Protecting against blue light
By George Boyd
In the past, most worries about premature aging and skin cancer stemmed from the damaging UVA and UVB rays emitted by the sun. But over the past decade, scientists have learned that these may not be the only rays of visible light people need to be concerned about. Blue light — emitted by both the sun and digital devices — could be wreaking havoc on your skin health.
“The trend of blue-light blocking in skin care and wellness in general is increasing because we are all exposed to blue light more now with the use of smartphones and tablets,” says Nazanin Saedi, MD, the department co-chair of the laser and aesthetics surgery center at Dermatology Associates of Plymouth Meeting in Pennsylvania.
“Blue light is a portion of the visible light spectrum (380 to 500 nanometers) that is contained in sunlight, but it is also given off by indoor lighting [and] common electronic devices, like computer screens and smartphones,” says Jason Bloom, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Bloom Facial Plastic Surgery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
“[Blue light] is thought to penetrate deeper into the skin than UV light but fortunately is not associated with the development of skin cancer,” adds Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology in New York City.
Most of the blue light people are exposed to comes from the sun, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The amount of blue light emitted by devices is “only a fraction” of that given off by the sun, explains Dr. Bloom — “but the problem is that we are constantly spending time on and carrying around these devices and keeping them close to our face and head.”
the average New Zealander spends more than 11 hours per day using digital media.
“Spending more time in front of our devices during the COVID-19 lockdown raised the question of whether our devices are contributing to premature skin aging,” Dr. Zeichner says. The truth is that our computers, tablets, and phones emit only low levels of blue light. However, as we spend more and more time looking at our devices, we do need to consider the effects of long-term, low-level exposure.”
So, if you’ve noticed your screen time has gone up thanks to work-from-home Zoom calls and ongoing virtual happy hours, or maybe the latest Netflix series drop, you may be wondering about the effect on your health.