It has become almost impossible to think of life without electronic gadgets, like mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs, with all the technological evolution around us. Yet, while we may become dependent on these devices for one reason or another, it seldom crosses our minds if the blue light emitting from them can have any adverse effect on our skin.
The fact is that if you are constantly on your cell phone, you need to be more careful because the chances are that the blue light coming from the screen is affecting your skin. This article will help you understand how screen time can damage your skin and what you can do to prevent the damage. So, stay tuned!
What is Blue Light?
There are various colors in the light spectrum visible to our eyes; blue light is among those colors. Other colors are red, green, orange, violet, yellow, and indigo. A synergy of these colors forms the white light that we see as the sun, the chief source of blue light. Moreover, LED and fluorescent light bulbs and digital devices are also a source of blue light.
Also called high-energy visible light, blue light is a high-frequency and short-wave light with wavelengths ranging from 400-450 nanometers. The blue light that your devices emit has wavelengths in varying degrees of strength and has been shown to enter the skin and cause changes to it.
Does Blue Light Damage Your Skin
Just like ultraviolet rays, blue light can also have a negative impact on our skin. Skincare experts believe that blue light can get absorbed deeper into the skin as compared to ultraviolet rays. This is because most of the blue light that comes in contact with our skin comes from the sun, while our smartphones and computers only give off low levels of blue light. However, it can be problematic when we constantly keep blue light-emitting devices close to our skin. It is believed that prolonged exposure to low levels of this light can affect the health and appearance of our skin. In addition, the blue light emitted from electronic devices can damage the skin through cell shrinkage, which speeds up the skin’s aging process.
What are the Effects of Blue Light on the Skin?
There is substantial evidence that proposes that blue light can have potentially damaging effects on the skin. However, more research studies need to be done on this matter. That being said, let’s see what blue light exactly does to your skin.
- Premature Wrinkles - Blue light from digital devices as well as the sun can penetrate the skin, which causes DNA damage and the breakdown of elastin and collagen fibers in the skin. We know that collagen and elastin are vital to keeping the skin plump and healthy. As a result of the breakdown of these proteins, their levels start to drop in the skin, leading to the premature formation of wrinkles and fine lines.¹
- Free Radical Damage - Research shows an association between exposure to blue light and the synthesis of free radicals in the skin. For those who don’t know what free radicals are, these are unstable atoms with unpaired electrons, which can cause cell damage when they enter the skin. Free radical damage has been known to accelerate the skin’s aging process and cause inflammation, leading to various skin issues and may even aggravate inflammatory skin problems.
- Skin Discoloration - Too much blue light or exposure to low levels of blue light for an extended period can cause pigment changes in the skin cells, leading to hyperpigmentation. So, if you’re seeing brown spots, including freckles, melasma, and age spots, on your skin, you may need to limit your exposure to blue light or take some protective measures. Several studies support the link between blue light and hyperpigmentation. People with darker skin tones are more vulnerable to discoloration due to blue light exposure.
- Inflammation and Redness - Exposure to too much blue light is seen to cause cell breakdown, collagen damage, and free radical damage, which may lead to redness, puffiness, and inflammation.
How to Protect Your Skin from Blue Light?
Reducing your exposure to blue light can help to lower the risk of its adverse effects on the skin. However, it may not be as simple as it sounds, especially if using a computer, tablet, or smartphone is a vital part of your professional, educational, or personal life. While it’s impossible to ditch your digital devices, there are some practical solutions to protecting your skin from the adversities of blue light. Here are some helpful and easy tips to follow:
- Reduce Screen Time - Minimize your screen time by taking frequent breaks from your devices to rest your eyes and reduce your blue light exposure. You can take a five-minute break after every hour.
- Use a Filter for Your Screen - Thanks to the advancement in technology, you can buy blue light screen filters for your laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices to limit the side effect of blue light on your skin.
- Decrease Device Brightness - Another easy way to cut your blue light exposure is by enabling the night mode or dimming down the brightness on your devices. This will significantly reduce the emission of blue light from the screen.
- Wear Headphones - Besides decreasing your screen time and using the night mode on your electronic screens, you can avoid using phones directly against your skin by wearing headphones. You can attend calls with your cell phone in your pocket instead of directly rubbing it against your skin.
- Apply Sunscreen Regularly - Adding sunscreen to your regular skincare routine and using it religiously is your best defense against the adverse effect of blue light and photo-aging. So, no matter if you are at home or outside, always apply your sunscreen.
- Use Antioxidant Ingredients - Skincare formulas containing potent forms of antioxidants, like vitamin E, vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, and hyaluronic acid, are an excellent way of protecting the cells and battling skin damage.² These ingredients work effectively to help treat and prevent skin damage due to blue light.
- Use Blue Light Blocking Products - Last but not least, many brands are manufacturing skincare products that are aimed at targeting and countering the side effects of blue light. You can invest in these products and incorporate them into your daily skincare routine.
Has Blue Light Already Damaged Your Skin?
If you have been using your digital devices excessively and are worried about if the blue light emerging from them has caused skin damage, your apprehension might be justified. If you’re seeing changes in your skin tone and texture after an increase in screen time, you might be dealing with the adverse effects of blue light on your skin.
Skin changes like loss of elasticity (wrinkles and fine lines), uneven skin tone, redness, brown spots, and inflammation are the indicators of your skin getting affected by your screen time. Therefore, it would be best to consider taking steps toward reversing these side effects and preventing them from appearing in the future.
Can You Reverse the Damaging Effects of Blue Light?
Once you’ve successfully determined that the time you have been spending using your electronic gadgets has affected your skin negatively, the next question that might pop up in your head is whether the damage can be undone or not. Luckily, just like photodamage caused by the UV rays of the sun, blue light damage can also be treated and reversed with proper skincare and finding the right skincare products.
Since blue light causes collagen breakdown, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation, these skin changes can be dealt with through the use of appropriate skincare products.³ Your best option is to find skincare products comprising of potent antioxidants, like vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol serums, creams, and masks. Antioxidant-rich products are mainly designed to restore the skin’s health and appearance and fight damaging external factors, which prevent further skin damage.
There was a time when most of our worries about having skin issues like premature signs of aging were attributed to unprotected and long-term exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays. But recently, the blue light from digital devices has added to our concerns. Skincare experts and scientists are convinced that constant exposure to this light can wreak havoc on our skin, leading to many skin problems, like premature wrinkles, fine lines, inflammation, discoloration, and dullness.
This is why the skincare industry is talking about ways to prevent skin damage due to blue light. Moreover, you can try to make some changes to your daily habits and lifestyle to avoid skin issues due to blue light.
- Whelan, Corey. (2019). ‘Skin Elasticity: 13 Ways to Improve It’, Healthline, Accessed January 18, 2022. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/skin-elasticity
- Jahns, Erin and Hanson, Carolyn. (2022). ‘Psst: Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) Might Be the Secret to Glowing Skin’, Byrdie, Accessed January 18, 2022. Available at: https://www.byrdie.com/vitamin-b3-benefits
- Sissons, Beth. (2018). ‘What to know about hyperpigmentation’, MedicalNewsToday. Accessed January 20, 2022. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323808