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Blue Light and Skin: Does blue light from your phone and computer affect your skin?

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Does the light from your computer and cell phone affect your skin? Is blue light bad for your skin? Read on.

We live in a day and age where technology reigns. It’s incredibly uncommon to find a person without some type of smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. The average amount of time a person spends looking at their phone is estimated at around 3-4 hours a day, and this number is only increasing. Humans are social beings, and we’ve come up with ways to keep in touch nearly 24/7 with electronic devices and social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

However, just like with anything else in life, technology brings with it many downsides as well. One of these downsides is commonly known as blue light. But what is blue light? What does blue light do for skin? And why is it that skin looks bad in certain lighting?

What is Blue Light?

All colors of light have different effects. Blue light is one of the several colors that make up the invisible light spectrum. The other colors are:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Indigo
  • Violet

Together, these colors make the white color we see when the sun shines. Fluorescent and LED lights also give off blue light. Though blue wavelengths have beneficial effects during the daytime (boost mood, attention, and reaction times), they are incredibly disruptive at night. Until the arrival of artificial lighting, humans received their daily intake of light from the sun, and we spent most of our evenings by dimmed candlelight or in complete darkness. Now, with artificial lighting, many of us don’t realize the potential side effects that come with it. 

Is Blue Light Bad for your Skin?

What does blue light do for your skin? After seeing the potential side effects in various body areas, it’s essential to talk about blue light and skin damage. 

Similar to the way UV rays are linked to skin damage, blue light is as well. Research shows blue light may lead to changes in skin cells, including cell shrinkage and death. These speed up the aging process and exposures as short as 60 minutes can trigger the changes.

Too much blue light may also lead to redness, swelling, and pigment changes in individuals with darker skin.

Although it can negatively impact your skin when used excessively, blue light does have healing properties. Blue light may be used to treat mild psoriasis, mild to moderate acne, and actinic keratosis. 

Blue light is also used in photodynamic therapy. This treatment uses certain kinds of light to activate a class of drugs — called photosensitizing agents — to kill cancer cells. 

African American couple watching a movie on their laptop with the light from the screen directly in their faces.
Light from cell phones, laptops, tablets, and even TVs can affect your skin.

How Does This Light Affect My Health?

Every color in the visible light spectrum has a different wavelength and energy level. Blue light has shorter wavelengths and higher energy than other colors. Some research links eye damage and short-wave blue light with wavelengths between 415 and 455 nanometers. Most LEDs used in smartphones, TVs, and tablets have wavelengths between 400 and 490 nanometers. 

  • Eyes: Experts link some digital eye strain cases (or computer vision syndrome) to the blue light emitted from digital screens. These cases affect around 50% of computer users. Blue lights have also been shown to affect the retinas

These cases affect around 50% of computer users. Blue lights have also been shown to alter the retinas

  • Sleep: Blue light emitted from electronic devices interrupts our circadian rhythms, otherwise known as our sleep cycle. Blue light signals the brain to wake up when it should be settling down for the night, getting ready for sleep. It’s important to power down electronic devices a minimum of 3 hours before bed. 
  • Cancer: Overexposure to blue light may increase the risk of certain cancers, specifically breast, prostate, and colorectal.