Is Blue Light Bad for Your Skin?

Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021

The visible light that we see is made up of a total of seven colors.
The visible light that we see is made up of a total of seven colors.

The visible light that we see is made up of a total of seven colors. The blue light is a part of this spectrum and is emitted between the wavelengths of 400 to 500 nm (“nm” stands for nanometer, which is a measurement of the length of light waves). The shorter wavelength of blue light is associated with its high energy that may have a damaging effect with prolonged exposure. The main source of blue light is sunlight, but the laptops, mobile screens, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) bulbs, and fluorescent lighting serve as the artificial sources of blue light. The main difference between natural and artificial exposure to blue light is that we hold the gadgets up close, and hence, the artificial sources of blue light have much more potential to damage our bodies.

The most extensively studied harmful effect of blue light is on our eyes. Constant exposure to blue light can cause damage to the retina and hasten age-related vision loss. Long-term blue light exposure has been also linked to premature cataracts, glaucoma (increased eye pressure), and macular degeneration in the eye. Blue light can disturb our sleep-wake cycle by affecting the secretion of melatonin hormone by the brain. Recent studies have shown that blue light can have adverse effects on the skin as well.

The statistics show that millennials check their smartphones more than 150 times a day. That means millennials are at a much higher risk of blue light exposure. Ironically, the blue light, which is now a culprit implicated in skin harm, has been used in the past to treat many skin conditions, such as acne, sun-induced skin damage, psoriasis, actinic keratosis. Many researchers have claimed that a short-term application of visible blue light over the skin in a controlled environment is safe. However, it is better to be careful.

The recent evidence suggests that constant exposure of human skin cells to blue light even for an hour may cause the reactive oxygen species (ROS) to form inside the cell layers. ROS may cause increased cell death and incite poor skin cell regeneration by causing damage to the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the cells and cellular swelling.

So, the scientists now suggest that smartphones and computer screens can cause the following skin issues:

  • Hasten the aging of the skin via ROS.
  • Cause skin wrinkles by breaking down collagen and elastin protein bonds in the skin layer.
  • May contribute to brown spots on the skin (akin to sun exposure).
  • It may cause hyperpigmented patches over the skin by stimulating melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in the skin layers.

How to protect the skin from blue light

The following tips may be helpful:

  • Prevention is the best cure. It is best to avoid excess screen time as much as possible.
  • Using an ultraviolet (UV) guard over gadgets is another way to reduce exposure. However, this may not give 100% protection from blue light.
  • Try using the device at the 50% brightness setting. Try using night mode in the dark.
  • Up the skincare routine. A serum rich in niacinamide (vitamin B3) may have a role in protecting the skin from aging caused by the reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the blue light.
  • Sunscreen containing sun protection factor (SPF) above 30 as well as zinc may be used indoors and reapplied at regular intervals.
  • Using antioxidant serum on the face as a part of skincare. This may include vitamin C serum.
  • A diet rich in antioxidants, such as green leafy vegetables and fruits, may have a role in protection against blue light-induced skin damage.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021
References
Arjmandi N, Mortazavi G, Zarei S, Faraz M, Mortazavi SAR. Can Light Emitted from Smartphone Screens and Taking Selfies Cause Premature Aging and Wrinkles? J Biomed Phys Eng. 2018;8(4):447-452. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6280109/