By now, you probably know about the damage the sun can do to your skin without proper protection. But did you know that artificial light can also have an impact? That includes the light from your smartphone, laptop, and other devices—known as blue light.
That said, there are things you can do to help counteract the negative effects of blue light, helping to maintain your overall skin health and radiance.¹ Allow our dermatology experts to explain.
Sunlight consists of different types of radiation, with ultraviolet (UV) radiation making up around 3% to 7%, visible light accounting for 44%, and infrared radiation making up 53%. UV radiation has long been recognized as the primary cause of skin damage, while research on the effects of visible light on the skin has been limited until recently.²
In addition to traditional sources like lightbulbs, the rise in personal digital devices has introduced yet another form of artificial light into our lives. We spend a lot of our time in front of light-emitting screens on devices like smartphones and tablets, often at close proximity. Although the light emitted from these devices appears white, it actually has a blue-dominated spectrum. Blue light is considered potentially hazardous due to its higher photon energy compared to other visible light wavelengths.³
Presently, there is increasing concern surrounding the safety of light sources, such as LEDs, which emit light mainly in the blue light range. Recent studies have focused on examining the impact of exposure to light emitted by electronic devices on human skin cells. They have revealed that even short periods of exposure can enhance the generation of reactive oxygen species, which can lead to damaged skin cells. Additionally, reports have indicated that frequent exposure to the light from camera flashes may lead to skin damage and expedited skin aging.⁴
When skin is exposed to blue light, it can lead to the production of certain substances called free radicals, which can cause damage to skin cells. This happens because the levels of carotenoids, which help protect the skin, decrease when exposed to blue light. This damage can result in changes in the color of our skin, such as sudden and persistent darkening.⁵
Using antioxidants and sunscreens with certain ingredients like titanium dioxide, iron oxides, and zinc oxide can protect your skin during the day and help repair it at night. These studies have shown that these products can effectively protect your skin from the harmful effects of blue light.⁶
One study also showed that screen protectors on handheld devices effectively reduce the intensity of blue light.⁷
Sunscreens that incorporate titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can shield against UVA and UVB radiation, although their capacity to protect against HEV light is somewhat restricted. On the other hand, sunscreens containing iron oxides offer enhanced defense against blue light, particularly when combined with zinc oxide. Research has shown that sunscreens formulated with iron oxides not only contribute to treating melasma but also prevent hyperpigmentation in individuals with melasma, including those with darker skin tones.⁸
New research suggests that a natural extract called Deschampsia antarctica (Edafence®, EDA) has antioxidant properties that can shield your skin from the negative impacts of blue light. This means it may help prevent damage to skin cells and reduce hyperpigmentation. The study indicates that when our skin cells are exposed to sunlight or harmful substances, EDA can provide protective effects.⁹
If you are looking to minimize potential blue light adverse effects, consider using skincare products that are antioxidant-rich, especially containing vitamins C and E.¹⁰
Here are some options to help protect from and minimize potential blue light adverse effects:
While the long-term consequences of blue light exposure on our skin are not yet fully understood, evidence suggests that it can be harmful to both our eyes and skin.
To address any concerns or queries you may have, we recommend scheduling a consultation with one of our licensed dermatology providers. They have the expertise needed to evaluate your unique skin type and recommend suitable skincare products tailored to your specific needs. By seeking professional guidance, you can make informed decisions about the most effective measures to protect and nourish your skin.
Give your skin the care it deserves and experience the difference that Curology can make in achieving a healthier, more radiant complexion. Visit our online shop to explore our range of products and start your journey toward healthier skin by speaking with one of our licensed dermatology providers.
Yes, certain skincare products, such as a broad spectrum sunscreen, can help protect against blue light.
Titanium dioxide, iron oxides, zinc oxide, and vitamin C are examples of skincare ingredients that help protect against blue light.
Helps to protect against the harmful effects of blue light, such as skin cell damage due to oxidative stress, and hyperpigmentation.
Arjmandi, N., et al. Can Light Emitted from Smartphone Screens and Taking Selfies Cause Premature Aging and Wrinkles? Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering. (2018, December 1).
Bernstein, E.F., et al. Iron oxides in novel skin care formulations attenuate blue light for enhanced protection against skin damage. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (2020, November 18).
Wong, N.A. and Bahmani, H. A review of the current state of research on artificial blue light safety as it applied to digital devices. Heliyon. (2022, August 15).
Arjmandi, N., et al. Can Light Emitted from Smartphone Screens and Taking Selfies Cause Premature Aging and Wrinkles? Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering. Ibid.
Kumari, J., et al. The impact of blue light and digital screens on the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (2023, January 3).
Suitthimeathegorn, O., et al. Direct and Indirect Effects of Blue Light Exposure on Skin: A Review of Published Literature. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. (2022, August 31).
Smith, A.K., et al. The Effect of a Screen Protector on Blue Light Intensity Emitted from Different Hand-held Devices. Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology. (July-September 2020).
Bernstein, E.F., et al. Iron oxides in novel skin care formulations attenuate blue light for enhanced protection against skin damage. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.
Lorrio, S., et al. Protective Effect of the Aqueous Extract of Deschampsia antarctica (EDAFENCE®) on Skin Cells against Blue Light Emitted from Digital Devices. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (2020, February 2).
Murray, C., et al. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2008, July 7).
Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.
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Erin Pate, NP-C