Sunlight Exposure and Phototherapy: Perspectives for Healthy Aging in an Era of COVID-19

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Oct 18;18(20):10950. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182010950.


Most humans depend on sunlight exposure to satisfy their requirements for vitamin D3. However, the destruction of the ozone layer in the past few decades has increased the risk of skin aging and wrinkling caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which may also promote the risk of skin cancer development. The promotion of public health recommendations to avoid sunlight exposure would reduce the risk of skin cancer, but it would also enhance the risk of vitamin D3 insufficiency/deficiency, which may cause disease development and progression. In addition, the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic may further reduce sunlight exposure due to stay-at-home policies, resulting in difficulty in active and healthy aging. In this review article, we performed a literature search in PubMed and provided an overview of basic and clinical data regarding the impact of sunlight exposure and vitamin D3 on public health. We also discuss the potential mechanisms and clinical value of phototherapy with a full-spectrum light (notably blue, red, and near-infrared light) as an alternative to sunlight exposure, which may contribute to combating COVID-19 and promoting active and healthy aging in current aged/superaged societies.

Keywords: COVID-19; alarmins; microbiota; phototherapy; sunlight; vitamin D3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Healthy Aging*
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays
  • Pandemics
  • Phototherapy
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Skin Neoplasms*
  • Sunlight
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Vitamin D


  • Vitamin D