You may have noticed the wave of new skincare products meant to protect us from all that blue light being emitted from our devices. Is there reason to be concerned about our screens damaging our skin? Let’s take a closer look.
First off, what is blue light?
Blue light is part of the spectrum of visible light. It’s a high-energy, short-wavelength light. (Not to be confused with UVA or UVB rays.) The sun’s the main source of our blue light exposure. However, we also get significant doses of it from our computer, tablet, phone, and TV screens, as well as indoor lighting.
And that amount’s likely increased over recent months, with many of us spending more time at home and indoors during the pandemic than we normally would.
Is it damaging our skin?
But none of the above is quite as ominous as it’s so often been depicted. The best evidence indicates that blue light is contributing to hyperpigmentation and possibly photoaging and the breakdown of collagen, which leads to wrinkles and skin laxity. But—but—the research in this area is very limited.
It’s believed that these effects are cumulative, like sun damage, but it’s only speculation at this point because the studies have been short-term. Most point to a peer-reviewed study that found that exposing skin to the amount of blue light we get from the sun caused more pigmentation, redness, and swelling than when the same person’s skin was exposed to similar levels of UVA rays. But that study was small. It was also published 10 years ago, and we’ve learned precious little since.
Though, there was an even smaller study in 2015 that suggested that exposure to blue light might trigger the production of free radicals in the skin, which can accelerate the appearance of aging.
Collectively, this research isn’t very encouraging. But we’re far from being able to draw any solid conclusions about the effects of blue light. To be clear, we know that blue light can damage our skin. We’re just not sure if our devices are a significant enough source of it to pose a risk.
Are these skincare products doing anything?
It’s likely that in the near future blue-light protection will have a central role in our skin-care routines. For now, there’s no harm in using these targeted products—the formulas are, essentially, no different from antioxidant serums. Just angle them more as protection from the sun than your phone. For example, use a sunscreen with iron oxide and antioxidants in the ingredient list.
And maybe take a better-safe-than-sorry approach to your devices and limit your time on them when you can.