With the general population spending over three hours on social media alone per day, and plenty more at work or perched in front of Netflix, the health impact of all this screen time has become an ever-present concern.
Now, we’ve all heard about the impact screen time can have on our eyes, and after months of WFHing we can certainly feel our posture taking a hit. But many will be surprised to learn of the link between the time we spend in front of our phones, laptops and TVs and the damage all of this can do to our skin. But how exactly is the damage caused, what does it look like, and what can we do to repair it, and get our skin glowing again?
What Is Blue Light?
Well, it all starts with something called blue light, aka high-energy visible light (HEV light), a band of electromagnetic waves that are visible to the human eye. Blue light is composed of short, high-energy waves that are only slightly longer and less powerful than ultraviolet (UV) waves.
Now, all colours of visible light are present all around us, but we take in a lot of blue light. The sun emits blue light, as do light bulbs, and devices that rely on light-emitting diode (LED) technology, including tablets, mobile phones, computer screens, and TVs.
What The Experts Say
Aesthetic doctor and anti-ageing skin expert, Dr Rekha Tailor, explains that HEV light is just as present as UV rays, but little is mentioned of it in the way that we hear of potential UV rays damaging our health.
“HEV light influences skin conditions and can cause skin to age prematurely,” says Dr Tailor. “UV light penetrates the outer layers of the skin, HEV light penetrates the lower layers, the dermis.”
And while there isn’t a link between HEV light and skin cancer or sunburn like UV rays, Dr Tailor goes on to explain that it is “associated with ageing and can also induce hyperpigmentation and may contribute to conditions such as age spots and sun spots.”
When it comes to our skin, sun damage is generally the main cause of pigmentation issues. But these days people spend so much time in front of screens, that blue light is also a cause.
The impact this blue light can have on our sleep patterns is also a concern for our skin health. A 2019 study found that the heavy use of blue light throws off the skin’s natural circadian rhythm, which is used to keep skin healthy and reset at night. Over-exposure to blue light can trigger cells to believe it is daytime even when it is night, so that they are not rejuvenating efficiently.
None of us are exempt from these harmful rays. As Dr Tailor elaborates, “many people believe that dark skin is not susceptible to sun damage; however although dark skin tones are less likely to burn, people of every skin tone can get sunburnt or sun-damaged skin. Equally HEV light is just as damaging to skin of any colour. So it’s not just fair-skinned people who need to protect against it.”
How Can We Limit The Damage?
There are a number of ways that we can try and limit the damage to our skin from all things harmful, HEV rays included. When researching ways to protect ourselves, the amount of information available can be overwhelming, and often conflicting.
Here are five great ways that we can limit the damage that HEV rays have on our skin, all approved by Dr Tailor.
Don’t Forget Your Moisturiser
With so many skincare brands available at our fingertips, there are plenty of options when it comes to great moisturisers and skincare products to protect the skin. It’s absolutely vital that our daily skincare regime includes not only UVA and UVB protection, along with SPF, but that there is also HEV protection in there too. A 2010 study found that these creams could also be useful for those with photoaggravated dermatoses and hyperpigmentation.
Dr Tailor recommends looking for brands that are lightweight and non-comedogenic, so that the protection isn’t having an adverse effect on skin health in other ways. Those who can’t be without their makeup can also find many foundations and primers with built-in protection.
Be Wise About Your Usage
Although we all hate to get the dreaded Screen Time message pop up each week telling us how much we’ve been glued to our phones, it’s a helpful tool to control our doom-scrolling. After all, it’s important to remember that the best thing we can do is limit our time spent in front of screens.
But, if you rely on using electronic devices in your day-to-day life, you may find limiting the time that you spend on them hard. If so, you can download software like Redshift, which works in the background to adjust the colour temperature of your screens to suit your surroundings.
Studies show that changing the spectral output of LED devices could even be introduced to reduce the adverse health and skin effects associated with blue light.
Ramp Up The Skincare Routine
Retinoids are some of the best anti-ageing treatments out there, and Dr Tailor recommends applying them topically to add another level of treatment to your skincare routine. Derived from vitamin A, they help to increase collagen production and plump skin, encouraging skin regeneration to improve the appearance and texture.
Creams and serums that are high in antioxidants are also worth using. Vitamin C, green tea, and others can help to repair damage already endured, but also help to prevent further damage by protecting the skin.
Physical Shields Help Too
In order to maximise the effects of protection, we can use as many options as are available to us. Protecting our skin using the right skincare, and reducing the impact that has been had on our skin with retinoids are both great options, but there are physical shields that can help too.
Anti-blue light screen protectors for laptops, TVs, mobile phones and more, are now regularly available, and can also improve sleep and protect eyes, especially when you’re scrolling late at night in bed.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
You can treat pigmentation you may have received as a result of too much blue light with non-surgical treatment options.
Co2 laser treatments can offer patients a dramatic skin rejuvenation. “It is a key treatment for those suffering with aged and sun-damaged skin with pigmentation,” explains Dr Tailor. By using an advanced fractionated carbon dioxide laser, the skin is treated with a matrix of light.
There is another option of IPL laser treatments which are specifically designed to target sun damage, brown spots, age spots, redness and fine lines. Dr Tailor recommends this treatment to those who may have the more harsh effects of HEV damage, as it is a process that can take around six treatments.