A decade ago, the idea of blue light’s effects on our skin wasn’t exactly a topic of conversation, much less a buzzy beauty trend. But it’s no surprise that our device use and screen time have drastically increased — top smartphone users currently spend 4 hours and 30 minutes per day on their devices—which leads us to our next question: is blue light bad for your skin health?
Of course, the beauty industry answered the call with blue light skincare. We’re talking serums, toners, mists, and sunscreens all geared at protecting your skin from blue light’s effects. But are they necessary and more importantly, do they work?
Our evenings have been illuminated by artificial light for a while and most of us know by now that long exposure to blue light can negatively impact our vision and our sleep. But some research has even indicated that blue light could disrupt our circadian rhythm which can lead to an increased risk for depression, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. With that in mind, it’s little wonder we have questions when it comes to our skin’s health as well.
So with blue light blocking beauty products popping up everywhere, we had to know how blue light affects the skin and are the products all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re still curious about this magical light, keep reading to find out the answers to your burning blue light skincare questions, and get ready to be surprised.
What exactly is blue light?
The visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is made of up light of all the colors of the rainbow (opposed to things like microwaves, which we can’t see). Of the visible lights, blue light has one of the highest energies. Sources of blue light include indoor lighting (both fluorescent and LED), digital screens like your iPad or smartphone, and even the sun, so it’s impossible to escape some exposure. Blue light is a hot topic right now as scientists are trying to understand exactly how blue light affects our eyes, influence our mood, our sleep, and even our skin.
What are the other damaging lights and how do they relate to each other?
Of course, not all types of light are potentially harmful to our skin. There is a higher concern with the potential to damage eyes and skin in particular when you progress along the spectrum to lights with shorter wavelengths and higher energies. “The most notorious damaging form of light is ultraviolet light, which is past blue (and violet) on the spectrum in the invisible portion. Ultraviolet light is the main cause of photoaging (wrinkles and brown spots) and skin cancer. Whereas heading in the other direction on the spectrum we see the opposite effect—red, orange, and yellow lights are being studied for their benefits in wound healing and collagen stimulation.
Does blue light negatively affect our skin health?
It’s not quite a simple yes or no answer. Our relationship with blue light (skin-wise) is a little complicated and needs further studying. There is some potential harm that can come from blue light. It may be responsible for triggering some pigmentary conditions in the skin, such as melasma, and in some skin types may lead to more brown spots and overall increased aging. On the other hand, though, some evidence has shown that blue light may also help kill bacteria on the skin that causes acne. So if you’ve seen a blue light setting on your LED light mask, that’s why! Just maybe avoid using that color setting before bed.
Are all kinds of blue light damaging to your skin?
Larger sources of blue light (like the sun) are likely much more damaging than what you’re exposed to when checking a text message, but the more time we spend looking at our screens, the more we need to consider if that additional exposure is clinically significant.
If you spend a lot of time in front of screens, is it more important to incorporate blue light protection into your routine?
Probably, but there’s no need to panic and spend hundreds of dollars on blue-light-blocking products. It certainly doesn’t hurt to use filters and protection though. You may see benefits in your skin, eyes, mood, and circadian rhythm/sleep pattern.
Any tips for reducing blue light exposure in other ways?
Having night shift blue light filter on your iPhone makes everything appear a little warmer — this is an easy way to limit one source of frequent exposure, especially in the evenings. Don’t forget about your computer screen too, it’s quite simple to adjust the screen warmth. Look at reducing your screentime in the evenings when it can affect your melatonin production the most which affects your skin.
The other hot tip for avoiding blue light exposure on the skin is to wear sunscreens that specifically block that portion of the visible spectrum, like ones that contain iron oxides.
How does anti-blue light damage products work?
Some contain particles that block blue light and others contain ingredients that fight the damage of blue light. Look for ingredients like antioxidants, as well as polyphenols/flavonoids, and there’s even a type of seaweed shown to benefit the skin’s regenerative process.
The best products for blocking blue light:
Since you get more blue light exposure from a 20-minute walk in the sun than all day on your smartphone, the best line of defense is still a sunscreen that blocks visible light. Pick one that is a physical blocker and, importantly, tinted to know you are getting the correct type of protection.
Extra Blue-light Blocking Skincare
We can’t stress how important taking care of your skin and body is. Your skin is the largest organ that protects your internal organs from damage. And you only get one body for life, although there are transplants, but nothing beats the original. So, do your skin and body a favor and take good care of them like their your precious babies. Start young, although it’s never too late to start in your 30s or 40s, because trust us as you age, your future selves will thank you.