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Study reveals low-energy lightbulbs could be damaging your skin

December 4th 2013 / Judy Johnson Google+ Judy Johnson

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Are the lamps and lights in your home ageing you prematurely? A new study suggests SPF is more necessary than ever as energy-saving bulbs emit UV rays. Judy Johnson reports

A recent study has revealed that it's not only the sun that we need to be wary of when protecting our skin from UVA rays.

The research, which was featured in the British Journal of Dermatology in October*, resulted in the shocking discovery that our very own energy-saving lightbulbs in our homes emit UVA rays, meaning an added risk of premature ageing and skin damage.

Carried out by a team of ultraviolet research scientists, the study looked at the 'latest energy-saving fluorescent bulbs' to see if they pose a risk to photosensitive people or indeed cause changes in the skin of non-sun sensitive ('healthy') individuals.

Though a fairly small study - only 200 patients - the findings are alarming. When testing on those people who suffer with a skin condition that is caused by exposure to sunlight, a number of patients displayed redness; even 10% of the 20 healthy subjects who underwent the test showed a reaction. Both groups were exposed to the lamps which were positioned 5cm away from the inner forearm, and assessments were made immediately and 24 hours later.

The researchers concluded that ultraviolet radiation from these compact fluorescent lamps 'can aggravate the skin of photosensitive and healthy individuals when situated in close proximity'.

Though you may not sit 5cm away from your household lights, the study does cause concern given that it's an additional source of UVA rays. While UVB rays, which cause skin to burn, are present on hot summer days and are blocked by clouds and windows, UVA rays which are proven to cause premature ageing, skin damage and redness, are present all year round and are able to travel through both clouds and windows. As always, the lesson here is that sun cream is a must all year round - broad spectrum for summer and UVA for the cooler months.

Dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe is quite the expert on this topic and agrees that protection is key. While the study didn't look at ageing specifically, his own research and others have proved that small amounts of UVA can lead to skin damage and accelerated ageing.

Dr Lowe explains: "My skin protection advice is to use a SPF15 and UVA protective day cream every morning, year round. This research on UV output of low energy light bulbs makes this habit even more important. Some may ask how you get your vitamin D; my answer, is to take a 1000 IU vitamin D3 supplement daily.”

Dr Lowe recommends protecting skin every morning with his Secret Is Out Lifting Day Cream with SPF15 UVA, £28.

*Fenton, L., Ferguson, J., Ibbotson, S. and Moseley, H. (2013), Energy-saving lamps and their impact on photosensitive and normal individuals. British Journal of Dermatology, 169: 910–915. doi: 10.1111/bjd.12457

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