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I love it when I get questions from you guys. Not only do they help me create content I know you’ll be interested in, but they open my eyes to topics I would probably not even have thought about.
Of course I had heard about blue light affecting our sleep patterns and straining our eyes, but to be honest I never gave it much thought.
At least not until a question kept popping up here on the blog and on social media: “Do you recommend wearing SPF even if I am indoors to protect me from blue light from my screen?”
As soon as that happened I noticed more and more companies marketing skincare items as “blue light protection”, and if anything can get me into research mood, it is a company claiming skincare benefits and charging extra for them.
So, lets talk about the question “Does blue light from our screens damage our skin?” and, if it does, how can we protect ourselves?
Here is the video version (watch on You Tube and in HD!), but as always you’ll find all information written out underneath as well.
What is blue light?
Blue light is part of the visible light, and it is that part of the spectrum of visible light that is closest to the UV rays. It has the highest energy and the shortest wave length of all forms of visible light, so the highest potential of damaging the skin.
The biggest source of blue light in our environment is the sun, but our screens (mobile, tv, tablet) do emit it as well. As do light bulbs or any kind of overhead lighting. There is no difference in natural blue light (from the sun) and artificial blue light from the screen.
While the sun is the biggest source of blue light, we tend to spend more time in front of our screens than we do in the midday sun. The amount of blue light we get from screen time varies by distance to screen, size of screen, colors displayed on the screen and type of screen. As a rule of thumb though you can say that you get around 1% the dose from your screen than you get from the sun.
For more specific numbers, visit LabMuffins brilliant blog post here.
Can blue light actually damage our skin?
The jury is still out on that (scientifically speaking), but there are strong leads that suggest that blue light contributes to photo aging by increasing the amount of free radicals found in the skin and that it can lead to hyper pigmentation on skin types prone to that. (This seems to be especially true for people with deeper skin tones).
Some dermatologists claim they can see a change in the pattern of hyper pigmentation over the cause of the last years, increasing at the side of the face where people tend to put their phone.
So yes, I would say that blue light can lead to premature aging.
How can I protect myself?
Sunscreen won’t cut it. I do recommend wearing SPF even indoors, due to the amount of UV rays penetrating the windows and the fact that we rarely ever not leave the house at all, but for your blue light protection, you will need something else.
The reason is that SPF is designed to block UV rays and works at their wavelength, and while blue light is close, it still has a different wave length. Chemical filters won’t help at all, while physical sunscreen seems to be a little broader and block at least a bit.
To really prevent the damage done from the increase of free radicals, you will need an antioxidant. And just to make that clear, there is no evidence that some antioxidants are better than others when it comes to blue light protection. So far that is just another marketing claim trying to make you favor Theobroma Cocoa Seeds over CoEnzyme Q 10 (nothing wrong with Theobroma Cocoa Seeds though, I love anything chocolatey – both antioxidants were picked randomly).
Other than skincare there are of course things you can to to reduce blue light exposure that should be a no brainer:
- limit screen time
- don´t sit too close to any screen
- turn off your overhead light
- don´t stay out in the sun too long