We spend hours every day close up to electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, and televisions. We know that staring at screens is damaging to our eyesight, shortening our concentration spans and memory, and can affect our sleep patterns. But the latest question being asked by dermatologists is: “Is this intimate interaction with technology ageing our skin?”
Everyone knows about the dangerous effects of UVA and UVB light from the sun, but what about the blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) rays from our electronic devices?
What is blue or high energy visible light?
Blue light, also known as high energy visible (HEV) light, is high-frequency light in the violet/blue band from 400 to 500 nm in the visible spectrum.
HEV light is present in daylight, but it's also emitted by fluorescent lighting and LEDs, including TV screens, smartphones, tablets and computers.
HEV light has been shown to generate the same number of free radicals in the skin as those produced by UVA and UVB combined.
The research on blue light
Not all scientists and skincare experts are in agreement that there’s sufficient concrete evidence regarding the detrimental impact of HEV light on our skin. There is some research that suggests that HEV light may be harmful. Because electronic devices have rapidly become indispensable in our lifestyles, research on the specific effects of HEV light is still developing.
Scientists know that HEVs light penetrates our skin more deeply than UV rays and studies on the way HEV impacts DNA suggests that it could accelerate photo aging (skin changes commonly associated with sun damage).
The results of a study commissioned by skincare company, Lipo Chemicals, in 2013 indicated that HEV light may significantly affect the skin’s inflammatory cascade and its progression to healing, barrier recovery, cell cycles and melanogenesis. However, as this study was commissioned by a personal care ingredients supplier, there is the potential for some bias. To date, there is little research aside from this study on the effects of HEV on the skin.
Suggested harmful effects of blue light
Possible skin damage caused by HEV radiation is associated with the generation of free radicals and the induction of oxidative stress.
HEV penetrates more deeply than the sun's UV rays into layers of skin, where collagen, hyaluronic acid or elastin reside and therefore its damage may be worse than UVB or UVA. Like UVA, cellular damage caused by HEV radiation is termed silent as it is less direct than the immediate visible burn generated by UVB.
It is thought that HEV light may cause:
-Uneven skin pigmentation
-Reduced barrier function and increased skin fragility
-Indirect DNA damage from the oxidative stress
-Skin damage equivalent to UVA and UVB combined
There is no evidence of HEV light causing skin cancer.
Many dermatologists are sceptical regarding the possible skin damage caused by HEV light. More research is required.
HEV light could be a source of premature ageing and given how much time we all spend in front of screens, HEV light exposure is something we should consider protecting ourselves against until substantial evidence is produced, one way or the other.
Until more evidence is available it’s advisable to use a broad-spectrum, five-star UVA high protection sunscreen every day. There are beauty creams that have also been developed to protect our skin from HEV light.
So whether or not you're concerned about the light from your electronic devices, it's always important to protect your skin against damage from all light sources with an SPF (30 or above) sunscreen.