Much has already been said about the effects of blue light on our health. More accurately termed high-energy visible (HEV) light, the blue light emitted by our digital devices has long been linked to sleep disruptions, as our bodies use the natural blue light emitted by the sun to regulate our circadian rhythms—it’s why iPhones have a blue light filter when switched to night mode. More recently, however, some have also suggested that blue light may actually also be harmful to your skin.
Of course, blue light can be harmful to the skin if it means that we get insufficient sleep to allow the skin to rest and regenerate. Plus, prolonged staring at a screen can cause stagnant blood flow in the eye area, resulting in dark circles and tired-looking eyes. But the effects go further than just that. According to some studies, the light emitted by our electronic devices is linked to the production of free radicals that can cause damage to the skin.
Free radicals, as Dr Lam Bee Lan of Ageless Medical explains, are unstable molecules that lose electrons from their outer shell. In order to stabilise themselves, free radicals try to bond to other atoms or molecules, which results in oxidative stress that causes damage to the DNA and other parts of the cells. This cell damage in the skin can thus cause premature wrinkles or unwanted pigmentation. This is similar to the damage caused by ultraviolet A and B rays emitted by the sun.
However, all is not lost. According to dermatologist Dr SK Tan, who runs IDS clinic, ” the low intensity of HEV light that we are normally exposed to makes it a much lower risk of causing skin problems than UV light.”
Both Dr Tan and Dr Lam have also noted that the biggest source of blue HEV light is actually the sun.
That said, however, HEV light can still be concerning because modern urban-dwelling humans spend far more time exposed to digital devices than we do to the sun. Plus, you don’t hold the sun up to your face to look at Instagram. According to Dr Lum, “the amount of time people spend using these devices and the proximity of these screens to the user’s face can cause prolonged damage.”
Plus, Dr Lam has also noticed in her practice as a dematologist that dark spots that linger as a person recovers from acne are often worse on the side of the face where a person holds their mobile phone.
In conclusion, blue light may not be as damaging as UVA and UVB rays, but if you want to be absolutely sure that your iPhone is not giving you wrinkles and pigmentation, then you should take some measures to combat the effects of HEV light.
Defeating The Light
There are two main things that we can do to reduce skin damage caused by blue light; we can either block it out using a skincare product, or we can mitigate the damage caused.
Should you want to block it out, you need to choose a sunscreen that is specifically formulated to block out blue light Normal broad-spectrum sunscreens, which usually protect against UVA and UVB rays, are generally not formulated to block out HEV light, as it has a different wavelength. While UVA and UVB range between 100nm to 380nm, HEV light ranges from 380nm to 500nm.
Good options for such sunscreen include the new Crystal Tomato Beyond Sun Protection, or Supergoop’s Unseen Sun Screen.
Alternatively, you can also choose something like IDS’ Dermashield Serum, which contains marigold (also called calendula) extract to help absorb and filter out blue light.
You can also choose to apply skincare that either reduces the production of free radicals or reduces the amount of damage that they can cause. Chantecaille’s Blue Light Protection Hyaluronic Acid Serum, for instance, contains a fermented extract that supposedly enhances the skin’s own photo sensors to protect and repair the skin from blue light protection.
And if you need an immediate perk-up from a little too much screen time, Ageless Medi-aesthetics offers the Miracle Defence Facial. Although it cannot cure blue light damage, it uses probiotic and prebiotic technology to improve skin quality and prevent further blue light damage.
Of course, the best method of all is probably to drastically reduce the amount of screen time we get, but we all know that we’re too addicted to technology for that to happen.