by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

How does blue light affect my skin?

We asked board-certified dermatologist Dr Tiffany Libby to illuminate us on the effects of blue light on the skin.

Image via @ellenvlora

When we think about the harmful effects of light, we’re usually thinking ultraviolet light, which is why we slather sunscreen religiously before heading out the door. But there’s actually another light source closer to you that could be damaging your skin.

You’ve probably heard about the perils of blue light before. Our laptops, phones, tablets, TVs and even LED light bulbs are all sources. And now that we’re stuck to our screens more than ever, should we be more worried about the possible damage to our skin?

We ask Dr Tiffany Jow Libby, MD (@dermdoclibby), a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, to explain to us the effects of blue light on the skin.

What is blue light?

Blue light is a high-energy light that is part of the visible spectrum. It is primarily from the sun but is also emitted from our screens and indoor lighting. Some studies suggest it is, even more, a risk factor for ageing, melasma and pigmentary conditions than previously thought. These effects may be further exacerbated in darker skin types, which may be typically affected by melasma and unwanted pigmentation.

How does it damage the skin?

Research on how it affects your skin is still ongoing, but it is thought to cause free radicals, oxidative stress, DNA damage and premature ageing in the skin, as well as break down collagen. It specifically activates a receptor on melanocytes to stimulate melanin (pigment) production. We also have this receptor in our eyes, so we know that our screen time could be affecting this organ as well.

How does it differ from blue light therapy?

It is the same, but we use blue light therapy (blue light at high energies in short periods) in the office to target bacteria and treat acne. In contrast, we may experience passive blue light exposure from the sun and our screens throughout the day and for longer periods of time.

How can I protect my skin? Is applying SPF enough?

Look for products with iron oxides; it’s particularly adept at absorbing UVA rays and blue light.

Sunscreen is the number one protection you can apply to your skin, however, not all sunscreens are capable of blocking out blue light, as they are predominantly designed to block out UVA and UVB rays.