Dermatologists are always advising patients to try to avoid spending too much time in the sun and to apply sunscreen and sun protective clothing when going outside. For the most part these recommendations are important and true as they help prevent the negative effects of excessive sunlight on a person’s skin These negative effects include increasing a person’s risk of developing different kinds of skin cancers as well as accelerated skin aging.
Heliotherapy, which literally means sun therapy, is a form of phototherapy which uses sunlight to treat skin diseases. It has been reintroduced into modern medicine as a treatment option or adjunct to treatment (on top of the dermatologist prescribed creams or medications) for certain dermatologic diseases.
A great advantage of heliotherapy is that sunlight is ubiquitous and is therefore accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds living in rural remote and urban locations. With proper instruction and recommendations from a dermatologist, heliotherapy is a valid alternative to conventional phototherapy for the diseases mentioned above for patients, who may not have conventional phototherapy in their community.
Unfortunately, sunlight is very variable depending on the day, time of day, season and geographic location. Natural sunlight is also a much less controlled source of UV radiation and larger exposures can cause serious harm. In general, office phototherapy is a much more controlled and reliable way to receive this treatment. Please speak to your doctor before pursuing this treatment.