Should You Be Worried About Blue Light? We Investigate.

BY Janeca Racho · June 20, 2019

products for blue light protection

Unless you are a wilderness-loving recluse or have found yourself in a spot with shoddy reception, there’s a good chance that you spend a significant chunk of your everyday life staring at a screen. And while digital eye strain is enough reason for you to take your screen time down a notch, there is another potential risk you need to consider before you post that tenth (or fiftieth) selfie for the day or stream your latest Netflix obsession. And no, we’re not just talking about going way past your data limit.

As it turns out, the blue light emitted by TV screens, computers and other digital devices can also harm your skin and—just like UVA and UVB rays—may cause premature skin aging.

What Is Blue Light?

High-energy visible (HEV) light or blue light is a high-frequency, short-wave light in the violet/blue band with wavelengths that range from 400 to 450 nanometers, explains New York City board-certified dermatologist Hadley King. It accounts for 50 percent of the sunlight spectrum and is the only part of light that is visible to the naked eye. The majority of our exposure to blue light is caused by the sun, but it’s also emitted by devices like smartphones, tablets and televisions along with fluorescent and LED bulbs from indoor lighting, adds Dr. King.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, natural exposure to blue light (from sunlight) during the day can stimulate alertness, improve memory and elevate your mood. At night, however, staring at your laptop or e-book reader before bedtime can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, making it harder to get a good night’s rest.

Does Blue Light Damage Skin?

While blue light has been proven to affect your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, the jury is still out as far as determining the extent of its effects on your skin. “We are still learning about its cellular effects on the skin, but a couple of small studies appear to show that exposure to blue light can increase the production of free radicals in the skin and result in increased pigment, redness and possibly, premature aging,” explains board-certified plastic surgeon and holistic beauty doctor Anthony Youn.

One such study conducted in 2017 shows that—like ultraviolet rays—blue light contributes to the formation of free radicals and “induce oxidative stress in live skin.” “These free radicals cause skin cells to produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin in the skin,” adds Dr. King. It can also penetrate deeper into the skin, damaging essential proteins and resulting in wrinkles and loss of firmness. Similar research has shown evidence that exposure to HEV or blue light can delay skin barrier recovery and result in more significant hyperpigmentation when compared to UVB rays.

Does Blue Light From Digital Devices Cause Wrinkles?

When it comes to HEV emitted by smartphones and other similar devices, conclusive data is yet to be presented as to whether your selfie habit is to blame for those newly sprouted lines and dark spots. That said, a 2018 study did show that even short-term exposure to blue light from electronic devices can “increase the generation of reactive oxygen species” as skin is a primary target of oxidative stress.

Keep in mind, however, that although experts are still debating whether blue light truly wreaks havoc on your skin, texting and trawling Instagram feeds well into the night can still have negative effects on your overall eye and body health.

Is All Blue Light Bad?

It’s also important to note that while HEV light can be potentially harmful, it can also be harnessed to benefit your skin—particularly if you’re dealing with acne. “Blue light therapy has been shown to kill acne-causing bacteria. Lightwave is one such blue light therapy that is pain-free and uses high-end LEDs to distribute specific visible wavelengths of light to the problem areas,” explains New York City board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It can help those who have lesions that become inflamed and result in red and/or tender bumps, which can be filled with pus and bacteria,” she adds.

How to Protect Skin from Blue Light Damage

Reducing your exposure to blue light is the easiest way to spare your skin (and body) from its unwanted side effects. Here are some tips from Dr. King:

  • Consider yellow-tinted “computer glasses” that block the blue light that most modern-day monitors emit.
  • Install covers that block the blue light from smartphones, tablets and computers.
  • Enable the “night mode” setting on your digital devices permanently—this significantly reduces the blue light in favor of harmless yellow light.

