Henry Lim, MD: Infrared Radiation and Its Effects on Skin Health

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This interview featured a discussion with Dr. Lim on his team’s findings regarding the effects of infrared radiation on human skin.

In his latest interview with HCPLive, Henry Lim, MD, described some of the most important findings from his team’s recent study examining the effects of infrared radiation (IR) on skin, as well as the study’s background.1

Lim has become known for his work both as a dermatologist and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, in addition to being the former chair of Henry Ford Health’s Department of Dermatology.

The study explores the relationship between IR and skin health, with the goal being to gather existing evidence on the topic. Lim was first asked about his team’s inspiration for pursuing this topic as an area of interest for dermatologists.

Partly because of my long standing interest in photo dermatology, obviously, and when we go out in the sun, we are exposed not only to UV, which has been the most well studied one,” he explained. “We are also exposed to visible light, which we have done quite a bit of research on, but also we are exposed to infrared.”

Although UV radiation's harmful effects are fairly well-known, IR’s effects on the skin are less studied.

“But it really has not been totally well studied,” Lim added. “And there's a reason we decided to do the review to see where it is in terms of our knowledge, and what are the gaps in understanding about infrared.”

Lim’s study examined articles drawn from several databases and showed that reported negative effects such as thermal burns and aging could result from secondary thermal effects from IR exposure rather than isolated IR impact.

“Essentially the spectrum of sunlight that is beyond, meaning longer in terms of wavelength, visible light,” he said. “So infrared is divided into infrared, A, B and C. A and B are the shortest amount, and then C is the longest, but the most relevant one is infrared because that's the one that penetrates into the skin. And about 40% of the infrared radiation would penetrate 40 - 60% actually into the skin.”

IR was shown to lack specific protective filters, but it might potentially offer some photoprotective properties against UV-induced carcinogenesis. Additionally, IR has shown positive outcomes in skin rejuvenation, wound healing, as well as hair restoration at therapeutic doses.

“However, I want to emphasize that the data here is quite soft, meaning that it is primarily done in an animal model type of setup,” Lim said. “So, it's not completely clear whether it is the infrared or it is the heat that is generated from the absorption of the water molecule or the absorption of infrared by water molecule generating heat, where that is the one that is producing the effect or is it purely the infrared itself.”

Lim added that more research in this part may need to be done in terms of photoaging. His team’s research underscored the need for a comprehensive understanding of IR's effects and potential protective measures for the skin.

To find out more about Lim’s work and his team’s findings, view the full interview segment above.

The quotes contained in this article were edited for the purposes of clarity.

References

  1. Horton, L, Brady, J, Kincaid, CM, Torres, AE, Lim, HW. The effects of infrared radiation on the human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2023; 00: 1-7. doi:10.1111/phpp.12899.
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