out your health, lifestyle, skin care routine, and procedure history, includes an area where you can express your skin care expectations and goals, and allows the dermatologist to jot down the products she would like you to incorporate in your skin care routine in order to help you meet those expectations and goals.

What are the Benefits of UV Imaging?

In addition to illuminating visible signs of sun damage, UV imaging can pick up other imperfections that aren’t as easy to see with the naked eye. Thanks to its fluorescence technology, the SkinScope can pick up on congested pores, skin discoloration, dehydration, dry skin—you get the picture. What’s more? The SkinCeuticals SkinScope is—in a way—a visible glimpse at what your skin may look like in the future if you continue down your current path. Keep in mind, if you don’t get serious about sun protection and make changes to your daily skin routine, the signs of sun damage and skin imperfections that may have appeared in your UV image can likely become more prominent—and more noticeable to the naked eye—as your skin ages. 

What Do the Colors Represent?

When the LED-UV light is switched on, certain areas of your skin will light up in different colors. These colors represent specific concerns—such as, dead skin cells, dehydrated skin, dark spots, you get the picture—and help the dermatologist better understand your skin’s sub-layer. How do you know what color is what? We’ve got the 411, below.

  • Pale Blue: Normal and healthy-looking skin
  • White: Dead skin cells
  • Dark Blue: Thinner, dehydrated skin
  • Brown: Pigmentation and dark spots
  • Yellow: Oily areas of the face
  • Dark Pink or Orange: Congested pores and comedones (otherwise known as blackheads)

Can You Help Skin with Damage?

According to Dr. Engelman, when sun damage results in premature signs of skin aging, a dermatologist can help you come up with a plan of action to target and reduce the appearance of those visible signs. Pair these recommended products and routine with proper sun protection—that is, wearing broad-spectrum SPF each and every day regardless of the weather forecast—and you’ll be well on your way to better-looking skin…now and in the future!


We Asked For UV Photos of Our Skin and Here’s What Happened 

Jessie, Junior Editor & Los Angeles Native

As a Los Angeles native, Jessie spent many years worshiping the year-round sun and the readily-accessible tanning beds—tsk, tsk—and, even though she did her best to apply sunscreen, she wasn’t so great at reapplying throughout the day. You can see from her photo that she has some darker spots on her nose, forehead, and cheeks—which could be a result of both sun damage and pollution from the LA smog—as well as some melasma (which, she knew about before going under the SkinScope) on her upper lip. To the naked eye, Jessie’s melasma is seemingly non-existent, but under the LED-UV light, it is clearly still present. In addition to the sun damage, Jessie’s upper lip and side of her nose have some congestion (highlighted in pink) and the delicate skin around her eye contour appears dehydrated.

Dr. Engelman recommended that Jessie use SkinCeuticals products that could help improve the appearance of her skin such as an antioxidant-rich facial serum—such as SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic—in her morning routine and a hydrating eye cream and retinol serum in her nighttime routine. To protect her skin from the sun, Dr. Engelman suggested Jessie start applying a physical sunscreen—such as, SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50—every morning before her makeup application and reapplying throughout the day.

We Asked For UV Photos of Our Skin and Here’s What Happened 

Jessica, Junior Editor & New York Native

Growing up in New York, Jessica didn’t spend as much time in the sun as Jessie did, but still shows similar signs of sun damage on her complexion—this just goes to show how powerful the sun and its UV rays can be. In addition to sun damage, Jess has some more prominent dark spots around her cheeks and on her T-Zone, as well as some congested pores on her nose, chin, and forehead. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, these dark spots could be  from  living in a polluted city. The study showed that exposure to nitrogen dioxide was associated with more dark spots on the cheeks, and even more evident on the cheeks of women exposed to more polluted air. In addition to the dark spots and congestions, Jess also shows signs of dehydration under her eyes.

To help protect her skin from the city’s pollution and improve the look of her congested pores, Dr. Engelman recommended that Jess start incorporating products formulated with antioxidants as well as retinol and glycolic acid into her daily routine. Antioxidants can help to neutralize the effect of free radicals on the skin, which in turn can create a line of defense that protects the skin from environmental aggressors, such as pollution. On the flipside, skin care products formulated with retinol and glycolic acid can help to visibly reduce the signs of premature skin aging. Dr. Engelman also advised Jess to start using a hydrating eye cream around her eye contour and applying (and re-applying!) SPF daily.

We don’t know about you… but we’re reapplying our sunscreen right now! 


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