Should You Wear Sunscreen In Front Of Your Computer?

by Gio
blue light phone computer damage skin

Is Instagram making you age faster?

Hands up if you’re always checking your feed to see what your friends are up to. Plus, all the hours you spend working on your PC. Netflix binges on your iPad. That hour of Kindle reading before sleep.

It feels like you’re spending half your day in front of a screen. And screens emit light. You know where am I going with this…

Are you hurting your skin if you put sunscreen on before looking at a screen? Here’s what the science says:

Do Screens Emit UV Light?

Good news: screens don’t emit UV light.

Bad news: UV light isn’t the only type of light the sun pumps out. It also emits infrared light and visible light.

UV light is by far the most damaging form of light that can hit your skin. So put that sunscreen on every day. But lately, research is showing that visible blue light – the kind screens emit – can be dangerous for some skin types.

Fun fact: blue light is also called high energy visible (HEV) light. If you see a skincare product that promises HEV protection (I’ve seen a few in Korea), now you know what they do.

How effective is your sunscreen? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Sunscreen Audit” Worksheet and find out if your sunscreen is really up to the job:

What Are The Effects On Blue Light On The Skin?

Research on blue light is only at the beginning. So far, it’s showing to do 3 bad things to your skin:

  1. Free radicals production: In real humans, blue light generates the production of free radicals, nasty molecules that destroy collagen and cause wrinkles.
  2. Increased pigmentation: In people with darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick types IV-VI) blue light increases the amount of melanin skin produces, leading to dark spots.
  3. Slow down healing: In hairless mice, skin hit by blue light takes longer to heal.

If that doesn’t make you stop checking your phone so often, I don’t know what will!

Related: How To Neutralise Free Radicals Damage

Is Blue Light More Dangerous Than UV Light?

Nope, it’s actually the other way around. UV light causes way more damage than blue light. Here’s how they compare:

Visible light is less damaging because it takes way more of it to generate free radicals and darken skin. Just to put things into perspective, UV rays are “25 times more efficient in inducing pigmentation” than visible light.

Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?

How To Protect Your Skin From Blue Light

Truth bomb: sunscreen doesn’t work against blue light. Shocking, I know!

So how do you protect your skin from visible blue light, especially if you have dark skin? Two ways:

  1. Antioxidants: Antioxidants destroy free radicals before they can give you wrinkles and dark spots. One study shows that a bunch of antioxidants halves the amount of free radicals blue light produces.
  2. Iron oxide: The main pigment in foundations, it absorbs blue light and protects skin from hyperpigmentation.

Should You Worry About Blue Light From Screens?

It depends. Most people don’t need to worry about the blue light their screens emit. Just use an antioxidant serum to neutralise the few free radicals they produce and you’re good to go.

The only exceptions are:

  • People with darker skin who want to fade away dark spots
  • People who are very sensitive to visible light (usually after undergoing medical treatment)

If that’s you, double down on your antioxidants, wear foundation with iron oxide and – most importantly – turn down the brightness of your computer and phone screens.

Related: What Are The Best Antioxidant Serums?

The Bottom Line

Screens emit blue light that’s not that harmful to most people. If you’re using antioxidants in your skincare, you’re already protecting yourself against them. If you have darker skin or are very sensitive to visible light, turn down the brightness of your screens as much as possible and follow a beauty routine full of antioxidants and iron oxide.

Do you wear sunscreen in front of your computer or other screens? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Trisha February 13, 2013 - 6:40 pm

Well, that’s a load off my mind!

beautifulwithbrains February 13, 2013 - 7:28 pm

Trisha, it’s a relief that at least in front of our computers we don’t have to wear it, isn’t it?

Janessa February 15, 2013 - 5:30 pm

I’m so glad about is. I looked it up myself once I found out about the harm UV rays can inflict. I watched a TED Talk yesterday on sun exposure and heart disease. There are studies that suggest UV rays from the sun activate some sort of enzyme (I forgot the name) and it helps with blood circulation and flow.. Something like that. Sorry I’m so vague, but the conclusion was that UV rays are necessary for heart health.

Janessa February 15, 2013 - 5:30 pm

I want to mention, it’s not just vitamin D that’s essential. The rays interact with skin.

beautifulwithbrains February 15, 2013 - 11:02 pm

Janessa, that’s the first time I hear this. It’s weird dermatologists, when stressing the importance of wearing sunscreen daily, don’t mention this. But then science discovers new things all the time. I will definitely look into it and see what I can find out.

I often read that it takes 30 minutes or so of unprotected sun exposure a week to get the dose of Vitamin D your body needs. It’d be interesting to know how much is necessary for blood circulation too. Not wearing sunscreen every now and then may have some beneficial effects on our health, but the UV rays have also been shown to cause cancer, so we should just exercise caution. Even if this new study showed that wearing sunscreen all the time may have side effects, we shouldn’t go back to wearing it at the beach only. Moderation is always the best policy imo. 🙂

Janessa February 17, 2013 - 12:31 am

Aw, you make me so happy with your thoughtful replies! I am still going to wear sunscreen daily and apply generously but I won’t stay indoors all summer or avoid the sun with umbrellas and hats (unless I am outdoors for many hours). So yes, moderation is key. I, too, wonder how much UV exposure is healthy.

beautifulwithbrains February 17, 2013 - 12:03 pm

I did some digging but I couldn’t find much yet. It seems this research is in its early stages and so far the findings point to the possibility of UV rays having some beneficial effects on blood circulation, but nothing has been proved for certain. Still, I’ll follow any updates as it’s an interesting study. In the meantime, moderation. 🙂

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