What is it about?

Human skin offers protection against physical injury by providing a barrier to the outside world. The skin is very elastic and this helps it to resist being injured. However, this elastic ability is lost when skin is damaged by being exposed to the sun. Using special instruments, we have tested black and white young people to see how elastic their skin is at body sites that never see the sun (bottom) and at body sites that often see the sun (arm).

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Why is it important?

We show that healthy young skin is very elastic at body sites that never see the sun. In young black people, skin on the arm is also very elastic but in young white people, arm skin is not elastic and this is because the skin has been damaged by the sun. When we look at pieces of skin using a microscope, we can see that healthy, elastic skin has a very neat arrangement. However, white arm skin that has been exposed to the sun does not have this same neat arrangement and is disorganised.


This information tells us that young black people have good protection from the sun because their skin is dark. However, white skin does not have the same protection and the sun causes damage to how elastic the skin is. As we get older and the skin is exposed to more sun, white skin will become more damaged and this may lead to white people getting skin cancer. However, it is important that all people, no matter whether their skin is white or black, protect their skin from the sun as this is the best way to prevent sun damage.

Abigail Langton
The University of Manchester

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Organization of the dermal matrix impacts the biomechanical properties of skin, British Journal of Dermatology, June 2017, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/bjd.15353.
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