How to Protect Skin From Blue Light Damage, According to Dermatologists

Your tech devices may be causing premature signs of aging.

blue light damage

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We know we need to keep our skin protected from sunlight — but what about blue light? According to experts, the light emitted by our tech devices can wreak havoc on our skin, including speeding up signs of aging. One way to avoid this is to put our phones down and spend less time staring at screens (of course, easier said than done). Another way is to use products that defend against blue light damage — but what would those be, exactly? For instance, does sunscreen protect from blue light? We tapped dermatologists to find out.

Ahead, learn all about blue light, including what it is, how it affects the skin, and what you can do to stay protected from damage.

What Is Blue Light?

As it turns out, there's a specific type of light emitted from the screens of our tech devices called blue light. Technically, blue light is everywhere and can even come from the sun. However, with the increase in screen time, skincare experts have noticed its direct impact on the skin.

"Blue light is part of the visible spectrum of light," says Dr. Brendan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. "Think of the mnemonic ROYGBIV (the sequence of colors that make up the rainbow) — blue light represents a specific wavelength of light in the electromagnetic spectrum."

"It's everywhere," says Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Most of the blue light we encounter is from the sun, however, LED lights tend to emit a lot in the blue spectrum, and the lights that we see from television, computers, and our phones, often have a significant amount of blue light."

And while blue light is emitted from the sun, Dr. Camp says it isn't the same as UVA and UVB rays since it doesn't penetrate the skin as deeply, and therefore, isn't associated with sunburns or skin cancer.

The Effects of Blue Light on Skin

The tricky thing about blue light is that there are both potential benefits and negative impacts on the skin. "The power of blue light is captured by dermatologists to treat acne and other skin conditions, including pre-cancerous growths when used in combination with certain medications," says Dr. Camp.

However, when exposed to blue light via artificial sources, such as your phone screen, a study found that it can lead to hyperpigmentation in those with darker skin. Blue light can also contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. "A small study suggests that exposure to blue light might stimulate the production of free radicals in the skin, which can accelerate the appearance of aging," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick tells us.

Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that can damage cellular structures like DNA, lipids, and proteins, explains Dr. Camp. When those structures are damaged, it can contribute to the formation of aging skin, such as wrinkles.

VIDEO: How to Treat Under-Eye Wrinkles, According to Skincare Experts

How to Protect Skin From Blue Light

There are a few expert-approved ways to defend against blue light damage — and they don't involve a digital detox:

  • Use a physical sunscreen: All the experts say the best defense against blue light damage is to use sunscreen with iron oxide. "Oftentimes, you need more opaque blockers to protect the skin from blue light," says Dr. Henry. "A common blue light blocker is iron oxide, which is seen in many sunscreens — particularly tinted sunscreens as iron oxide is used to create the tint."
  • Invest in antioxidant-rich skincare: "Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, can also help quench the effects of free oxygen radicals that may be formed as a result of blue light exposure," adds Dr. Camp.
  • Dim your tech devices: Additionally, dimming your computer or cell phone screen is another way to reduce the intensity of blue-light exposure.
  • Try a blue light screen protector: You may have seen blue light glasses being marketed to defend your eyes from blue light, but there are also blue light screen protectors that offer even more protection. Available for your phone and computer, they can help to offset the visible light effects and alleviate any eye strain or headaches caused by screen exposure.
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