When it comes to skin care, sunscreen remains your best defense against photo-aging. However, it also pays to make room in your skin care routine for products that counter blue light side effects—especially if you consider the fact that your exposure to HEV light continues long after the sun has set and tends to be more up close. It is even more important if you’re dealing with rosacea and other skin conditions that flare up when exposed to the sun.

“The chemicals and pigments used to filter UVA and UVB do not filter HEV light. Therefore, look for products that contain antioxidants to help protect against oxidative stress,” suggests Dr. King. Mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide also work best, says Dr. Jaliman, particularly those that are infused with powerful anti-aging ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.

“Antioxidants licochalcone A and glycyrrhetinic acid have been shown to work together to protect skin cells in the deeper epidermal layers from sun-induced damage. Clinical research has shown that sunscreens containing licochalcone A offer effective and extended protection from HEV light in addition to UV,” adds Dr. King.

Because of their potency and high concentration of active ingredients, serums also provide an important countermeasure against free radicals generated by blue light. “Use of topical antioxidants (like serums and moisturizers), such as vitamins C and E, is a great way to prevent the effects of blue light from aging and damaging your skin,” says Dr. Youn.

Best Products for Blue Light Protection  

Ready to add blue light protection to your daily skin care routine? Here are our top picks for best products that keep blue light–induced skin-aging at bay.

1. SkinMedica Lumivive System

Infused with a potent blend of antioxidants, coenzyme Q10 and skin-restoring ingredients—including cacao seed extract, alteromonas ferment extract and bioflavonoids—this anti-aging dynamic duo provides the ultimate defense against free radicals and blue light damage. The LUMIVIVE™ Day Damage Defense Serum protects skin from HEV light and pollution, while the LUMIVIVE™ Night Revitalize Repair Complex rejuvenates and detoxifies the skin while reversing the effects of environmental damage such as redness, discoloration and uneven skin tone.

2. Eminence Organic Skin Care Lilikoi Light Defense Face Primer SPF 23

There is definitely more to love about lilikoi than its quirky sounding name. This antioxidant powerhouse, together with cocoa seed extract and larch tree, takes center stage in this skin-perfecting primer that also features natural UV blockers, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Lightweight and certified organic, it creates a flawless base for your makeup while protecting skin from sun-induced aging, reducing the effects of blue light exposure and boosting your skin’s natural glow.

3. Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF 30

This multitasking moisturizer makes your morning routine a breeze with its double-acting formula that nourishes skin while keeping it safe from UV-induced damage. Featuring antioxidants to quench free radicals and sage to brighten and even out skin tone, it harnesses intelligent drone technology that uses visible light to enhance the skin’s luminosity and radiance.

4. Colorescience Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Face Shield SPF 50 (PA+++)

If you’re on the lookout for complete sun protection, then your search ends here. This broad-spectrum, mineral-based sunscreen features a powerful antioxidant-rich formula that not only blocks UVA and UVB rays but also shields your skin from infrared radiation and HEV light. Suitable for all skin types, it also features niacinamide and lipochroman to soothe and protect skin from pollution and other environmental stressors.

5. Dermablend Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Foundation

Featuring high-performing pigments and a long-wearing, sensitive-skin-tested formula, this liquid foundation effectively hides skin imperfections commonly associated with UV and blue light exposure—including hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone and redness. Buildable and blendable, this complexion-perfecting foundation is lightweight, silky and leaves a natural-looking finish.

6. Natura Bisse Diamond Cocoon Ultimate Shield Protective Mist

Whether you’re out and about or have to sit in front of the computer all day, this refreshing mist will make sure your skin never runs out of steam. With its ultra-hydrating formula that features alteromonas ferment extract, it boosts radiance, nourishes dehydrated skin and provides much-needed defense from environmental aggressors, pollution and blue light.

Janeca Racho

With over 10 years of writing and editing experience, Janeca Racho has worked with clients in the fashion, entertainment, food, health and travel industries. An adventurer at heart, she will gladly trade her heels for ... Read More >

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