We know that long term exposure to blue light from digital devices can cause eye strain, hence, the advent of blue light filtering glasses. However can blue light, or visible light, damage the skin as well? In this article we will explain what visible light is, the effects of blue light on skin, and dermatologist tips on how to protect your skin from visible light damage.
What is visible light?
Visible light (VL) is radiation encountered at the earth’s surface with wavelengths of 400-700 nm. It can be seen by the human eye as it emits light from electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, television screens. Blue light is the part of the visible light spectrum that contains the highest energy.
How is it different from UV rays?
UVA and UVB light from the sun fall under the category of invisible light, as we cannot see these rays. However, they are present during daylight hours and can have many effects on the skin. UVB light from the sun has a shorter wavlength, and is associated with causes sunburn, while UVA light causes deeper damage like reduction of production of collagen and oxidative stress.
What are the sources of visible light?
The primary source of VL comes from the sun. Other than that, artificial sources of VL is from our electronic devices, lightbulbs and lasers. The natural source of VL from the sun is especially important for other organisms to survive. Living organisms including bacteria, fungi, animals, and plants use blue light to adapt to changing ambient light, blue light is used for photosynthesis. Ocean organisms depend on VL to obtain sunlight. Red light is able to penetrate through depths of 2m and blue light able to reach up to 200-300m.
What does red and blue light therapy do to your skin?
Visible light can be beneficial for our skin when used in therapeutic, controlled settings such as adjunct treatment for dermatological conditions. However, it can also be detrimental to the skin if exposed to high intensities of it from the sun.
Blue light has anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative properties. The use of therapeutic visible light to treat dermatological conditions include blue light for psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or eczema, rosacea, acne and others. On the other hand, red light is used in dermatology for skin resurfacing and rejuvenation. Furthermore, alopecia, acne, skin fibroblasts modulation, and pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions can be treated by red light. The combination of red and blue light also cures seborrheic dermatitis, pityriasis versicolor, and acne.
Is blue light bad for your skin?
Recently, scientists have recognised the role of VL in the production of pigment in the skin. Pigmentary disorders such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) disproportionately affect individuals with Fitzpatrick skin types (FST) III to VI.
Some studies have shown that exposure to high intensity blue light from the sun can cause more hyperpigmentation in darker skinned individuals, compared to when exposed to UV irradiation. However, there is a lack of evidence about the role of VL from artificial sources in pigmentation production. Because, the LED light used in studies was much higher in intensity as compared to the LED devices used in daily life.
“Blue light is a very popular topic because we are exposed to a lot of devices in our homes that emit blue light. For example our mobile phones, iPads, our computer screens; especially now so with more people working from home. The key premise of this question is that there was a study done a few years ago by dermatologists that demonstrated amongst individuals with existing pigmentation problems.
Exposure to high doses of blue light, the kind of blue light that is present in solar radiation, is much more intense than the blue light coming from your devices. Therefore, with these individuals that already had pigmentation, exposure to high doses of blue light from the sun was observed to make their pigmentation worse. Putting this into context, it’s much more important to preach avoidance of UV exposure as well as sun protection. This is because the sun is the biggest producer of blue light”, accredited dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin.
What ingredients protect against blue light?
According to Dr. Teo, how to protect your skin against blue light is to keep in mind that “if you do already have pigmentation, please be more conscious to reduce the amount of screen time you have. Secondly, you may want to actively incorporate serums that contain potent antioxidants. This refers to cosmeceuticals that have been proven in clinical settings to reduce the process of free radical damage caused by environmental stresses. For example, I’m referring to active ingredients such as Centella Asiatica, resveratrol, vitamin C – and many other botanical extracts that have proven benefits of antioxidant properties.”
Photoprotection is currently the number one recommendation for prevention of the effect of blue light on skin. Seeking shade, using photoprotective outer-wear such as UPF50+ materials, and daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF >30 is recommended. Known VL blockers include physical filter iron oxide which can be found at various concentrations in sunscreens.
Individuals have to take note that skin protected by sunscreen with higher concentrations of titanium, zinc, and iron compounds can offer better protection to VL. Sunscreen containing high amounts of iron oxide was found to be highly effective in reducing hyperpigmentation. Since sunscreens do not label the iron oxide percentage, one must ensure the sunscreen to go on white as a sign if it protects against VL.
The SunProtector which is what we use in our dermatologist practice, is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains both the ceramide, the UVA blocking component, as well as physical blockers such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide. It is also includes Portulaca oleracea extract also known as purslane as well as oligopeptides, both of which are well-established in scientific literature to block melanin production due to its antioxidants abilities.
With regards to a specific anti-blue light product, look for a physical sunscreen. I always recommend broad-spectrum sunscreens that contain UVA and UVB protection – and this usually involves the use of both chemical sunscreens as well as physical sunscreens such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide. If your sunscreen has both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide These would be effective in blocking high-energy blue light that is radiated from your devices.Tags: Hyperpigmentation, Skin Health, Skincare, Sun Protection