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:
- Free radicals production: In real humans, blue light generates the production of free radicals, nasty molecules that destroy collagen and cause wrinkles.
- 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.
- 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!
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:
- DNA damage: UV light causes A LOT of direct DNA damage, while blue light barely causes any.
- Free radicals: Blue light generates way fewer free radicals than UV light.
- Hyperpigmentation: UV rays cause dark spots in everyone, while blue light seems to increase pigmentation only in people with darker skin (and it lasts longer for them, too).
- Inflammation: UV light causes inflammation (one of the main causes of premature aging, acne and inflammatory diseases), while blue light doesn’t.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.