The time course of photoadaptation and pigmentation studied using a novel method to distinguish pigmentation from erythema

J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Nov;123(5):965-72. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-202X.2004.23464.x.


The dynamics of human pigmentation in response to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) remain poorly characterized. In part, this is attributable to methodological issues relating to the overlap in spectra of hemoglobin and melanin. We describe a new method, based on the recording of reflectance properties following iontophoresis of a potent vasoconstrictor, noradrenaline. This removes the influence of blood, allowing measurement of pigmentation, represented as L* on the L*a*b* scale. Blood flow was separately assessed using laser Doppler flowmetry. We show that there is a clear dose response with the dose of UVR administered, that pigmentation peaks at 1 wk and declines over the following 10 wk, but does not return to baseline within this period. We show clear differences in the degree, but not the temporal pattern of pigmentation between different pigmentary groups. We also report that the relation between facultative pigment and constitutive pigment is incomplete, with a wide scatter of responses for the development of pigmentation irrespective of constitutive levels. For comparison we also document overall photoadaptation and relate changes in pigmentation to the overall changes in photoadaptation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adaptation, Physiological / radiation effects*
  • Erythema / diagnosis*
  • Erythema / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hair Color
  • Humans
  • Iontophoresis
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine
  • Regional Blood Flow / drug effects
  • Regional Blood Flow / radiation effects
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects*
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Sympathomimetics
  • Norepinephrine