Blue light, public enemy number one

Written by Bea Taylor

The big, bad blue light truth. How our increased screen time is harming our skin, eyes and sleep.

With everything from work to workouts to social meet-ups being done via device right now, our relationship with our screens just got updated to ‘it’s serious.’.

Unfortunately, all that screentime is doing more than just racking up wi-fi bills. Our computers and phones emit blue light which, when delivered in concentrated doses, has been found to disrupt sleep and cause damage to eyes and skin (yes, that’s right, the iso-skin you’ve been working so hard to keep fresh).

So, what the heck is blue light?

It’s the sneaky culprit behind skin damage and disrupted beauty sleep. Blue light — also known as ‘artificial visible light (AVL) and high energy visible light (HEVL) — has a similarly short wavelength to ultraviolet light. Blue light plays an essential role in helping our body maintain its natural circadian rhythm (the main source of blue light comes from the sun), it also elevates our mood and helps memory and cognitive function.

How does it affect us?

When emitted in high amounts (from our computers or cellphones, for instance) blue light can cause damage to deep layers of the skin. Unlike UVA and UVB light, blue light penetrates all the way to our dermis (where our collagen and elastin live) and therefore can cause loss of firmness and an increase in visible lines.

For many, exposure to blue light might cause more redness, swelling and hyperpigmentation than UVA. It could also induce inflammation, colour changes and a weakening of the skin’s surface.

Even an hour’s exposure to blue light from electronic devices can cause damage to the lipids (the skin’s natural fats) and proteins, which do essential work for our skin by keeping moisture in, impurities out, as well as a bit of repair work. In short, we don’t want these damaged.

Dr Nadine Pernodet from Estée Lauder explains that exposure to blue light at night can throw the skin’s natural circadian rhythm out of sync, causing skin cells to continue to think it’s daytime, therefore disrupting their natural nighttime repair process. But it’s not just our skin’s circadian rhythm we should be worried about, it’s also our body’s natural rhythm. Blue light affects our levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone), so say goodbye to beauty sleep and hello to all the nasties that come with not getting enough ZZZs; weight gain, weakened immunity system, higher blood pressure, depression and fertility problems (to name but a few).

Blue light, most infamously, has also been connected to damaged eyesight, cataracts, glaucoma and other eye diseases.

How can you combat the effects of blue light exposure?

By using the not-so-secret ingredient all beauty gurus swear by; sunscreen. (Well, to protect your skin anyway — we’ll get to helping your sleep and sight further down.)

That’s right, even from your couch in the middle of winter, slathering on some sunscreen can be your best bet against premature aging, inflammation and all the other bad stuff blue light does. Sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB light don’t do anything to protect from blue light unless they are a physical mineral sunscreen that contains iron oxide (which is known to block visible light). Also look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Antioxidants such as green tea, vit C, ferulic acid, blue algae and pomegranate, will also do wonders for your skin by protecting and healing it from blue light exposure.

But, cosmetic products aren’t just the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to combating blue light. Taking some much-needed time away from the screen will do you a world of good too (you can’t cop the effects of blue light if you’re not exposed to it). When you are looking at your device — especially at night — make sure it’s switched to night mode, this will help your sleep pattern remain normal.

Around the house, buy light bulbs that have warm light instead of ones advertised as ‘daylight’ or ‘cool white’. Warmer light provides better ambience, so it’s a win-win anyway.

For your eyes, there are options such as blue light glasses, which have a special coating that helps prevent blue light and UV rays from passing through. There’s also the option to buy screen covers for your laptop or phone that will do the same thing.

blue light computer

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