According to a study by Unilever Skincare Research, four eight-hour workdays in front of a computer exposes the skin to the same amount of energy as 20 minutes in the mid- afternoon sun. With millennials reportedly checking their phone up to 150 times a day and clocking more than 10 hours of screen time daily, blue light – or High Energy Visible (HEV) light – is shown to cause oxidative stress on the skin and create free radicals which threaten the integrity of collagen structures deep within the epidermis.
Susceptible to the blue light emitted from smartphones, computers and tablets, the fragile skin round the eyes is under the strain of 22 muscles in perpetual motion to help coordinate 10,000 blinks per day. As one of the first areas of the face to age naturally due to the lack of sebaceous glands, HEV light can exacerbate the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging due to protein loss while slowing the skin’s healing processes which in turn leaves damaged cells in a state of senescence leading to unwanted pigmentation such as melasma.
“Blue light silently assaults the skin,” says EXYRA founder, Raymond Seubelan. “Unlike UV rays which can trigger immediate erythema and edema, blue light initially goes unnoticed but can, over time, weaken our skin’s barrier function and accelerate photo-ageing.”
A 2014 study by industry journal Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research also saw researchers compare skin exposed to blue light with skin exposed to UVB rays, the type of ultraviolet light that’s most closely associated with sunburns and skin cancer. While the skin exposed to blue light showed no signs of cancer growth, it did confirm that darker skin types are more vulnerable to blue light induced pigmentation around the forehead and eyes. Dubbed ‘screen face’, this melasma was recorded up to 3-months post the study.
The Links to UV Exposure
Over the past few decades, a lot of research has looked at the negative effects of UV (Ultra-Violet) radiation on the skin. UV exposure is known to cause sunburn in the short term, and prolonged exposure can cause premature skin aging, as well as raising the long-term risk of diseases including skin cancer.
UV rays are close to HEV light on the electromagnetic spectrum. A 2017 study on blue light suggested that it triggers the release of damaging ‘Reactive Oxygen Species’ (or ROS) in a similar way to UVA rays. Other studies have produced similar findings, suggesting that blue-light exposure leads to the production of potentially damaging free radicals.
This research suggests that both UV and blue light can harm the skin, but the effects of UV have attracted a lot more attention. Many people who avoid the sun and wear sunscreen do nothing to protect themselves from blue light. Scientists fear this could cause problems in years to come.