By Crystal Martin Maybe you have heard more about the dangers of blue light lately because we are more likely to be at home and online. Our laptops, cell phones, tablets, televisions, and even LED light bulbs are blue light sources. And now that we are glued to our devices, are we soaking in that light? Should we be more concerned about the damage our skin suffers? Read: WhatsApp: How to put music in your states?

Here’s what we know: Compared to the well-understood dangers of ultraviolet light (skin aging and cancer), the effects of indoor blue light sources on the skin are unclear to science. It can lead to hyperpigmentation and premature aging, but the rest – what’s the problem dose, for example – has been debated since before we were locked up at home.

We consult experts in blue light and dermatology to help explain the true risks.

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What is blue light?

When we think of the harmful effects of light, we are generally thinking of ultraviolet (UV) light, which is invisible. But we can see the blue light. You may perceive it as a cool-hued white light (such as from LED spotlights), or you may not see blue at all because your indoor light sources are emitting variable wavelengths that combine to create the colors. that you perceive.

Although the effects of blue light on the skin are not yet fully understood, light is a major health concern due to its other risks. “Blue light damages the retina and reduces the release of melatonin, so it interrupts your sleep cycle,” said Michelle Henry, a New York dermatologist.

Of course, proximity is a factor when it comes to damage. “You will receive less blue light from your television than from your computer because it is further away,” said Henry. “And more blue light from your cell phone than from your computer because your cell phone is very close to your face.”

How is my skin damaged due to blue light?

Although ultraviolet light directly damages cells’ DNA, blue light destroys collagen through oxidative stress. A chemical in the skin called flavin absorbs blue light. The reaction that takes place during absorption produces unstable oxygen molecules (free radicals) that damage the skin.

“They go in and basically make holes in your collagen,” explained Henry.

Exposure to blue light is more problematic for dark complexions. In a 2010 study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, it was shown to cause hyperpigmentation in medium to dark skin, while leaving the lighter complexion relatively intact.

The medical community classifies skin color based on how it reacts to UV light. Type 1 is the lightest color with the highest UV sensitivity. “It would be a complexion like that of Nicole Kidman and Conan O’Brien,” said Mathew M. Avram, director of the Center for Cosmetics and Laser Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The scale reaches Type 6, which is the darkest complexion and least likely to burn.

In the 2010 study, type 2 skin was exposed to blue light but did not develop pigmentation. The colored skin darkened, and that darkness continued for a couple of weeks.

“There is something about pigmentation of types 4, 5 and 6 that reacts differently than in patients with fair skin,” said Avram. “There should be more large-scale studies looking at this problem because pigmentation is one of the biggest concerns for patients and the symptom whose treatment generates the least satisfaction.”

But isn’t blue light used to treat acne?

Yes, blue light bulbs are used as a treatment for acne and precancerous lesions. “It damages the skin, but on the other hand, it can help treat acne,” said Avram. “It can also improve your mood and memory. So it’s not as easy as saying it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’. “

How can I avoid skin damage?

The simplest intervention is to limit the amount of blue light emitted by your devices. Apple products have a “night mode” that generates a warmer tone on the screens. Change your standard LED bulbs for versions that emit less blue light.

Mineral sunscreens with iron oxide are the gold standard in blue light protection. Iron oxide has been shown to protect more from visible light than zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

“A good trick is to buy colored sunscreens, which generally have iron oxide,” said Henry. The $ 55 Sunbetter Tone Smart SPF 68 Compact Sunscreen from Skinbetter Science is one of those mineral sunscreens. The formula includes zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and iron oxide, and is absorbed evenly, even on brown skin.

Topical antioxidants help control free radicals generated by blue light, but, as we said, there is still no scientific consensus.

“I cannot recommend antioxidants from an exclusively scientific point of view,” said Alexander Wolf, a senior associate professor at Tokyo University of Medicine and an expert on how light and oxidative stress can cause premature aging. “But there are indeed many experiments showing that antioxidants work well in cultured cells. Vitamin C goes directly into cells, and if you cause oxidative damage to cells, vitamin C, or some antioxidant definitely helps. ”

“But a Petri dish with cells is not the same as the skin,” added Wolf.

As long as it’s clear to you that antioxidants have not been shown to protect from blue light, but perhaps they do, they are a good substitute for sunscreen if you find it strange to be home with a face full of minerals. Antioxidants are also likely to minimize damage from the blue LED light used at home to treat acne. (A mineral sunscreen would block blue light and slow its bacteria-killing action.)

As for antioxidants, vitamin C is a good alternative because the molecule is actually so small that it can penetrate the skin. The $ 36 Hyper Skin Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum contains fifteen percent vitamin C combined with vitamin E, and both ingredients enhance each other’s potential to fight free radicals.

The blue light debate has spawned new product lines like Goodhabit. Its $ 80 Rescue Me Glow Potion Oil serum combines marine proteins with exopolysaccharides, that is, polymers secreted by microorganisms that generate a protective barrier on the skin. The polymers act as a sunscreen that blocks blue light (instead of neutralizing free radicals as an antioxidant).

Although alpha lipoic acid is not advertised for its blue light protection quality, Wolf has studied its effect on oxidative stress (on the skin of mice) and believes that its use is promising on human skin.

“It works differently than an antioxidant,” he said. “It activates the natural defenses of the skin cells making the cell perceive oxidative stress. The cell activates its own defense mechanisms. I think that’s a much more elegant way to defend yourself. “

$ 69 Perricone MD High Potency Classics: Face Finishing & Firming Moisturizer contains Vitamin C and Alpha Lipoic Acid.

An important fact is often left out of the blue light debate: the sun is by far our most abundant source of blue light.

“Brightness is not something that human eyes perceive very well because the pupil adjusts,” Wolf said. “You may think that your tablet or cell phone is bright, but the amount of light reaching your skin is very weak, especially compared to sunlight.”

In conclusion, your exposure to blue light may be much less compared to your life before the pandemic for the simple reason that you spend more time indoors.

Compared to the well-understood dangers of ultraviolet light (skin aging and cancer), science is still unclear on the effects of indoor blue light sources on the skin. (Agnes Ricart / The New York Times)