Blue light

When it comes to the effects of sunlight on the skin, people usually think of ultraviolet (UV) light invisible light that causes sunburn. However, sunlight also includes spectrum of visible light which can be seen with the naked eye, that is, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light.

What does the blue light mean?

Blue light has a short wavelength and high energy. In addition to the sun, it can also come from man-made sources such as electronic devices and indoor lighting. “Blue light is what makes the sky blue on a sunny day and what gives your smartphone screen a bright, clear background,” says Susan Massick, MD, a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Given that excessive exposure to UV light causes serious damage like premature aging and skin cancer, it is important to study how blue light can affect the skin as well.

Does blue light damage the skin?

Blue light penetrates deeper into the skin from UV rays, but prolonged or repeated exposure to any of them can cause photodamage, hyperpigmentation and accelerated skin agingsays Masik.

“Blue light has been proven to be able to challenge the production of free radicals in the skin deep in the dermis,” she adds. “That oxidative stress can lead to DNA damageresulting in an inability to regenerate skin cells with negative effects on collagen and elastin.’

Most conventional sunscreens won’t protect your skin from blue light, so you should consider wearing ones with metal oxides, says Cindy Wassef, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Broad-spectrum chemical sunscreens provide excellent protection against UV light, but do not protect from visible light. Those with hyperpigmentation disorders can advantage from the use of tinted or mineral sunscreens containing iron, zinc or titanium dioxide, which provide adequate protection from blue light and prevent additional light-induced skin pigmentation.

How is blue light different from natural light?

Blue light from the sun and from electronic devices is the same high-energy visible light, but natural blue light is much greater in magnitude and intensity than artificial blue light, Masik says.

If you were to compare the intensity of light emitted by electronic devices with the intensity of the sun at the same wavelength of blue light, the former would be much lower. The intensity of the sun is about 7700 μW/cm2 which is significantly higher than that of a Philips LED TV at 78 μW/cm2 or a Dell laptop at 15 μW/cm2.

“Keep in mind that the intensity of blue light from sunlight is exponentially higher than what you might experience from your electronic devices, so the blue light from your devices won’t affect your skin to the same degree,” says Masik.

However, the effect of artificial blue light on the skin remains an important area of ​​research. Natural blue light may be stronger, but people are still constantly exposed to artificial blue light due to the use of electronic devices for work and communication, Wassef says.

A 2022 Limits in Aging study conducted on fruit flies reported that excessive exposure to artificial blue light can accelerate aging and affect their metabolite levels. However, there aren’t many studies on its effects on humans.

Because exposure to natural blue light is known to cause hyperpigmentation, the authors of a a little research from 2020 studied the effect of artificial blue light on the skin. They found that using a high-intensity computer screen at a distance of 20 centimeters for eight hours a day during a five-day study period did not worsen melasma lesions.

Read more: How many ways can the sun kill us?

What does blue light do to your skin?

In controlled clinical settings, artificial blue light may even be beneficial for the skin and exhibit antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects Properties. The field of blue light therapy is still developing, but it is used treatment conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, eczema and acne, so far.

A 2020 Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology study examine the positive and negative effects of blue light. The authors found that exposure duration and wavelength parameters play a role in whether blue light from LEDs can be harmful or beneficial.

In general, artificial blue light is significantly less intense than natural blue light, so its harmful effects are expected to be much less. More research is needed, but digital screens may not emit enough blue light to be harmful. Still, less is better when it comes to light exposure, so taking steps to minimize it can help keep you and your skin healthy, Masik says.

Read more: What the science says about blue light blocking glasses

How to protect skin from blue light

If you’re concerned about the potential damage to your skin from blue light caused by electronic devices, Massick suggests reducing your screen time. This can be challenging as remote work increases, but you can also increase the distance between you and your screen, lower the brightness, or turn on night modeshe adds.

It may be best to minimize screen time at night, as the use of blue light emitted by electronic devices can also disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm – the light fools the brain that it is a day doing it difficulty falling and falling asleep. Abstaining from screen use can lead to better sleep quality than using electronic devices before bed with a night mode.

The impact of exposure to artificial blue light on sleep is important to consider, as people who sleep seven to nine hours a night have significantly lower intrinsic skin aging scores, according to a 2015 Clinical and experimental dermatology study.

Regardless of your screen usage, Massick recommends that you use sunscreen and skin care products with antioxidants to help fight against oxidative stress of visible light and ultraviolet light on the skin as part of your daily routine.”

Read more: No one should panic: Wearing sunscreen is unlikely to pose a cancer risk

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