Do you need more reasons to put down your cellphone or another excuse to unplug? We've got one for you that you may have never thought of before: The blue light emitted by electronics can damage your skin.
Blue light — the type of light emitted from the screens of cellphones, iPads, laptops and other electronic devices — is a form of high-energy visible light, or HEV light. The sun is the most potent source of blue light; however, research has shown that the blue light from electronic screens can have similar skin-damaging effects.
But first thing's first, we should say that the light from your electronics is not as damaging as hanging out poolside without sunscreen all day. And we should also mention that the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays are still something to worry about in terms of developing skin damage and skin pigmentation problems such as hyperpigmentation, fine lines and dark spots (sunspots). Ultraviolet rays can also cause photoaging.
Photoaging, also known as sun damage, photodamage or solar damage, happens when ultraviolet light hits skin unprotected by sunscreen. UV rays cause changes to your DNA at a cellular level. Photoaging is very serious because it can contribute to the development of skin cancer.
Blue Light and Skin Damage
Let's look at how blue light damages the skin. Skin damage from blue light causes the body to generate a type of reactive oxygen that can damage the skin's collagen, which is the skin's primary protein. Collagen gives skin the ability to stretch and retain its shape.
When collagen is damaged, you will see wrinkles, skin pigment changes and skin laxity (sagging) develop.
Blue light has not been shown to cause skin cancer. Some research has shown that it can actually help prevent skin cancer. But it is essential to understand that too much tech can lead to collagen breakdown, hyperpigmentation, melasma, inflammation and redness, facial swelling, and oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Another way that blue light can negatively affect the skin is by disrupting your sleep. If you're watching TV or scrolling Facebook, it can negatively affect your circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle. When you don't get enough sleep, premature aging can happen, and your hormones can fluctuate, too, which can cause inflammation, redness and even acne. For more information on how blue light can affect skin pigmentation please see this PDF of a study conducted by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
High-energy visible light can also cause problems with your memory and metabolism when you are exposed to it throughout the day.
So, How Much Blue Light Is Too Much for the Skin?
Some studies have shown that as little as an hour of exposure time can trigger oxidative stress in your skin cells, causing them to die off and leading you to develop wrinkles. Other research has shown that the amount of blue light we are exposed to daily can deplete the body of carotenoids, an antioxidant found in the skin, which, in turn, increases free radicals and causes more oxidative stress.
Although the studies we've mentioned are small and more data is needed to fully understand the impact of blue light on the skin, the results of these studies should cause you to take action.
But, Wait, There's More
Too much of a good thing can always be a problem. There are times that blue light is a good thing as it has been shown to boost energy and mood and keep us awake. But, we recommend limits. Plus, shouldn't you unplug anyway?
There is a difference between controlled blue light exposure and uncontrolled blue light exposure. One example of positive blue light treatment is LED therapy. This treatment can help to decrease inflammation and reduce the bacteria found in acne. It has also been used to treat precancerous lesions.
But, before you go sticking your phone in your face to clear up that blemish, understand that the blue light we are regularly exposed to as part of our day through screen time and other sources has a broader spectrum than LED treatment and can accelerate aging and trigger skin problems.
How to Protect Skin from Damage Caused by Blue Light
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the damaging effects of blue light is to use blue light filters built into many phones. If your phone doesn't have such a feature, you can download an app to help reduce blue light, or purchase screen protectors to block out blue light.
We also suggest that you use blue-light-blocking glasses to protect your eyes.
Should You Wear Sunscreen Indoors to Protect Skin from Blue Light?
While it might feel strange to put on sunscreen while you're scrolling your phone or looking at your computer, we recommend using mineral sunscreens to block blue light.
We also suggest that you use mineral sunscreens formulated explicitly to provide broad-spectrum protection and prevent dangerous ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin. These broad-spectrum sunscreens are better than chemical sunscreens because they are formulated with ingredients such as titanium dioxide, iron oxide and zinc oxide to help physically block both UV light and high-energy visible light (like blue light). We recommend Colorscience sunscreen products. They are 100% mineral sunscreens in a variety of makeups, lotions, lip balms and more.
Some tinted sunscreens can also help add a layer of protection against high-energy visible light. These products generally contain iron oxides that block out the blue HEV light spectrum.
Other skin care products, such as vitamin C serums and hyaluronic acid, can help protect the skin by adding another layer of antioxidant protection and protection against skin damage.
Do you see the signs of blue light damage to your skin? Do you have concerns or feelings of self-consciousness because of skin changes such as dark spots, hyperpigmentation or wrinkles? We'd love to talk to you about your skin health and how we can help improve your skin's appearance with skin-rejuvenation procedures, laser skin treatments, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and more. Give us a call to set up a consultation (785)-234-9000. To start protecting your skin now you can purchase Colorscience products directly from Dr. Peterson's link here.