Many resources state that light skin/pale skin absorbs more UV than dark-colour skin. Doesn't black absorb maximum radiation?

For an example, see this article:

Natural selection therefore favored a genetic solution to that problem by evolving to a pale skin that absorbs UV more efficiently.

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    $\begingroup$ probably better suited for biology.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Jimmy360
    Apr 5, 2015 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ As the linked article says "It's all about synthesizing vitamin D". Light skin doesn't really absorb more UV, it lets the UV penetrate past the melanosomes to where it can be used to synthesize vitamin D. It's what you get from a writer who probably doesn't understand the biology all that well, and is working on a deadline. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 5, 2015 at 22:56

2 Answers 2


You are looking at this incorrectly. Pale skin allows the UV to penetrate more deeply than dark skin (that has the melanin in the dead skin cells). Since dark skin individuals absorb the UV in the dead skin layer, it make no difference if it causes DNA damage.

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be also plausibly good protection to have the dead skin cell layer reflect UV, away from the lower layers, rather than absorb them? It's tough to see how one is necessarily better than the other without more information. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2022 at 20:26

Dark skin absorbs UV better than lighter skin. More specifically, melanin absorbs most of the UV radiation so that your skin cells don't have to.

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    $\begingroup$ The point is that melanin absorbs the UV essentially w/o damage. $\endgroup$ Apr 5, 2015 at 21:46

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