Have you ever seen a child holding a cell phone or an iPad and heard them say that it makes them look older? As it turns out, it does. Cell phones and tablets emit blue light, a High Energy Visible (HEV) light, that can damage elasticity, collagen, and hyaluronic acid in the skin. In essence, facing your phone is aging your face. Blue light damage can be doing more to your skin than you think!
It’s not just mobile devices that cause this kind of harm. If you work eight hours a day at a computer, that’s the equivalent light energy of 20 minutes outside in the bright mid-day sun. That may not sound too bad at first blush but consider that it only takes seven minutes to begin the tanning process. Worse, HEV can penetrate deeper into the skin than the sun’s rays can, accelerating the damage to skin tissue.
It penetrates deep enough, in fact, to affect the areas where collagen and elastin reside.
Some studies indicate that blue light damage can delay skin barrier recovery after exposure. It has even been theorized that HEV can cause greater hyperpigmentation than Ultraviolet B and C (UVB and UVC) radiation. There are indications that HEV may be worse than UVB and UVC combined.
UVAB and UVAC reach into the skin to the epidermis. That’s the layer of skin just under what you can feel and touch. Under that is a far thicker layer called the dermis. Here is where all the elastin and collagen are stored. It’s the layer between the epidermis and the fat layer. HEV digs deep down into this layer, nearly reaching the fat cells deep in the body.
The damage caused by HEV can make skin begin to lose its ability to hold on to water at a cellular level.
Don’t Stay Up Worrying
When we sleep, the body repairs and rejuvenates itself. The creation of new skin cells is predominately done at night, thus lending credence to the term “beauty sleep.” The body’s ability to rest and wake are due to circadian rhythms. Reading the phone at night, in bed can confound this pattern, preventing the ability to sleep and inhibiting the growth of new cells. Worse yet, the HEV can actually damage new cells as they are being created, never giving them a chance.
Skin Effects (don’t worry, I offer up a solution to protect against these below!)
Since our constant use of cell phones, tablets and computers is a fairly recent phenomenon, research in the area of treatment and prevention of blue light damage is still new. But there are some things that are already becoming evident.
- Wrinkles – Think about it: When you stare into a phone, you’re looking down…all the time. This can lead to wrinkles in the neck and chin. Think about your position when looking at the cell screen. Hold the phone higher; it’ll help with that stiff neck problem too.
- Acne – Hands are full of microbes. That’s normal; hands are busy things and used all the time. We wash our hands before eating, after using the toilet and so on, but to wash your hands every time you pick your phone isn’t practical. But microbes get on the phone from your hands. They love heat, so when the phone warms up with use, they multiply like crazy. Then you press that to your cheek. This can clog pores and cause acne.
- Less skin elasticity – HEV radiation has even been linked to both wrinkles and sagging skin.
- Discolored skin that looks old – HEV effects melanogenesis, the creation of melanin, which is what gives color to the skin. Without melanin, skin takes on a grayish tone and looks prematurely aged. I got melasma with my third pregnancy and I definitely notice a darkening of the spots when I do not wear my protective sunscreen regularly!
Don’t Give Up the Phone Yet
I’m watching the research studies as they come out and have no doubt there will soon be more undeniable proof that blue lights damage our skin. Fortunately, there is a company WAY ahead of their time who formulated sunscreen that protects against blue light damage! I wear them every day because my job has me in front of screens for just about everything that I do! You can check out their amazing sunscreen line HERE (and be sure to share this info with friends, everyone should be wearing these!). I also started a Safe Skincare Facebook group, where I educate on topics like these. I invite you to join thousands of others in the group HERE.
As commercial products catch up with the determents of blue light, there are still things we can do to make sure it has less of a chance to damage our skin cells.
Limiting Blue Light Damage
- The key seems to be a balance, as with everything in life. Until there is more research done on HEV and its effect on skin and eyes, the best bet is to maintain a healthy relationship to our electronic devices. Avoid unnecessary exposure. You can start by limiting the amount of time, especially at night, that you’re playing games on your phone, reading on your iPad, or checking Facebook on your laptop. And don’t forget to set time limits for screen time for your kids too!
- There are benefits to blue light when used in the daytime. Ironically it aids the circadian rhythms and helps create alertness and energy. Again, when used during the day.
- Some newer devices have a Blue Light Blocker option, see if yours does. If not, there are apps available that you can add to your electronic devices to decrease the amount of blue light they admit at certain times of the day.
- Avoid using electronic devices in bed or when you’re about to go to sleep.
- Grab yourself some sunscreen that protects your skin from the damaging effects of blue light, and wear it daily!
Get in the habit of holding your phone and tablet up to keep your skin from sagging and your neck from cramping.