Infrared and skin: Friend or foe

Daniel Barolet, François Christiaens, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


In the last decade, it has been proposed that the sun's IR-A wavelengths might be deleterious to human skin and that sunscreens, in addition to their desired effect to protect against UV-B and UV-A, should also protect against IR-A (and perhaps even visible light). Several studies showed that NIR may damage skin collagen content via an increase inMMP-1 activity in the samemanner as is known for UVR. Unfortunately, the artificial NIR light sources used in such studies were not representative of the solar irradiance. Yet, little has been said about the other side of the coin. This articlewill focus on key information suggesting that IR-A may bemore beneficial than deleteriouswhen the skin is exposed to the appropriate irradiance/dose of IR-A radiation similar to daily sun exposure received by people in real life. IR-A might even precondition the skin - a process called photoprevention - from an evolutionary standpoint since exposure to early morning IR-A wavelengths in sunlight may ready the skin for the coming mid-day deleterious UVR. Consequently IR-A appears to be the solution, not the problem. It does more good than bad for the skin. It is essentially a question of intensity and how we can learn from the sun.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • IR-A
  • Infrared (IR)
  • Irradiance
  • MMP-1
  • Photobiomodulation
  • Photoprevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging


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