Is Blue Light Exposure Wreaking Havoc on Your Skin?

Although human skin has been exposed to different levels of light since life began, this continuous exposure to visible and non-visible light has a direct effect on our body and mind, which can be positive and negative. We should be aware of both. The sun, our greatest source of natural light, gives off rays that can both help us and harm us. Over the course of the past several years, due to advancements in technology, humans are not exposed to sufficient levels of natural light during the day, but are exposed to high levels of artificial light during the day and at night. This is doing harm to not just our overall wellness, mood and energy levels, but this excessive exposure is damaging our eyes and our skin. In this article, we’ll specifically look at blue light. 

What is Blue Light?

Blue light (aka. High Energy Visible light or HEV light) is one of the spectrums of light.  Because it is a form of light with a very short wavelength, it’s different from UVA and UVB rays.  UVA and UVB rays are part of the invisible spectrum of light, whereas blue light is part of the visible spectrum of light.  Blue light has a wavelength of between 380 – 500 nm, making it one of the shortest, highest- energy wavelengths in the visible light spectrum.

The light that enters our eyes from the sun is essentially “white light” (aka. visible light spectrum), equally composed of all the wavelengths that make up the colors we see. However, approximately 25% to 30% of white light is blue light.  Although the biggest exposure to blue light comes from the sun, other sources of blue light exposure come from various sources including, indoor lighting, LED lights, LED flashes of camera phones, as well as computer screens, tablets and cellular phone screens

Dangers of Excessive Blue Light Exposure

It is true that in the short term, low energy blue light therapy is used in some dermatologic therapies, but studies suggest that over time, excessive exposure to the blue end of the light spectrum could cause serious long-term damage to the eyes and skin.

Blue lights can penetrate deeper into your skin than UVA and UVB rays.  It reaches all the way to your dermis, the deeper layers of skin cells, where collagen and elastin are present.  Because of this it has the ability to impact the firmness of our skin and increase visible lines and wrinkles, as well as increase other visible signs of premature aging on the skin.

Excessive blue light exposure also can cause inflammation and damage to the skin barrier. Research shows that blue light causes an increase in the generation for Reactive Oxygen Species or free radicals, which can lead to changes in your skin including cell shrinkage and cell death. These changes speed up visible aging on your sin.  These studies indicate that exposures as little as 60 minutes can trigger these changes.

Blue light —> generation of free radicals —> DNA damage to skin cells —> visible signs of aging

Other studies show that bright light also leads to increased pigmentation by disrupting melanocyte activity, causing dark spots, discoloration and photo-aging.

Did you know blue light can impact your skin cycle by throwing off your circadian rhythm?  Well it can, and just like it affects your body’s circadian rhythm, blue light can also disrupt the circadian rhythm of skin cells.  Your skin’s regenerative cycle can get thrown off, possibly causing more skin damage over time.

Remember, the effects of blue light on your skin won’t show up right away. Just like sun exposure, these changes are cumulative with time and the more you are exposed, the more damage you could have if you don’t take precautions.

What can you do?

Prevention is key just as in sun exposure.

  1. Incorporate Antioxidants – in your diet and in your skincare! Antioxidants help neutralize Reactive Oxygen Species caused by UV rays before DNA damage can occur.  Eat a diet rich in antioxidants from leafy greens, fruits, vegetables and nuts.  Incorporate a face serum and/or moisturizer packed with skin LUV-ing antioxidants, such as algae extract, niacinamide, raspberry seed oil, guava extract.

  2. Incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients – in diet and in your skincare.  Some of my favorites are broccoli, guava, turmeric, rosemary and saffron.
  3. Invest in a blue light filter for your screens. A blue light filter will decrease the amount of blue light displayed on the screen of the device. It will benefit both your skin and your eyes!
  4. Lower the brightness of your screens by up to 50%!
  5. Take advantage of your device’s nighttime settings. They tint your phone screen to a yellow hue to counterbalance the blue light.
  6. Whenever you can, spend time AWAY from your screens. Take time to go outdoors, get some exercise, meet with a friend or just breathe!  This will not only benefit your skin and eyes, but your overall wellness, mood and energy.
  7. Wear SPF, even when indoors or cloudy weather! Use a mineral (or physical) sunscreen with Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. They work by reflecting rays away from your skin and protect you from UV rays and blue light. New studies are showing that iron oxide can provide enhanced protection against blue light, especially when combined in a sunscreen formulation with zinc oxide.

So remember, although recurrent, chronic exposure to blue light can cause skin changes, such as pigmentation, swelling, premature wrinkles and redness, there are also steps you can take to decrease and limit your exposure to protect your skin.

*Hi everyone, (it’s Jac) – just wanted to put a small note in here to say that if you’re looking for blue-light blocking glasses, check out the Blue Blocking Glasses from NaturoAcademy. I use them almost every night, and have definitely noticed a difference. If you want to give them a try, use code “wellnstrong” at checkout for 10% off! AND Dr. Patel is offering WellnStrong readers 20% off her skin care line Luvanya! Just use the code “WellnStrong” at checkout! 

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Dr. Alpa Patel, MD

Dr. Alpa Patel, MD

Dr. Patel is a medical doctor, biochemist, and entrepreneur. She is the CEO, Chief Formulator & CoFounder of Luvanya - clean, vegan, cruelty free, doctor-developed skincare made for the health of your skin.