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Is your electronic device destroying your skin?

UV rays aren't the only beauty saboteurs - visible blue light can also wage war on your skin

Most of us are now aware of the harmful effects of UV light and the importance of good sun protection. However, the molecular effect of High Energy Visible Light (HEV or HEVL) on the skin is a fairly recent discovery and worth knowing about.
So what exactly are these effects? As well as UV and infrared light which are both invisible, the sunlight spectrum also consists of visible light which can be detected by the human eye.

As well as potentially affecting eye health, studies have shown that HEV Light – the blue-violet band from 380 to 450 nm in the visible spectrum – can cause skin photoageing, thanks to the short wavelength light rays and high energy level.

Just like UVA rays, it does this by penetrating the skin and generating free radicals, which cause skin cells to produce enzymes that attack and break down collagen and elastin.

This process is called oxidative stress – it’s responsible for premature sun damage, as well as wrinkles and sagging. This complex light source can also cause pigmentation, melasma, age spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

But sunlight isn’t the only source of HEV light you need to be aware of, as blue light is also man-made.

Smartphone usage has increased by almost 50 per cent during the pandemic, but did you know that your device could be damaging your health and ageing your skin tenfold, thanks to the blue light being emitted?

While the HEV light that comes from your computer, tablet or smartphone is only a fraction of that emitted by the sun, daily screen time for some people can be extensive, which has led to opticians and other healthcare professionals voicing their concern.  

"The widespread and increasing use of smartphones, tablets and laptops have led to a significant increase in exposure to short-wavelength visible light – specifically blue light, on skin," says Aesthetic Nurse and Etre Vous expert Anna Baker.

"This is an area of evolving research in terms of understanding the extent to which this may damage skin. To date, we understand that blue light triggers oxidative stress which damages healthy cells, contributing to visible signs of ageing. Equally, there is growing evidence which suggests that blue light may worsen or trigger hyperpigmentation in skin of colour."
Baker recommends limiting the amount of blue light emitted from devices to minimise exposure, and ultimately damage. "For example, some phones have settings which reduce or change the screen tone. It is also advisable to choose an SPF which not only has broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, but also offers protection against blue light."

But it’s not all bad news, as some blue light exposure can help your memory, boost alertness, elevate mood and regulate the body’s circadian rhythm for quality sleep – resist the temptation to update your social media just before bedtime though, as too much blue light can also disrupt your sleep cycle.

And for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), light therapy relies on HEV – the bright white light used contains significant amounts of blue light rays.

Many beauty brands are addressing HEV damage with targeted skincare products – Baker recommends SkinBetter Science Tone Smart SPF50 Sunscreen Compact.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Defense SPF30 contains cacao extract to help protect skin against the blue light emitted by electronic screens; according to the brand, it’s the first mineral-based all-in-one to do this.

Ask your doctor or dermatologist for ZO Skin Health Sunscreen + Powder, which contains fractionated melanin, said to provide protection against blue light (HEV) that is emitted both from the sun and from electronic devices.

Heliocare also has combined broad-spectrum UV and HEVL protection in its suncare formulas.

Anna Baker, Aesthetic Nurse, Trainer & Qualified Educator

My name is Anna Baker, I am a full time Aesthetic Nurse, Trainer and Qualified Educator. I split my practice between...

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