Here’s a question for you: how long do you think you spend looking at screens each day? And how much do you think your screen time affects your skin? It may be far more than you think, especially considering you’ve likely been stuck indoors in recent months due to the global pandemic. According to a recent study, we now spend up to 13 hours a day glued to our digital devices, a whopping 60% increase in March alone this year.
So, you’ve heard of sun exposure leading to skin damage and early signs of ageing, but overexposure to digital light? Surely it’s all just hearsay? Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that too much blue light could be damaging your skin. If you’re serious about preventing premature ageing, it might be time to put your devices down, or gear up with proper protection. Let’s deep dive into how blue light can affect your skin and what you can do to stay protected.
"Due to the global pandemic we now spend up to 13 hours a day glued to our digital devices."
What is Blue Light and What How Does it Affect Your Skin?
Blue light is, quite literally, everywhere. It mostly comes from sunlight, but it can also come from fluorescent lamps and digital sources including computers, laptops, TVs and smartphones (not to be confused with UVA or UVB rays, which only come from sunlight). While digital devices only emit a fraction of blue light compared to the sun, your skin is more at risk because you’re physically much closer to your screens, and you’ll likely check your devices constantly throughout the day.
So how much damage can it actually do? Mostly, blue light weakens your skin’s protective barrier and contributes to early signs of ageing. A chemical in your skin called flavin absorbs blue light really well. This means it can penetrate the deeper layers of your skin compared to both UVA and UVB light, and it can destroy your collagen and elastin (the proteins in your skin that keep it plump and youthful). When your collagen is compromised, your skin loses its firmness, leading to wrinkles and fine lines.
On top of that, just like the sun can cause sunspots, blue light can cause hyperpigmentation. It activates melanocytes – cells that produce melanin (pigment) – in your skin, which leads to an increase in pigment production.
"Blue light weakens your skin’s protective barrier and contributes to early signs of ageing."
The Best Ways to Protect Your Skin From Blue Light
- Limit Your Exposure Time
The simplest way to prevent skin damage from blue light is to limit your exposure to it. While easier said than done, simply being mindful of how much time you spend on your devices each day can be helpful. Do activities away from screens as much as possible, and take regular breaks (set alarms on your phone!) to stretch or grab a drink if you are using screens for long hours. On top of that, always try to keep your screens at arm’s length––distance matters, so get that phone away from your face!
- Dim the lights
If it’s too difficult to stay away from screens for too long, you can change your device settings to ‘night mode’ or ‘night shift’ to help diminish any harmful effects. This gives off a warmer yellow light, which is much easier on your skin and your eyes too. Most devices will have this feature, so try to keep it on at all times. Additionally, swap out any LED light bulbs in your house for more yellow-toned bulbs that emit less blue light.
- Apply blue light-specific SPF
Yes, you really do need SPF to protect your skin from blue light! Some traditional sunscreens can protect your skin from UV sun rays and blue light, but to be extra safe, invest in a product that is specifically formulated to block both. Look out especially for mineral (physical) sunscreens with a high amount of iron oxide, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide, and make sure you apply it every. single. day. No exceptions!
Use Antioxidant-rich skincare
Finally, and you probably guessed this one, your skincare will go a long way to counter the effects of blue light damage, especially products filled with antioxidants. Go for products rich in Vitamin C and E, which work well together to protect your skin from the harmful effects of light exposure, as well and nourish and regenerate your skin cells. Additionally, make sure to eat plenty of vitamin-packed superfoods, like blueberries and sweet potatoes, to boost your skin’s natural defence from the inside out.