We’re all familiar with protecting our skin from UVA and UVB, but there’s a third type of light that causes damage and we’re exposed to it at all times of day, even inside our homes. Blue light, AKA high energy visible light (HEV), is emitted from both the sun and artificial light such as our TVs, phones and tablets – even the lighting in our houses. As a result, we’re seriously overexposed to it.
“In our modern lifestyles we’re super-saturating ourselves with blue light via huge digital exposure,” explains GP and skin specialist Dr Johanna Ward. “Unlike UV radiation the threat from blue light doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. It’s in our homes, on our laps and in our hands for prolonged periods of time each and every day through our tech.”
Since working from home we’re exposing ourselves significantly more than before, she continues, bathing ourselves in blue light from the moment we wake up and check Instagram to when we go to bed and watch Netflix. We also come into much closer contact with blue light too, with our phones inches from our faces much of the time.
“Blue light damage, or digital ageing, presents itself via accelerated ageing,” says Dr Jo. “You’ll often see pigmentation , wrinkles, fine lines, sagging, collagen damage, a weakened skin barrier and skin sensitivity.”
Blue light ageing happens at the deepest level in our skin (deeper than both UVA and UVB), hitting us where it hurts in the level that creates collagen and elastin, hence the ageing. It also acts as a conductor for UVA and UVB, pulling them deeper into the skin and increasing their damage by up to 158 per cent, according to Dr Jo.
As well as the effect it has on our skin, blue light also disrupts our circadian rhythm, making us sleep-deprived, which in turn inhibits the production of sleep hormone melatonin which we need to stay healthy.
Dr Jo tells us that it’s early days in terms of research into the long-term effects of blue light, but science is emerging that damage from HEV is cumulative and can begin from when we’re babies and first exposed to screens. She also notes that we have blue light receptors all over our body, so it can be absorbed everywhere. Yikes!
What can we do about blue light skin damage?
Luckily it’s fairly easy to protect yourself from blue light, as Dr Jo explains.
1. Apply topical antioxidant
Everyone should have antioxidants in their skincare regime, says Dr Jo. She name-checks lycopene, verbascum and rice oil, alongside more familiar ingredients vitamin C , vitamin E, ferulic acid and vitamin A. “If you combine these into a cocktail they enhance one another’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers,” she says. She advises applying a variety of antioxidants for the broadest range of benefits.
2. Eat an antioxidant heavy diet
Eating the rainbow will calm inflammation and neutralise free radicals caused by HEV that harm your skin. By eating antioxidants as well as applying them topically, you’ll address the issue that blue light is absorbed all over the body.
3. Wear a broad spectrum SPF
SPF alone will not protect you from HEV Dr Jo warns, but combined with antioxidants it will have a fighting chance. Many SPFs are now formulated with blue light protection too, so look out for these.
4. Apply your nighttime skincare as soon as you get home
We take great care applying our morning cocktail of antioxidant vitamin C followed by SPF, but performing a thorough skin routine as soon as you get home, before settling down for a night in front of Netflix, is key in limiting HEV damage.
Much of our blue light explore happens of an evening, so get into the habit of applying your artificial light protector after cleansing, as soon as you get home to limit damage.
5. Buy a blue light screen protector
To limit the effects of blue light, you can buy blue light blocking screen covers for your devices as well as blue light glasses to protect your eyesight.
The best blue light skincare
Skincare designed specifically to protect us from the damage caused by blue light is an emerging trend; here are the ones we recommend.
This plant-based serum protects from blue light in the day and supports skin renewal overnight. It's clinically proven to block 100 per cent of HEV blue light and contains antioxidants vitamin E and E, along with a cocktail of argan oil, omega oils and cornflower. After cleansing when you get home, this is a joy to use as the second step in your blue light combatting regime.
This light mist was created to be used following long periods of screen time (every day, then?). It helps to combat exposure and can be sprayed on top of makeup without disrupting it. Antioxidant-wise, this includes dandelion extract to reduce inflammation and oxidisation and marrubium vulgare extract, an antioxidant that neutralises free radicals.
Founder Susanne Kaufmann says she uses this post-cleansing and before her serum for an extra layer of blue light protection. "This way, it can be absorbed directly and protects the skin from negative environmental influences such as air pollution and radiation from digital devices," she tells us. The ingredients line up includes butterfly bush flower extract and silk protein and keeps skin glowing no matter how long your screen time report says you spent on your phone.
This powerhouse helps to protect the skin against five of the most damaging forms of modern pollution; atmospheric pollution, particulate matter, household chemicals, infrared rays, and electronic screens blue light.
Launched in July 2021 this SPF comes out of the tube fairly thick, with a slightly yellow tint but quickly melts into the skin and is undetectable, leaving a dewy finish in its wake. There's no surprise it's a little heavier than other SPFs; it offers UVA, UVB and advanced blue light protection too, as well as a pollution shield and infrared light protection too.
Stand by for more digital ageing protection skincare as it launches!