From smartphones to laptops, staring at a screen — at least for a portion of the day — is an expected part of life. However, all that time spent double-tapping and recreating TikTok dances might be causing unseen damage to your skin. It's only recently that dermatologists have started to understand how blue light emitted from screens might lead to skin damage, and while the research doesn't mean you should press pause on your Netflix habit, it does mean you should be a little more cautious. If you're spending a considerable amount of time behind a screen, here's what you need to know about blue light, its impact, and how to protect your skin.
According to Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, dermatology veteran and founder of her namesake beauty brand, there's been a surge of recent studies with important findings regarding blue light emissions. As she explained, blue light is emitted from all of our digital screens, and also from the sun. However, the sun emits much less blue lights than that of our screens. Even though blue light is occurring naturally and it's encountered in your every day activities, research suggests that in some cases, the amount of light you're intaking could cause more damage to the skin than light emitted by the sun. While that sounds concerning, Dr. Ciraldo noted that there are ways to prevent skin damage, starting with a change in habits.
How Does Blue Light Damage The Skin?
As Dr. Ciraldo told NYLON, in certain dermatology studies, blue light emissions came with skin consequences. "Human volunteers had both separate areas of their backs exposed to either UVA or blue light in amounts proportional to how much there is in the sunlight. In many people the blue light caused more redness, swelling and hyperpigmentation than UVA. It is for this reason that we dermatologists are now focusing on protecting skin from damage from blue light," she said.
Jeniece Trizzino, VP of Product Development for Goodhabit, explained that it's estimated that most people check their cell phones more than 150 times a day, and that doesn't include the additional 12 hours a day you may spend in front of a computer. While each check of a tweet might seem harmless enough, that screen time adds up. "As blue penetrates our skin, reactive oxygen species are generated, which lead to DNA damage – resulting in increased pigment, redness, premature signs aging. As if that is not enough, blue light also contributes to the formation of free radicals and induces oxidative stress in live skin. These free radicals cause skin cells to produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin in the skin," she explained to NYLON.
What Can You Do To Prevent Skin Damage From Blue Light?
First and foremost, the most obvious and easy way to limit your exposure to blue light is to limit your time spent in front of screens. However, whether due to work or personal circumstance, that's not always an option, and Dr. Ciraldo instead suggests incorporating a sunscreen into your daily beauty routine.
Trizzino agreed, saying, "All skin types need to protect themselves from blue light. Think of this like this, not all skin types will see a physical burn from sun overexposure, but all skin types will see premature signs of aging and experience skin damage from sun overexposure. The same is true for blue light - while it will not cause a physical burn, it damages everyone’s skin the same."
Thankfully, many beauty brands have started offering products targeted precisely at preventing and reversing skin damage caused by blue light.
How Do Blue Light Blocking Skin Care Products Work?
Dr. Timm Golueke, dermatologist and founder of Royal Fern, suggests that in order to prevent blue light damage, look for skin care items that contain fern extracts, niacinamide, and vitamin C.
Trizzino noted that it's important to ensure the products you're relying on do more than just protect you from sun light. "Sunscreen is for the sun – not for our screens," she said. "The vast majority of SPF does not protect against artificial blue light. Chemical sunscreens offer no protection and only physical sunscreens with a heavy dose of iron oxides offer some protection."
According to Trizzino, products providing blue light protection often contain antioxidants, an ingredient commonly proven to help protect the skin. "Blue light causes oxidative stress and you combat that with antioxidants," she said. However, antioxidants might not be enough to completely combat blue light damage, and she suggested incorporating items that combat past and future blue light damage. Supergoop! also touts the success of incorporating ingredients found in the environment, including red algae, which lives deep below the ocean and has adapted to protect itself from blue light, as well as butterfly bush extract, which lives on top of mountains and adapted a similar protection barrier.
To get started on properly protecting your skin from blue light, check out some of the expert approved products, below.
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