How Blue Light Affects Skin

Health experts agree digital devices - smart phones, iPad's laptops and computer screens can cause digital eye strain, due to the amount of time we spend looking at them. Studies have shown that too much exposure to blue light can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina. Our eyes, namely the cornea and lens, are very effective at blocking UV rays from reaching the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eyeball, less than one percent of UV radiation from the sun reaches the retina, even if you aren't wearing sunglasses. However  virtually all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina so it is very important to wear sunglasses to prevent damage that can lead to cataracts, snow blindness and even cancer. Can this same blue light, also known as High Energy Visible Light (HEV), effect our skin?

What is Blue Light exposure?

Sunlight contains // Red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays and many shades of each of these coluors, depending on the energy and wavelength of the individual rays (also known as electromagnetic radiation). This spectrum of coloured light rays creates what we call "white light" or sunlight. Rays on the red end of the visible light spectrum have longer wavelengths and, therefore, less energy. 

Blue light rays // Have the shortest wavelengths along with the highest energy, are sometimes called blue-violet or violet light. Blue light is defined as visible light ranging from 380 to 500 nano meters (nm).

Sunlight is the main source of blue light // When you are outdoors during daylight this is when you are are exposure to it. Man-made, indoor sources of blue light, are fluorescent and LED lighting, flat-screen TVs and digital devices. The amount of HEV light our digital devices emit is only a fraction compared to that emitted by the sun.

Good for Health // Research shows that some blue light exposure is essential for good health, high-energy visible light boosts alertness, helps memory and cognitive function and elevates mood. Ultraviolet radiation, in moderation, can have beneficial effects, by helping the body manufacture adequate amounts of vitamin D. 

Light Therapy // Is used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons, with symptoms usually beginning in the autumn and continuing through winter. The light sources for this therapy emit bright white light that contains a significant amount of HEV blue light rays.

Circadian Rhythm // Blue light is very important in regulating circadian rhythm which is our bodies natural wakefulness and sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps maintain a healthful circadian rhythm. However too much blue light late at night can disrupt this cycle, potentially causing sleepless nights and daytime fatigue. Read What is Effecting your Ability to Sleep?

Infrared Saunas // Far infrared energy is able to penetrating the skin and increase circulation - helps to relieve acne, eczema, psoriasis, burns, lesions and cuts. Have also been shown to affect the autonomic nervous system putting you in the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state allowing your body to heal and offer pain relief from many forms of arthritis.

LED Devices // Can help combat Acne - Clinical Trials have demonstrated the reduction of inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions using blue light in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Wavelength: 415nm Everything You Need To Know About LED Light Therapy

Can blue light damage skin? 

Digital devices (computers, flat screen TVs, fluorescent light bulbs, smartphones, iPads and laptops) emanate blue light wavelength ranges from 380 nm to 500 nm. Long-term exposure to concentrated HEV can cause skin damage, including colour changes, inflammation, and weakening of the skin’s surface. 

One 2010 Study showed that although both UVA and visible light can induce pigmentation in skin types IV–VI, pigmentation induced by visible light was darker and more sustained. No pigmentation was observed in skin type II. Skin type is typically classified by the Fitzpatrick score on the predicted reaction of skin to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation:

  • Type I: Highly sensitive, always burns, never tans woman talking with mobile phone
  • Type II: Very sun sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally
  • Type III: Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown
  • Type IV: Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown
  • Type V: Sun insensitive skin, rarely burns, tans well
  • Type VI: Sun insensitive, never burns, deeply pigmented

A small 2015 study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, suggested that exposure to blue light might stimulate the production of free radicals in skin, which can accelerate the appearance of ageing.

2017 Study in the journal or Investigative Dermatology demonstrated our skins melanocytes sense blue light and regulate pigmentation, responsible for hyperpigmentation induced by the shorter wavelengths of visible light.

How to protect yourself from blue light damage 

  • Apply // Blue light shields to the screens on your devices 
  • Switching on // The ‘night mode’ settings on your devices can help limit the impact of blue light
  • Wear // Blue Light blocking glasses
  • Topical Application // Carotenoids play a protective role of neutralising excessive free radicals in the skin
  • Wear // Polarized sunglasses which are specifically designed to block out blue light, for all outside light exposure to prevent long-term damage 
  • Topical Application // Antioxidants are an important first line of defence look for Vitamins A, C, E and Ferulic Acid
  • Topical Application // Broad-spectrum SPF to further protect skin against blue light make sure 
  • Hands Free // While talking on your phone try avoid holding the against your ear and therefore face (skin)

Until next time

Be human, be kind, be you

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