Each one of us clocks long screen times these days, more so since we are now working from home or are in lockdowns because of COVID-19. We are daily exposed to significant amount of blue light from laptops, smartphones and monitors for long hours. And no matter how badly we might wish, buts its not easy ditching the blue light emitting devices. We all know that blue light leads to headaches and eye fatigue, but blue light might just cause early skin aging as well.
Taking about the basic physics: Light is made up of electromagnetic waves which emit energy, and are characterized by different wave lengths and energy they pack. Shorter wavelengths pack higher energy & Every wavelength is represented by a different color. Normally its categorized into different rays e.g. gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet (UV) rays, visible light, infrared light etc.
Human eye perceives only one part of this spectrum: the visible light. That part of the electromagnetic spectrum which is seen as colors: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. Blue light (courtesy its short wavelength) packs a high amount of energy. A natural source of blue light is hence actually sunlight; the source of natural visible spectrum of light.
Apart from sun, we are exposed to quite high doses of blue light from our devices and LED lights and this exposure is more concentrated due to proximity of the emitting source.
Research is now pouring in about how blue light might be causing early and accelerated aging, resulting in wrinkles, pigmentation and sagging skin.
Multiple studies from pioneer journalsmention thatBlue light probably triggers overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), popularly known as free radicals in skin, leading to a cascade of inflammatory processes and collagen breakdown, cellular damage and increased melanin deposition.
Blue light notably penetrates deeper than UV-A and UV-B light so the skin damage with blue light from devices is even more than routine sunlight exposure as the source is in proximity to skin.
Blue light is an important regulatory factor in our circadian rhythm (aka Day- Night balance of our body’s metabolic and hormonal systems) by regulation of MELATONIN aka sleep hormone. Blue light from sunlight is beneficial during daylight hours because it boosts attention and mood but is disruptive at night. And the popularity of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient LED lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.
Exposure to blue light from screens after sunset throws the circadian balance off its normal track by tricking our body systems that its still daytime and decrease our body’s (and our skin’s) capability to switch on the repair processes that take place during night. So this phenomenon not only affects our skin health but also plays around with our immunity, wound healing capacity, mental proficiency, hormone homeostasis, body metabolism and our emotional health.
Coming to skin health, the onslaught of free radical damage due to repeated blue light exposure slows the neocollagenesis (new collagen synthesis) and hinders the clearance of degraded old collagen fibres; contributing immensely to wrinkles, dark spots and also open pores owing to poor skin elasticity. Using a smartphone touching your cheeks can lead to or aggravate the pigmentation on sides of face, notably the Pigmentary Demarcation Lines (PDLs) which are very resistant to most of brightening agents.
The skin around eyes bears the burnt even more because it is manifold thinner than rest of facial skin. So photo aging due to blue light affects it even more adversely.
Dark Circles result from two simultaneous or independent phenomenon happening in the periorbital area. First is the melanin deposition in epidermis or dermis resulting in brown/ blue colored appearance, another is bluish hue because of the blood pooling in capillaries (owing to poor collagen support) in skin around eyes. The bluish hue of pooled blood, melanin deposition and the fragility of thin skin together lead to dark circles or under eye shadows.
Indian under eye skin is innately more prone to early aging and dark circles due to ethnic factors like high pigmentation propensity, deep orbital sockets and poor collagen support. The fact that most Indian women have osteoporosis and poor calcium and Vitamin D levels just adds further to the dark circles by deepening orbitals sockets.
However even though our lives revolve around our gadgets, we can still do something to take care of the damage from blue light.
The key to tackle blue light induced skin and health hazards is minimizing blue light exposure, strengthening body’s defense against free radical damage and including anti aging skincare.
LIFESTYLE MEASURES FOR DECREASING BLUE LIGHT EXPOSURE
- Increase the intake of antioxidant rich foods in diet, especially the bright colored fruits and vegetables (rainbow diet), nuts, pulses, legumes and dry fruits, to counter the oxidative damage to body as well skin.
- Minimize exposure to devices and screens after sunset. Atleast shun the devices an hour before sleep.
- Try using devices in night mode as the blue light emission is considerably reduced in night mode.
- Try using a computer in place of smartphone if possible. Phones emit higher amounts and are closer to skin so cause more damage.
- Try going hands free with your phone as the blue light from cellphones can cause pigmentation of skin along sides of face.
SKINCARE TRICKS TO DECREASE SKIN DAMAGE BY BLUE LIGHT
- Incorporate anti aging products with actives like Retinol, Peptides, Vitamin C and Glycolic acid to your existing under eye skincare regime to help decrease pigmentation and increase collagen production.
- Include a lot of antioxidants in your skincare e.g. Red algae extract, cocoa extracts, green tea, ferulic acid and Vitamin E.
- Wear your sunscreens even when indoors. Look for sunscreens offering broad spectrum protection and protection from visible light as well.
- Many skincare brands now offer products claiming to have formulations that promise to counter blue light induced skin damage. It is indeed worth observing objectively how they fare compared to standard anti aging therapies.
While it’s nearly impossible to avert all the side effects of Blue light on our health and skincare, it is indeed in our hand to strike the right balance between our screen times and good self care.