The Science of Sunlight Part 2

If you missed our last article on the Science of Sunlight, you can — read it here to get up to speed on myths and facts about sun exposure, vitamin D, sunscreen, and more.

And if you love having your mind blown, you’re in luck, because Part 2 of this series covers why sunlight is the best light therapy, how to prevent sunburn with food, and other amazing tips.

There’s nothing more to click or do extra, just keep reading for pure value right here in your inbox. Let’s get into it! 

The Best Red Light Therapy Is the Sun

Red light therapy using non-visible light in the near-infrared spectrum (around 700-1,000 nanometers) also called low level laser therapy or photobiomodulation, is now backed by a significant amount of scientific research. 

This type of light therapy can increase energy levels, slow skin aging, boost recovery, reduce pain, speed wound healing, and even promote hair growth[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]. The main downsides are that therapy devices can cost thousands of dollars and usually aren’t portable. 

Fortunately about 49.4% of the sun’s energy that reaches earth is infrared light, meaning it can provide similar benefits[8]! (For anyone wondering, an additional 42.3% of sunlight is visible, and the remaining 8.3% is non-visible UV light.) You can enjoy this natural form of red light therapy any time of day, any season, nearly anywhere on the planet, for free.

Wood fires are also extremely high in beneficial infrared light, so the next time you enjoy a campfire or cozy up next to a fireplace, keep in mind you’re also doing your body a favor[9].

Get Morning Sun to Reduce Burning

In the morning, sunlight is lower in UV (ultraviolet, the light that can cause sunburn) but still high in beneficial infrared wavelengths.

Some fascinating research suggests that conditioning your skin with morning IR light can help prevent or reduce burning from UV[10][11].

If you find you burn easily, try getting sunlight between sunrise and 10 am for a few days in a row before you expose your skin to the more intense UV rays later in the day. Bright light in the morning is also highly effective for waking you up and boosting your mood[12][13].

Eat Seafood, Berries, and Colorful Veggies to Prevent UV Damage

In Part 1 we covered the reasons why wearing artificial sunscreen can be harmful and may not even help prevent melanoma. (As an alternative, I recommended going in the shade and wearing hats or other clothes to avoid burning when needed.)

Instead of wearing sunscreen, try eating your sunscreen…of course, I’m not talking about not the lotion variety, but rather foods that can help prevent UV damage.

Seafood contains astaxanthin, a carotenoid antioxidant shown to reduce UV damage[14]

And berries like strawberries, cherries and blueberries, as well as colorful vegetables, may also have similar effects[15].

Get Winter Sunlight

If you think sunlight is only important in summer, that’s incorrect. Even though you may not be able to make vitamin D due to the lack of UV-B, winter sunlight still plays a role in your health and sleep-wake cycles. And winter sunlight is still very high in beneficial infrared light.

For the best of both worlds and an easy way to boost vitamin D production, you can even take a solar vacation to anywhere below the 30th parallel North for more UV-B light, which includes parts of the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in the United States.

Open a Window or Go Outside

Everyone wants a window seat in the office, but the truth is that sunlight filtering through glass is lower in UV and IR and is unlikely to offer the same benefits as direct light.

Open a window whenever you can to increase your exposure to the real deal, or go outside during breaks to sync your body up with natural light.

Finally, unless your job mainly involves working outside anyway, an outside desk is a great compromise if you can pull it off (possible work from home perk!). You’ll need to be in the shade if you work on a computer, but being outside in ambient natural light is still fantastic for your health.

The Science