Just what is blue light radiation?
Blue light is a visible light ray from the sun. It is a high energy visible (HEV) light with wavelengths of 400 to 450 nanometres. This makes its energy per photon of light higher than other visible colours such as red or green. In large doses, blue light is harmful¹ when absorbed by the cells in our body.
While its main source is from the sun, blue light can also be emitted from light emitting diodes (LED) sources. LED light mimics traditional white light or daylight. This comes from light bulbs, TVs and in the backlight of smart electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets, and computers.
With the recent Covid19 pandemic causing more people to work from home, exposure to more device and screen time has shed more light on this.
Is it all bad news?
No, because blue light has good uses too.
It is an important source of light because it can elevate moods and promote well-being. It supports memory and brain’s cognitive function. Its chief function is regulating the body’s natural circadian rhythm as it tells the body when to sleep and wake up. This enables the body’s cells to rest during the night.
Blue light has also been used to treat certain types of acne in small doses and even some cases of cancerous lesions.
So how is it harmful?
When the term light damage comes to mind, one thinks of UV damage – the ultraviolet rays that cause ageing and burning in our skin. Less is said about blue light because the research on it is patchy.
But with more devices using LED technology, the dangers are rising².
Millennials check their mobile devices more than 150 times a day³ and more than 66 per cent of working adults spend a minimum of 30 minutes on social media every workday. Local brand Skin Inc found that more than 70% of women in Singapore spent more than nine hours in front of a digital screen, since the Covid19 coronavirus stay-home measures were announced.
Screen time + Blue light = Less rest, lesser time to recharge
A Harvard Medical School study showed that excess blue light exposure suppresses the secretion of melatonin (the hormone that helps with sleep). It influences the body’s circadian rhythms, interfering sleep patterns and rest. This lack of rest increases the risk for depression, diabetes, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Another study compiled by the US National Library of Medicine showed that there was a negative impact on sleep⁴ through electronic devices emitting artificial light such as LED. The study revealed this exposure pushed the daily circadian rhythm back and reduced alertness the next day.
Pigmentation is a worry
Extended exposure of blue light to various skin types and skin tones also triggers sensitivity to UV and pigmentation⁵. Darker skin tones face more pigmentation that lasted longer than other skin tones.
The same study also uncovered that extended exposure to visible light (including blue light radiation) changed cell behaviour. Meaning, it allowed free radicals to break down more skin cells.
The process creates unstable oxygen molecules and erodes skin cells’ elasticity and collagen, speeding up the ageing process.
In addition, the extra time in front of devices is digital eyestrain⁶, resulting in red eyes and retina damage.
More conclusive studies need to be done but till then, take simple steps to stem any damage.
Beating the Blues
While there is no real way to escape blue light exposure, here are some tips to reduce our exposure:
- Minimise screen time in front of bright screens such as TV, mobile phones, and computers before bedtime. Most medical practitioners recommend between two to three hours before sleep but if that is difficult, at least one hour away from screens would help.
- Use the blue-light filter on your device if you work on a night shift or must use electronic devices at night. Alternatively, try ordering computer glasses or glasses which block blue light.
- Using fewer lights with LED bulbs at night. Switch to warm or incandescent bulbs as they do not affect melatonin levels.
- Get enough sunlight. It sounds ironic but getting a few more minutes of sunlight⁷ a day may help give the body the natural light therapy it needs to reset its rhythm. Just make sure you apply sun protection.
- Get physical. Consider skincare with physical sunblock with ingredients such as iron oxide. Although zinc oxide and titanium dioxides have been proven to block and scatter UV rays, the addition of iron oxide⁸ has been proven to provide more protection against visible light.
Blue Light exposure is unavoidable in today’s digital age, especially with more remote-working and telecommuting. Protect your skin from unintended exposure to UV or blue light with the right skincare, even when you are indoors.
These little adjustments with TLC for our skin and eyes can help you reduce damage and stay youthful.
Ready for the Heat!
Try Skin Inc’s new Serum UV Moisturiser (S$72, 35ml). This product has a blend of sunscreen filters that help buffer the UV rays and blue light rays that reach the skin. Active ingredients include Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine and Titanium Dioxide that sound like a mouthful. But together, they work to block, absorb, and scatter harmful UV rays that reach the skin.
The Serum UV Moisturiser also contains antioxidants like Vitamin E to combat the effects caused by free radicals. It has cica and lavender - rich in repairing properties too.
More than 60% of Skin Inc’s customers surveyed said they did not like wearing sunscreen indoors because of its tacky texture or the white cast left on the skin.
Skin Inc’s focus on data-driven technology and research drives their product innovation.
The Serum UV Moisturiser is lightweight and easy to apply, perfect for UV protection indoors and out. This dual-purpose moisturiser is available at Skin Inc stores and online at www.iloveskininc.com