HEV is the shortest wavelength of light, and you may have heard it referred to as blue or violet light. The sun is the main source of HEV light, but a host of other things including our screens also emit it, so every time you’re in front of your tablet, computer, mobile phone, or even under a fluorescent light, you’re being exposed to it.
But do you need to protect your skin specifically from HEV and, if you don’t, what is the damage likely to be? We spoke to the experts to get the lowdown.
How do I know if I’m being exposed to HEV light?HEV light is visible, hence the name – so if there’s light glaring at you and it isn’t your bog-standard lightbulb, it’s likely that its emitting HEV. And you’ll definitely be exposed to it every time you’re under the sun and looking at any devices, though the two aren’t equal, as Etre Vous Expert Dr Emmaline Ashley, Clinical Director at Ashley Aesthetics explains.
"You will get most of your exposure from the sun," she confirms. "Even estimates of the worst case scenario of blue light exposure from screens (sitting in front of one all day at the highest brightness) show that visible light from screens is barely a fraction of what we get after just 15 minutes in the sun, so there is no evidence at this time it is really worth worrying about."
What does HEV light damage look like?The answer to this is a little vague: "HEV light penetrates deeper than UVA and can therefore cause premature photo-ageing and induce hyperpigmentation, melanoma, and even post-inflammatory pigmentation," cautions Etre Vous Expert Dr Raqual Amado, Founder of Dr Raquel Skin and Medical Cosmetics.
Dr Ashley adds similar concerns – but with a few nuances: "Whether or not HEV light can damage our skin has been a topic of debate and concern for quite a few years now. We know that some exposure to blue light is not harmful, and in fact we use blue light in treating various skin conditions. However, the concern is the potential effect of high doses of light over a longer period of time.
"A lot of exposure to HEV leads to the creation of reactive oxygen species, which we know have the potential to cause inflammation to the skin and could potentially lead to irritation, increased sensitivity, pigmentation and of course skin ageing."
And since we are exposed to HEV light even when the sun goes down, thanks to all our screen time - it's worth erring on the side of caution.
How exactly does HEV light damage skin?Just like UVA rays, HEV light generates free radicals – aka the reactive oxygen species Dr Ashley referred to. The result? A breakdown of collagen and elastin thanks to oxidative stress, causing skin to age prematurely and potentially leading to the many skin issues listed above.
Will an ordinary SPF protect my skin from HEV light?Dr Ashley advises that regular sunscreens won’t quite cut it: "Research supports that tinted physical sunscreens will give good protection against visible light, where the iron oxides used to create the tint absorb blue light. Chemical tinted sunscreens likely offer decent protection as well, and for this same reason wearing foundation or concealer offers even better protection against visible light." Ashley adds that should you choose to wear makeup to protect yourself from HEV light, you still need to wear an SPF underneath to protect your skin from UV damage.
And when it comes to times when you're not wearing an SPF but you're still using your devices, Dr Amado advises that it’s worth turning lights to night mode where possible, and to get HEV screen protectors.
How do I undo HEV light damage?The approach to this is much the same as a reversal of all oxidative stress, with vitamin C leading the way at mopping up the damage of free radicals. There is also evidence to suggest that good facials can help – though that said, prevention of further damage is the best and most foolproof way to mitigate the appearance of further ageing, so daily SPF and a reduction of exposure is the best way to make skin healthier.
Our top HEV protectors...ZO Skin Health Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50
This lightweight SPF shields skin from UVA, UVB, and HEV light, and is packed with antioxidants to help protect from free radical damage.
Alumier MD Sheer Hydration Broad Spectrum
This physical sunscreen uses a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to shield skin – plus it contains vitamin E to help top up moisture.
Epionce Daily Shield Tinted SPF 50
A good choice if you’re going for an outdoor swim; as well as offering broad-spectrum coverage, this is water resistant for 80 minutes.
Heliocare 360 Fluid Cream
After a healthy glow? Get this one, as it leaves skin looking nice and dewy while thoroughly protecting it too.
Emmaline Ashley, Aesthetic Doctor
I'm Dr Emmaline Ashley, the founder of Ashley Aesthetics. I'm passionate about beauty, wellness and science. I wanted to combine all of my loves into creating...Book with Emmaline Ashley
Raquel Amado, Director
I am a personal aesthetic doctor who helps professional women to improve and delay the signs of ageing, boosting their confidence through a medically-tested...Book with Raquel Amado