If you think “tech neck” is the only beauty evil bestowed by your phone or laptop, it’s time to think again. Melanie Morris learns more about what blue light is doing to our skin...
Okay, who wants some depressing news? There’s a new evil on the skincare block, and it’s in the air that you breathe. Blue light, also known as high-energy visible (HEV) light is a wavelength of light including blue to violet light.
It is the highest energy wavelength of visible light with a wavelength frequency surpassed only by UV rays, X-rays and gamma rays. Blue light comes from the sun, as well as screens, phones, TVs, LED and fluorescent lighting, and has been acknowledged as a skin aggressor and ager, which means every time you snap a selfie, log on to your laptop or scroll through Instagram, your skin is exposed to its damaging effects. And in our digitally obsessed world, studies show we clock more than ten hours of screen time every day. So, blue light is a “thing”, and it’s a negative one for a few reasons.
Firstly, exposure to it, when combined with harmful UVA/UVB rays from sunlight, can accelerate skin damage. In fact, research suggests that blue light may penetrate deeper into skin than UVB rays, and trigger damage that contributes to wrinkles, sagging, hyperpigmentation and other signs of ageing.
Furthermore, studies have shown that blue light can mess up the body’s circadian rhythm – the body’s intuitive flow of hormones that tell night from day, prepare us for sleep and triggers the skin’s active repair process. Regeneration only happens at night, so miss out on this, and pretty soon the effects of ageing appear to accelerate – the complexion starts to look dull, lines form, and cellular activity slows down.
Normal UV filters/ SPF do not protect our skin from blue light, so we need added ingredients such as high-grade antioxidants. Protect the skin with antioxidants such as vitamin C serum and mineral/physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, and wear make-up as a barrier between our skin and the HEV and infrared energies emitted by modern screen devices.
So now we need protection against not just the sun, but also light’s harmful rays – indoors as well as outside. And we need to be vigilant, night and day. However, not all blue lights are the same, and sometimes blue light can have positive effects. Beauty therapist Nuala Woulfe uses it in the form of LED to treat acne and inflamed skin: “Blue light kills the acne-causing bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), which can cause inflammation,” she says.
“P. acnes is sensitive to blue light, so using this light eliminates the bacteria found in the oil glands in the dermis. Blue light therapy becomes photodynamic when it uses a combination of photosynthesising (or light-sensitive) drugs and a high-intensity light source to activate them, used in the treatment of many dermatologic conditions.”
In terms of skincare, normal UV filters/ SPF do not protect our skin from blue light, so we need added ingredients such as high-grade antioxidants. Protect the skin with antioxidants such as vitamin C serum and mineral/physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, and wear make-up as a barrier between our skin and the HEV and infrared energies emitted by modern screen devices.
“The skin naturally contains antioxidants such as vitamin E,” says Woulfe, “but these antioxidants are quickly used up when the skin is exposed to excess free radicals such as UV light, visible blue light and other environmental factors such as pollution. Applying topical antioxidants in the form of good skincare, as well as eating a diet rich in antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables, can boost our skin’s defence against oxidative environmental damage.”
Skincare isn’t the only route to protection from blue light. “You can use a blue light filter on your phone or change the settings on your computer to reduce blue light emissions,” advises Woulfe. “Not only can taking these simple steps to protect your skin, but they’ll also help protect your eyes, too. F.lux is a free app for Mac, Windows, and Linux computers that makes the colour of your screen display adapt to the time of day, filtering out the blue hue.”
1. Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex, €54 Overrides blue light’s catabolic effects to restore night-time repair of skin cells around the eyes.
2. SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, €150. A cult hero serum that feeds the skin with generous, active doses of antioxidant vitamin C and E to protect from free radical damage associated with the environment, pollution and light.
3. BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Defense, €45 A 100% mineral- based, vegan formula shield to protect against UV, pollution and blue light; tinted to even out the complexion and o er a bit of added glow. Also with SPF30.
4. Shiseido Essential Energy Eye Definer, €36 Created to combat “digital eye fatigue” with ingredients to de-pu, energise, and activate muscle cells to promote wide-open eyes.
Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.