Expert Topic by Joanne Rendell
What is blue light, and how does it affect your skin.
Did you know that UV isn't the only type of light that can cause damage and premature ageing? If you're serious about preventing premature ageing, UV and UVB protection only isn't going to be enough. We are all used to being told to wear sunscreen all year round, rain or shine, due to the effects that the UV light can have on our skin, but increasingly, we should also be aware of the properties of visible blue light, which comes from us being increasingly attached to our digital devices.
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If you spend your working day in front of a computer screen or own a smartphone – which most of us do both – the chances are you are being exposed to significant amounts of blue light, which is more exposure than we used to from the sun alone. Blue light (also known as High Energy Visible Light/HEVL) is also emitted by flat-screen TVs, desktops and laptops, tablets, other electronic devices, and fluorescent and LED lighting. In other words, blue light is everywhere, both indoors and outside, either from natural or artificial sources. Around one-third of all visible light is considered to be HEVL.
Just like UV radiation, blue light has both benefits and disadvantages. A certain amount of blue light exposure is essential for good health. HEVL can boost mood, memory, cognitive function and alertness. It's also crucial in terms of regulating our circadian rhythms – our natural sleep/wake cycle.
However, as with so much in life, moderation is key. Too much blue light isn't good for our eyes or skin. Research shows that the average adult will spend 34 years of their lives looking at a screen that has significant implications for our eyes and complexions.
So how does blue light affect my skin?
Blue light can affect our skin in several different ways. It penetrates deeper into the skin compared to UVA and UVB light, deep into our dermis layer, where our collagen and elastin live, generating free radicals and causing oxidative stress contributing to skin ageing. This can cause skin cells to produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, leading to the formation of lines, wrinkles and a loss of firmness.
Certain studies also suggest that blue light ages our skin by causing pigmentation and Melasma. Have you ever gone to bed tired but then started to look at the phone, and before you know it, you're struggling now to drop off? That's because HEVL affects our levels of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Regular lack of sleep can lead to visible signs of ageing, such as puffiness and dark under-eye circles. But it can also disrupt the natural circadian rhythms of our skin cells, thereby impacting their natural night-time repair processes.
But beyond the surface layer of our skin, blue light maybe also have a harmful effect on our eyes; research shows how damaging unprotected exposure to blue light from our digital devices can be and may even increase the risk of macular degeneration.
How can I protect my skin?
Daily sunscreen is a must to help protect your skin from UV damage. Some brands, such as Ultrasun, also offer additional protection against blue light. One of the brand's key 'hero' skincare ingredients is Ectoin, a natural enzyme that helps to prevent UVA-induced premature photo-ageing. Well known for its hydrating and anti-inflammatory benefits, it also helps to limit the impact of HEVL on the skin. If you're particularly prone to dark spots, we recommend the Anti-Pigmentation Face SPF50+. This lightweight, fast-absorbing formulation helps counter multiple signs of sun-induced ageing, including fine lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores and discolouration.
If you're keen to combine serious sun protection with an anti-ageing moisturiser, try Medik8's Advanced Day Total Protect. This multitasking day cream uses advanced filters to protect against UVA and UVB damage. It also delivers sophisticated environmental and free radical protection, shielding skin from blue light damage, pollution, Infrared (IR) rays, and glycation.
Consuming plenty of antioxidants – especially Vitamins C and E – and applying them topically could help minimise the skin damage caused by blue light. Revision's C+ Correcting Complex 30% is infused with patent-pending MelaPATH technology designed to help repair free radical damage caused by HEVL.
A brilliant option to keep at your desk or carry in your bag is Heliocare's Tech Protect Kit. This ultimate skin protection set defends against both daylight-induced and blue light damage. The kit includes a Heliocare 360 Water Gel SPF50+, three Heliocare 360 Color Gel Oil-Free SPF50+ samples (Pearl, Beige and Bronze), a screen and glasses cleaner, and Heliocare 360 Capsules (oral supplements) for additional protection from within.
Written by Skin Therapist Joanne Rendell