We stare at them for hours every day: our smartphones and computers. What we don’t think about is the fact that they are staring back.
Smartphones, tablets, and computers all emit light rays whenever they’re turned on. One of those light waves is blue light, and recent research suggests that this particular color may have negative effects on the skin.
Could you be making your fine lines and wrinkles worse simply by using your cell phone every day?
The Good and Bad Effects of Blue Light
Every day, we are exposed to light from the sun and our gadgets. You already know that sunlight contains visible light rays and also invisible ultraviolet rays that can tan or burn the skin. What you may not know is that visible light is made up of a range of different-colored light rays that contain different amounts of energy.
Think of the colors of the rainbow and you have the colors involved in visible light: red, orange, yellow, green, blow, indigo, and violet. Each color has a different wavelength of light, and each wavelength is different in the amount of energy it contains.
Rays on the red end of the visible spectrum, for example, have longer wavelengths, and therefore, have less energy. Just like longer sound waves give lower, more relaxed sounds, longer wavelengths have a more relaxed energy.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, the light waves are shorter and faster and contain more energy. It’s like high-pitched sounds—the waves are many and quick. Blue light rays are among those with more energy, and those with the shortest wavelengths are sometimes called blue-violet or violet light.
High-energy light is important for our everyday life. We are exposed to it from the sun, and it helps to regulate our sleeping and circadian patterns. When we see the morning light, it comes into our eyes and signals the body to release hormones that are tied to being awake. At night, when the light goes away, that signals the body to release sleep-related hormones.
Expose your eyes to light at the wrong times and you mess up your sleep patterns. That’s why traveling to an area with a different time zone results in jet lag—and also why staring at your cell phone and computer at night can keep you awake.
Display screens of computers, laptops, smartphones, and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light. That light penetrates to the back of the eye, and the eyes retain the energy from the light waves. That energy builds up over time and can cause eyestrain, dry eye, and fatigue.
There is also some evidence that regular exposure to blue light can affect the retina in the eye, increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration and vision loss.
If blue light can do this to our eyes, what might it be doing to our skin?
How Blue Light May Damage the Skin
You know that if you want to slow the appearance of aging, it’s important to protect your skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It may be wise to protect yourself from the high-energy blue light emitted from your cell phone and computer, as well.
Many Americans spend 10 hours or more facing their screens every day, which means we’re getting a significant amount of blue light exposure. Blue light may harm the skin by first, producing damaging free radicals.
These are fast-moving molecules that can cause DNA damage to cells and lead to inflammation and aging in the skin. Just like regular exposure to the sun can exacerbate wrinkles and fine lines, early scientific evidence suggests that long-term exposure to screens that emit blue light may also make wrinkling and sagging worse.
Dermatologist Dr. Stefanie Williams told Harper’s Bazaar that we now have “increasing data on the potential long-term harms of visible light, and in particular blue light, on our skin.” She adds that blue light “can penetrate all the way to our dermis, where our collagen and elastin live,” potentially damaging skin’s structure and contributing to aging.
Blue light can also increase the risk of hyperpigmentation, and may be more active than UV light in causing those dark spots and dark areas. So if you’re noticing darkness and you haven’t been out in the sun, it could be your screens that are to blame.
Finally, there is some early evidence that blue light may throw off the skin’s own circadian rhythms. Just like the blue light may throw off your wake and sleep schedule, it can also take your skin cells out of sync, making them think it’s daytime when it’s night, and impacting their natural nighttime repair process. Again, this can accelerate the appearance of aging.
How to Protect Your Skin from Blue Light Damage
Blue light isn’t all bad. In addition to helping to establish circadian rhythms, it can also help boost alertness and elevate mood. That’s partially why you may feel better when you go outside, and also why “light therapy” in the winter months can help to battle seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Blue light can also be helpful in some skin conditions. Those with psoriasis and eczema, however, often experience benefits with light therapy.
The question is: Are we getting too much blue light now because we spend so much time in front of our screens? We don’t have the answer yet. We do know that there is potential there for damage. We’ve already seen it with the eyes. If you experience eyestrain and dry eye after working on your computer all day, you know what we’re talking about.
So how do you protect your skin from possible blue light damage? We have some tips for you below:
- Use filters: You can buy blue-light filters for your computer, laptop, and cell phone screens now. Look for those with a blue-light shield. They will help keep the blue light waves from damaging your eyes and skin.
- Check your settings: Computers and phones have light settings that you can change. Some smartphones have a setting called “night mode” or “nightshift” that disables the blue light in favor of the slower-wavelength yellow or red light. Changing to this feature and using it all the time makes it easier on your eyes and skin.
- Wear sunscreen: Sunscreen will offer some protection from your gadgets as well as the sun. Choose a broad-spectrum with an SPF of 30 or more.
- Use an antioxidant-rich moisturizer: Check your moisturizing products for antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A (retinols), CoQ10, niacinamide, flavonoids, green tea extract, and resveratrol. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, protecting your skin from blue light exposure. It also helps to eat more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables! Our CV Skinlabs Calming Moisture is high in antioxidants like turmeric and Reishi mushroom, as well as sunflower, rosehip, and jojoba oils.
- Get a pair of computer glasses: These can help protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes from blue light. There are those you can buy without a prescription, or you can also ask your eye doctor for blue-light-protective options when getting prescription lenses.
- Keep screens at a distance: Try to keep any screens at least a couple feet away from your face when you’re using them.
- Cut back on screen time: When it comes to blue light, the amount of exposure matters. You can limit how much your skin gets by simply cutting back on how much you’re using your technological tools.
Do you protect your skin and eyes from your cell phone and computers?
March, B. (2018, July 13). #SkinSchool: The effects of blue light on the skin. Retrieved from https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/beauty/skincare/a22113765/blue-light-skin-damage-advice/