Does Your Screentime Have You Singin’ the Blues?

What you need to know about blue light and your skin

By:  Caroline Hirons

For years, ophthalmologists have warned us about the potential dangers of blue light exposure and the damaging effect it has on our eyes, but in recent years, warnings about the harm blue light may inflict on skin have appeared, well, out of the blue!

You’re surrounded by electronic devices. Your phone is probably attached to you and I know for a fact you’re reading this blog post on a screen right now. In addition, you’re likely dealing daily with tablets, computers, and TV screens, not to mention other light sources known to emit blue light, including the sun.

But don’t confuse blue light with UVA and UVB rays. The blue stuff is part of the spectrum of visible light; it’s a high-energy, short-wavelength light that affects us differently than UV light, which can’t be seen.

FYI, chemical sunscreens slathered on to protect against UV rays don't protect you from blue light. Only physical (mineral) sunscreens that contain iron oxide help because they basically cover your skin to repel and reflect light. If your sunscreen ingredient label reads “Zinc Oxide” or “Titanium Dioxide,” you’re probably covered.

But honestly, who wants to go through life covered in chalky white paint?

Nobody, which is why we’re so lucky that the latest generation of mineral sunscreens is so high-tech, the highly micronized (read: super microscopically tiny) mineral particles are practically invisible on skin. That’s cool, but is the possible threat of blue light damage worth changing your skincare routine over?

First of all, keep in mind that every reputable dermatologist and esthetician already strongly advises daily sunscreen, rain or shine, so using a mineral formula you love checks both boxes already, but here’s what you need to know before deciding how to fight back against potential skin damage caused by blue light.

Research shows that the light emanating from electronic devices can lead to real changes in your skin cells, including cellular death. While there’s currently no evidence these changes lead to skin cancer, increases in dead and damaged skin cells do speed the aging process. These cellular changes have been reported after as few as 60 minutes in front of a screen, a fact that should worry those of us who spend literal hours in front of a screen every day.

But, it’s all inconclusive and the truth is, just like sunlight, blue light is 100% necessary for our health; it regulates our body’s natural sleeping and waking cycles.

In the days before relaxation and hypnosis apps helped us rest, people got tired when the sun went down and the blue light disappeared, and they woke when the sun (and the blue light) appeared again, which is why staring at artificial blue light on our phones tends to mess with modern sleep cycles—it’s keeping us awake when we should be dreaming.

Of course, sleep is important both to overall health and the well-being of your skin, but most potential damage from blue light seems to come in the form of photo-aging which speeds the breakdown of collagen leading to lines, wrinkles, and sagging.

Your best bet is to avoid possible cumulative damage from daily blue light exposure by pulling double-duty with a mineral sunscreen that blocks these rays while protecting you from UV rays at the same time. Then, help reverse existing damage and fight ongoing cellular changes with potent antioxidants like vitamins A and C that have been shown to reduce signs of photo-aging in skin.

And step away from the devices once in a while, it’s good for your mind and body, and it may just help save your skin!