Will blue light also accelerate ageing?

If the papers are to be believed there is something new to scare us. That is blue light. Replying to your e-mails, catching up on your favourite Netflix series and that daily dose of whats app, will give you wrinkles. The cosmetics industry wouldn’t be the cosmetics industry, though, if it hadn’t found a solution for this; special blue light creams and serums to protect us against so-called screen face. What does this actually mean?

What precisely is blue light – where is it found?

Blue light is sometimes confused with ultraviolet light. They aren’t the same though. Blue light is a part of visible light, even though it is situated closely to the invisible ultraviolet part. Blue light has a short wavelength and therefore a high amount of energy. Those who have looked into information about blue light have probably come across the term HEV, which stands for High Energy Visible light or in other words light containing a high dose of energy. HEV is not only found in daylight, but also in such things as LED light. Even your mobile phone, laptop, tablet and television screen all radiate HEV light. This HEV light can penetrate deep into your skin. The question then is: how harmful is this?

Is blue light harmful?

DI was somewhat confused when I first read that blue light is bad for skin, because for decades special lamps with blue light have been used to treat skin conditions such as acne. It is therefore time to look into it and share my findings with you!

Free radical formation

I’ll give you the bad news first: there are indeed studies which show that exposure to a high dose of blue light can cause the generation of free radicals. And, just like the free radicals which arise through exposure to UV radiation and pollution, this can eventually cause wrinkles and pigmentation spots. So far, good enough reason to believe the disturbing stories in the media.

However, when I delved a little deeper into the studies, which showed a relationship between blue light and free radical formation, I noticed something significant. Special lamps with a high dose of blue light were used in these tests. In fact, this dose cannot be compared to the amount you get in normal everyday life. Furthermore, the amount of blue light which radiates from a screen onto our skin is also lower than the dose in daylight.

There is, furthermore, another significant point. No relationship between exposure to blue light and skin cancer was found from the studies. The DNA damage which occurs through UVA and UVB radiation is not apparent in exposure to blue light. And the pigmentation spots which were caused by the blue light disappeared again. So an interesting fact is: did you know that ‘simple’ heat can also cause free radicals and pigmentation spots to form?

The positive effects of blue light

As I indicated above, I also found good news. A large number of studies actually describe the positive characteristics of blue light. This part of the solar spectrum, as with UV light, can improve our mood and produce vitamin D. Blue light also strengthens the immune system, makes us alert and can even have an antibacterial effect. This last reason is why lamps with blue light have been used to treat acne for a long time. A recent study even showed that exposure to this part of the light spectrum has an advantageous effect on veins and arteries and can lower blood pressure.

No filters for creams to block blue light

For me, this all leads to the logical conclusion that it is not wise to block out blue light completely. If you were to do that, then you wouldn’t really know what the negative effects are. There aren’t actually any filters which can do this; there is no such thing as a special blue light filter for creams.

Filters that can block out a small portion of the blue light are zinc oxide, titanium oxide and Tinosorb M; all other sun filters have no effect on blue light. Another piece of information for you is that iron oxide, used in foundations and powders, can also block out a portion of the blue light. It is indeed useful to reduce the free radical damage which occurs through light. There are, however, no special antioxidants for this; in fact all the usual antioxidants, such as vitamin C, B3 (niacinamide) and E plus many more, are very suitable for this.

Less time spent behind the screen is a good idea

Do you want my advice? Make sure that you get enough antioxidants into your skin via your skincare products and diet (i.e. lots of fruit and vegetables), but don’t spend a fortune on special anti-blue light creams.

Since it has been proven that too much blue light is not so good for our sleeping pattern, I think that we should also spend less time behind computer or telephone screens, especially in the evenings. That will also benefit in another way, as a good night’s sleep, sufficient relaxation and minimal stress work wonders for your skin. It remains one of the best recipes for a fresh and healthy complexion.

Kind regards,

Jetske.

Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology

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