Original Article

Lasers in Medical Science

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 437-444

First online:

Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy as a tool to measure the absorption coefficient in skin: system calibration

  • A. E. KarstenAffiliated withBiophotonics Group, National Laser Centre, CSIRDepartment of Physics, University of Pretoria Email author 
  • , A. SinghAffiliated withBiophotonics Group, National Laser Centre, CSIR
  • , P. A. KarstenAffiliated withBallistics Research Group, Denel Land Systems
  • , M. W. H. BraunAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, University of Pretoria

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An individualised laser skin treatment may enhance the treatment and reduces risks and side-effects. The optical properties (absorption and scattering coefficients) are important parameters in the propagation of laser light in skin tissue. The differences in the melanin content of different skin phototypes influence the absorption of the light. The absorption coefficient at the treatment wavelength for an individual can be determined by diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, using a probe containing seven fibres. Six of the fibres deliver the light to the measurement site and the central fibre collects the diffused reflected light. This is an in vivo technique, offering benefits for near-real-time results. Such a probe, with an effective wavelength band from 450 to 800 nm, was used to calibrate skin-simulating phantoms consisting of intralipid and ink. The calibration constants were used to calculate the absorption coefficients from the diffuse reflectance measurements of three volunteers (skin phototypes, II, IV and V) for sun-exposed and non-exposed areas on the arm.


Diffuse reflectance Absorption coefficient Skin-simulating phantom