During the pandemic many people are working long hours on laptops, constantly on smartphones or binge-watching favorite TV shows and movies more than ever.
But while the blue-light emitted by the screens on devices are known to disrupt sleep patterns, what is it doing to people’s skin? This high-energy visible light may be contributing to premature skin aging and making people look older.
Most people are aware by now that ultraviolet light from the sun contributes to more than 90% of the signs of aging skin. HEV or blue-light is similar to UV light but indoors. This short-wavelength light is right up there with UV light in terms of sun exposure.
How does this happen? In small research studies it’s been found that blue light can stimulate the production of free radicals, which accelerates the signs of aging. These free radicals contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, can cause hyperpigmentation and can even affect skin laxity.
To make matters worse, blue light can cause oxidative stress resulting in inflammation or skin aging caused by light waves — similar to when people spend too much time in the sun — which can weaken the outermost layer of skin.
So what can you do to prevent premature aging by blue light? Remember to use a physical, sometimes called mineral-based, sunscreen — even indoors. In sunny Arizona, with the high rate of skin-cancer, people may be using their sunscreen when they leave the house but they also need to use it when working at home.
People are advised to use products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as a safe alternative to chemical-based sunscreens. These broad-spectrum sunscreens are the best thing people can use every day because they reflect blue light emissions. A daily sun protection factor of 15-30 is acceptable for indoor use. Chemical-based sunscreens absorb, not reflect, wavelengths of ultraviolet light, so they won’t help with blue light emissions. People are advised to avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and avobenzone as the active ingredient.
Whatever product is used, always be sure to apply it 20 minutes before working on a laptop or other devices. Sunscreen needs to be absorbed prior to light exposure to be effective. The same holds true when people apply sun protectant before going outside.
Wear blue-light blocking glasses. While blue-light can affect the skin it can also be affecting the eyes and the delicate skin around the eyes. People can get blue-light glasses to protect their eyes and eye area for as little as $15 online.
Use night mode on devices. Night shift mode on smart devices provides a gentler display light and can help reduce the effects of blue light emissions.
Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals and not only prevent damage but can even repair it over time. Look for products, including serums, containing vitamins A, C and E and hyaluronic acid. It is best to use any anti-oxidant product twice per day since they get depleted during the day. Be sure to apply them both in the morning and evening.
Other things people can do include hut off devices a few hours before going to bed. Blue light can interfere with sleep by affecting the body’s circadian rhythm. Lack of sleep is known to cause skin dullness, swelling and redness and those dreaded under eye dark-circles.
Interestingly, blue light in small amounts can be used to treat acne or accelerate wound healing but, like anything, too much of a good thing may be a bad thing for the skin. While devices can be causing skin damage, people should not forget to get an annual skin cancer exam. Excess sun exposure is still the main cause of premature aging.
Editor’s Note: Ms. Neumann is Sun City Dermatology, 13843 W. Meeker Blvd., Suite 101, Sun City West founder. Visit suncitydermaz.com or call 623-377-7546.