It’s Cyber Monday. Are you online shopping? If you’re like about 81 million other shoppers, you are. We all spent $3.36 billion on Cyber Monday last year, according to stats from ComScore.
The deals can be rewarding, but what about all the time spent in front of your computer, tablet, and phone screens? There’s been some disturbing information coming out lately about that.
A recent 2018 study shows that as children spend more time on their screens, they may be increasing their risk for dry eye and eyestrain. And blue light from phone screens was recently found to trigger the creation of a toxic molecule in the retina that can cause macular degeneration and actually lead to vision loss.
If the screens are harming our eyes, it makes sense that they might be able to harm our skin, too. We decided to investigate.
How Computer and Phone Screens Negatively Affect Your Skin
According to a recent interview with Sydney, Australia skin expert Rebecca Mason, computers and other screens can impact our skin because they all expose us to too much blue light.
“Blue light is literally what makes the sky blue,” Mason says, “it is part of our human biology to access the light to help us regulate our sleep patterns. However, we can become a little over-exposed to blue light, because we access artificial blue light in our digital devices—LED screens and lights, TVs, laptop, computer, and phone screens.”
What’s the problem with blue light? When we are exposed to it too much, it can cause a number of health problems. These include:
- Keeps us up at night—too much computer time before bed means you won’t fall asleep as quickly or stay asleep as deeply.
- Messes with melatonin, the sleep hormone, throwing off our circadian rhythms.
- Spikes levels of the stress hormone “cortisol,” which causes all sorts of reactions in the body and skin, including a rise in inflammation.
As we’ve noted in the past, if you don’t sleep well, your skin suffers. Studies have found that people who are sleep deprived actually develop more age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles than people who regularly get a quality night’s sleep.
Disrupting your normal circadian rhythms, which happens when you’re exposed to blue light at night, is also bad news for your health and your skin. Studies have linked this sort of exposure to several types of cancer (including breast and prostate), diabetes, and heart disease, as well as an increased risk of depression. But they’ve also found that the skin can suffer, too.
The skin is actually very sensitive to the changes between day and night, with research showing that depending on what time of day or night it is, the skin varies in how much water loss it experiences, how well it can protect you against UV rays, and how well it can repair itself.
In one study, scientists found that prolonged exposure to light can “induce a wide variety of stresses on the cells,” affecting DNA repair and water loss in the skin. Other studies have found that certain genes in the skin are influenced by the circadian clock, so much so that sebum (skin oil) production, blood flow, hydration and water loss, surface pH, skin temperature, and more all change in response to our ability to wake and sleep at regular times.
Are Computer Screens Making Us Look Older?
So we know that using our gadgets at night isn’t good for the skin, but what about the rest of the time?
There is some evidence that the blue light (also called “high-energy visible light” or “HEV”) emitted by our devices may also be linked to aging in the skin (gasp!). Andrew Birnie, a dermatologist and skin-cancer specialist at the William Harvey and Ketn and Canterbury Hospitals, told the Guardian, “There’s a lot of research being done at the moment into the effects of visible light.” He added that the American Academy of Dermatology has also met on the issue, and discussed whether sunscreens should protect against this type of exposure.
Though we don’t know for sure what (if any) aging effect this light is having on us, some beauty brands are convinced enough to be creating new products to help. Already you can find foundation primers, creams, sunscreens, and more touting their ability to protect from HEV.
The evidence is minimal so far, but there is some. In 2014, researchers reported that when exposed to various wavelengths of light, participants developed more hyperpigmentation when exposed to blue-violet light than they did with other types of UV radiation. That pigmentation lasted up to 3 months.
Another study commissioned by Lipo Chemicals found that the effects of HEV were the same as UVA and UVB damage, and included uneven pigmentation, premature aging, and impaired barrier function. Because the study was paid for by a skincare company, there is likelihood of bias, but still, the results raise some concerns.
How You Can Protect Yourself from “Screen Face”
Until we know more, it seems possible that those rays from your devices could be causing some skin problems. What can you do to protect yourself? We’ve got some easy tips for you.
- Put your gadgets away at least an hour before bed so they don’t disturb your sleep.
- Never keep any sort of screen in the bedroom! That includes televisions, phones, computers, and tablets.
- Consider using one of the new HEV-protecting creams that are on the market.
- Ask your eye doctor about new lenses that contain blue light blocker components. They are available now.
- Invest in blue light blocker glasses, which can help shield your eyes and the skin around your eyes from blue light while you’re working on your gadgets.
- Look for a blue light blocker filter/panel for your computer monitor. They easily fit over your display. These are also available for your tablets and phones.
Are you concerned about computer skin damage?
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Duteil, L., Cardot-Leccia, N., Queille-Roussel, C., Maubert, Y., Harmelin, Y., Boukari, F., … Passeron, T. (2014). Differences in visible light-induced pigmentation according to wavelengths: a clinical and histological study in comparison with UVB exposure. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, 27(5), 822-826. doi:10.1111/pcmr.12273
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McGrath, K. (2018, September 25). Predictions for Cyber Monday 2018. Retrieved from https://blackfriday.com/news/cyber-monday-predictions
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Wills, K. (2018, July 2). Lights off: is the glare from your computer really ageing your skin? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/jun/01/lights-off-is-the-glare-from-your-computer-really-ageing-your-skin