Assessing human skin with diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and colorimetry

In Seok Seo, Yang Liu, Paulo R. Bargo, Nikiforos Kollias

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Colorimetry has been used as an objective measure of perceived skin color by human eye to document and score physiological responses of the skin from external insults. CIE color space values (L*, a* and b*) are the most commonly used parameters to correlate visually perceived color attributes such as L* for pigment, a* for erythema, and b* for sallowness of the skin. In this study, we investigated the relation of Lab color scale to the amount of major skin chromophores (oxy-, deoxyhemoglobin and melanin) calculated from diffuse reflectance spectroscopy. Thirty two healthy human subjects with ages from 20 to 70 years old, skin types I-VI, were recruited for the study. DRS and colorimetry measurements were taken from the left and right cheeks, and on the right upper inner arm. The melanin content calculated from 630-700 nm range of DRS measurements was shown to correlate with the lightness of skin (L*) for most skin types. For subjects with medium-to-light complexion, melanin measured at the blue part spectrum and hemoglobin interfered on the relation of lightness of the skin color to the melanin content. The sallowness of the skin that is quantified by the melanin contribution at the blue part spectrum of DRS was found to be related to b* scale. This study demonstrates the importance of documenting skin color by assessing individual skin chromophores with diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, in comparison to colorimetry assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPhotonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics VIII
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventPhotonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics VIII - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Jan 21 2012Jan 24 2012

Publication series

NameProgress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE
ISSN (Print)1605-7422


ConferencePhotonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics VIII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA


  • Chromameter
  • Colorimetry
  • Diffuse reflectance
  • Lab
  • Melanin
  • Skin color

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing human skin with diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and colorimetry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this