How Blue Light From Phones and Computers Damages Skin — Derm Insight

Health experts have known about digital eye strain for a while, and the potential for all that blue light from digital devices to do eye damage. But can screens damage your skin, too?

What is blue light?

Blue light, part of the spectrum of visible light, is a high-energy, short-wavelength light (not to be confused with UVA or UVB rays), says Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine.

The main source of the blue light we’re exposed to is the sun, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. However, we also get a significant dose from our screens and indoor lighting.

“One of the reasons that blue light has become a concern is that High Energy Visible (HEV) light, which typically refers to blue wavelengths on the visible light spectrum, not only comes from sun exposure but also from computer screens, cell phones, and other digital devices,” Marchbein explains.

By some estimates, we spend 50 percent of our lives staring at screens. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of us are spending more time indoors and in front of screens than normal, “we are substantially increasing our exposure,” says Tiffany J. Libby, a board-certified dermatologist in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. So it’s particularly important to understand the effects of blue light.

“Blue light has been reported to contribute to eye strain as well as cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye diseases,” Marchbein says. To prevent these conditions, keep at least 12 inches between you and your screen and take frequent breaks. Blue-light glasses may be trendy, but they don’t do much to lessen eye strain, says New York City opthalmologist Yuna Rapoport.

But blue light isn’t all bad. “Blue light plays a critical role in maintaining good health, as it regulates our body’s circadian rhythm — our natural sleep-wake cycle,” Meenakashi Gupta, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, previously told Allure. “Blue light also elevates mood and helps memory and cognitive function.”

Is blue light damaging your skin?

Recently, you might have noticed some of your favorite skin-care brands coming out with blue-light-fighting products — so, does that mean it’s damaging your skin? The best evidence we have is that blue light “contributes to brown spots on the skin and hyperpigmentation such as melasma, and possibly to photoaging and the breakdown of collagen, which leads to wrinkles and skin laxity,” says Marchbein.

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