Sunscreen or simulated sweat minimizes the impact of acute ultraviolet radiation on cutaneous microvascular function in healthy humans

S. Tony Wolf, Craig W. Berry, Anna E. Stanhewicz, Lauren E. Kenney, Sara B. Ferguson, W. Larry Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


New Findings: What is the central question of this study? Are ultraviolet radiation (UVR)-induced increases in skin blood flow independent of skin erythema? Does broad-spectrum UVR exposure attenuate NO-mediated cutaneous vasodilatation, and does sunscreen or sweat modulate this response? What are the main findings and their importance? Erythema and vascular responses to UVR are temporally distinct, and sunscreen prevents both responses. Exposure to UVR attenuates NO-mediated vasodilatation in the cutaneous microvasculature; sunscreen or simulated sweat on the skin attenuates this response. Sun over-exposure may elicit deleterious effects on human skin that are separate from sunburn, and sunscreen or sweat on the skin may provide protection. Abstract: Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) may result in cutaneous vascular dysfunction independent of erythema (skin reddening). Two studies were designed to differentiate changes in erythema from skin vasodilatation throughout the 8 h after acute broad-spectrum UVR exposure with (+SS) or without SPF-50 sunscreen (study 1) and to examine NO-mediated cutaneous vasodilatation after acute broad-spectrum UVR exposure with or without +SS or simulated sweat (+SW) on the skin (study 2). In both studies, laser-Doppler flowmetry was used to measure red cell flux, and cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) was calculated (CVC = flux/mean arterial pressure). In study 1, in 14 healthy adults (24 ± 4 years old; seven men and seven women), the skin erythema index and CVC were measured over two forearm sites (UVR only and UVR+SS) before, immediately after and every 2 h for 8 h post-exposure (750 mJ cm−2). The erythema index began to increase immediately post-UVR (P < 0.05 at 4, 6 and 8 h), but CVC did not increase above baseline for the first 4–6 h (P ≤ 0.01 at 6 and 8 h); +SS prevented both responses. In study 2, in 13 healthy adults (24 ± 4 years old; six men and seven women), three intradermal microdialysis fibres were placed in the ventral skin of the forearm [randomly assigned to UVR (450 mJ cm−2), UVR+SS or UVR+SW], and one fibre (non-exposed control; CON) was placed in the contralateral forearm. After UVR, a standardized local heating (42°C) protocol quantified the percentage of NO-mediated vasodilatation (%NO). The UVR attenuated %NO compared with CON (P = 0.01). The diminished %NO was prevented by +SS (P < 0.01) and +SW (P < 0.01). Acute broad-spectrum UVR attenuates NO-dependent dilatation in the cutaneous microvasculature, independent of erythema. Sunscreen protects against both inflammatory and heating-induced endothelial dysfunction, and sweat might prevent UVR-induced reductions in NO-dependent dilatation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1136-1146
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


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