Recently, blue light has joined UV rays on the list of invisible threats to your skin. You may have heard and jumped on the bandwagon, investing in some trendy blue-light glasses to protect your eyes from its effects. But what exactly is blue light, and how can it affect your skin?
If you’re anything like us, your screen time might be at an all-time high, so we’re here to give you the black and white facts about blue light, one of the silent agers of our generation, and how to protect your skin from it!
What is blue light?
Blue light is the part of the visible light spectrum with the highest energy and shortest wavelengths. Most of our exposure to blue light is through sunlight, but blue light can also be found in man-made products, such as LED lighting and technology displays like phones and TVs. While screens emit a fraction of the blue light that the sun does, we do get very up close and personal exposure to them, intensifying its effects.
Blue light gets a bad rep, but it does have some advantages! Research has shown that blue light exposure can help cognitive function and elevate your mood. However, there is considerable evidence that unprotected exposure to blue light from screens can damage your eyes and negatively affect your sleep cycle. Blue light has been shown to delay the release of melatonin, which the brain’s pineal gland releases to get you ready for bed. Blue light’s ability to slow melatonin-release means it will take you longer to fall asleep, disrupting your circadian rhythm. While the research surrounding blue light and the skin is less conclusive, it’s still something to be aware of and protect against!
How does blue light affect the skin?
Recent research into the effects of blue light on the skin tells a slightly scary story. Studies have shown that visible light could stimulate pigment-production in the skin, leading to skin conditions like melasma. Research also shows that blue light could trigger the skin to generate reactive oxygen species, which could cause DNA damage. This process could break down collagen and elastin, causing inflammation and hyperpigmentation. Also, just like blue light can disrupt our circadian rhythm, it can also mess up our skin cells’ circadian rhythm, disturbing their nighttime repair process. While you sleep, the skin regenerates and sheds old cells which contributes to younger-looking, healthier skin. By interrupting the cells’ circadian rhythm, blue light could impact these much-needed night time resets.
One study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, found that exposing the skin to the amount of blue light found in sunlight caused redness and swelling compared to the equivalent amount of UVA rays (a type of UV ray that could cause skin cancer). Another study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity pointed to blue light’s ability to stimulate the production of free radicals (atoms that can damage cells). This could speed up the appearance of aging in the skin, leading to fine lines and wrinkles!
How can I protect my skin from blue light?
One simple option is to cover your screens with a screen cover that will filter some of the blue-light waves before they hit your skin. Some phones and laptops also feature a ‘night mode’ which replaces blue light with yellow light that could reduce the effects on your eyes and skin.
When it comes to tweaking your skin care routine, topical antioxidants and SPF are the way to go. Dr. Lee explains “blue light exposure from your phone and laptops can impact your skin, so best to wear sunscreen with antioxidants like Vitamin C, that will protect you from free radicals.” To kill two birds with one stone, Dr. Lee recommends using a moisturizer with sunscreen in the morning, like SLMD’s Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15 which is packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C, E, and Green Tea Extract. Another way to incorporate SPF is a mineral-powdered sunscreen like SLMD’s UV Bounce which will mattify the skin (and won’t ruin your makeup) so you can easily reapply every two hours, like you are supposed to!
The bottom line on blue light?
The good news — your Netflix sessions don’t have to stop. You can minimize the harmful effects of blue light on your skin with something as simple as SPF (which should be in your routine anyway) and some blue light glasses, if you want to be safe. Wearing sunscreen even when you’re spending the day inside will block the blue light rays from permeating the deeper layers of your skin. Apply, and reapply, generously!