Irradiation of skin with visible light induces reactive oxygen species and matrix-degrading enzymes

J Invest Dermatol. 2012 Jul;132(7):1901-7. doi: 10.1038/jid.2011.476. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Daily skin exposure to solar radiation causes cells to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are a primary factor in skin damage. Although the contribution of the UV component to skin damage has been established, few studies have examined the effects of non-UV solar radiation on skin physiology. Solar radiation comprises <10% of UV, and thus the purpose of this study was to examine the physiological response of skin to visible light (400-700 nm). Irradiation of human skin equivalents with visible light induced production of ROS, proinflammatory cytokines, and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 expression. Commercially available sunscreens were found to have minimal effects on reducing visible light-induced ROS, suggesting that UVA/UVB sunscreens do not protect the skin from visible light-induced responses. Using clinical models to assess the generation of free radicals from oxidative stress, higher levels of free radical activity were found after visible light exposure. Pretreatment with a photostable UVA/UVB sunscreen containing an antioxidant combination significantly reduced the production of ROS, cytokines, and MMP expression in vitro, and decreased oxidative stress in human subjects after visible light irradiation. Taken together, these findings suggest that other portions of the solar spectrum aside from UV, particularly visible light, may also contribute to signs of premature photoaging in skin.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / physiology
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / biosynthesis*
  • Pyrimidine Dimers / biosynthesis
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines
  • Pyrimidine Dimers
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases