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J Biomed Opt. 2012 Sep;17(9):90901-1. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.17.9.090901.

Optical properties of human skin.

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  • 1Wessex Specialist Laser Centre, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, SP2 8BJ, United Kingdom.


A survey of the literature is presented that provides an analysis of the optical properties of human skin, with particular regard to their applications in medicine. Included is a description of the primary interactions of light with skin and how these are commonly estimated using radiative transfer theory (RTT). This is followed by analysis of measured RTT coefficients available in the literature. Orders of magnitude differences are found within published absorption and reduced-scattering coefficients. Causes for these discrepancies are discussed in detail, including contrasts between data acquired in vitro and in vivo. An analysis of the phase functions applied in skin optics, along with the remaining optical coefficients (anisotropy factors and refractive indices) is also included. The survey concludes that further work in the field is necessary to establish a definitive range of realistic coefficients for clinically normal skin.

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