Ask An Expert: The Effects of Blue Light

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Ask An Expert: The Effects of Blue Light

Ask An Expert: The Effects of Blue Light

With the world moving more and more virtual, our screen time has increased significantly. Zoom meetings, livestream events, and Facetime have all become the new normal for communication. Although it can certainly have its perks, the digital strain happening on our bodies is real.


We can feel the effects on our vision after staring at our screens all day, but what are the impacts on our skin? We took this question to the expert, Dr. Charlene DeHaven, Clinical Director of Innovative Skincare and anti-aging specialist.


Here’s what she had to say:

1. What exactly is blue light?

"The aesthetic industry is knowledgeable about UVA and UVB rays that are known to be damaging to skin and cause photoaging. We experience infrared (IR) rays as warmth. Blue light, also known as HEV or high energy visible light, is part of the visible light spectrum and, not surprisingly, is seen by humans as blue. Blue light has a short, high energy wavelength ranging in 400 - 490 nm.


Because of modern use of cell phones and computers, only about 40 percent of our present blue light exposure comes from the sun. The remaining 60 percent comes from device exposure. Fluorescent bulbs also emit blue light. Blue light exposure is further on the rise. Millennials in the US check their cell phones 157 times a day in comparison to older adults who do so 30 times a day. In all countries, time spent in front of artificial blue light is steadily increasing. Most developed countries are exposed to at least four hours per day on average."

2. What impact does blue light have on the skin or other areas?

"Many of the recent discussions about blue light are disturbing. Blue light penetrates skin deeply and can damage all skin layers. Evidence shows that blue light produces oxidative stress in skin. Since it is visible, blue light is also able to penetrate the eye and fall on the retina. There is a clear relationship between blue light exposure and the development of blindness due to age-related macular degeneration.


This means that blue light can damage skin and contribute to free radical damage, premature photoaging, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and decreases in immunity. Blue light falling on the retina of the eye has the capacity to affect the brain, disrupting sleep levels. This may relate to decreased melatonin production that disturbs sleep and other yet unknown effects.


Blue light, however, also has therapeutic uses. Early morning sunlight contains larger amounts of blue light that serve to wake us up and energize the brain. Consequently, blue light has been used to help depression. This is the basis of full-spectrum high intensity lighting to help the tiredness and low mood of seasonal affective disorder. Blue light has antibacterial qualities and can be used for treating problems related to infection, including acne. Blue light kills the bacteria associated with acne, Propionibacterium acnes. Many dermatologists are offering in-office blue light treatments for acne treatment."


3. What are some tips to avoid blue light damage?

"Good skincare products will help protect the skin from damaging effects of blue light and its higher energy. The harm caused by blue light seems to be related to very prolonged exposure and especially increasing exposure from personal devices such as cell phones and computers. It is unnatural for the skin, eye, and brain to be receiving large amounts of blue light after sunset when red light naturally increases. It seems wise to limit blue light exposure from personal devices. Blue light protective glasses are helpful when doing computer work. Apps are available that, near sunset, change the ratio of red to blue light emanating from devices."


4. Are there ingredients that help combat oxidative stress?

"Antioxidants have been shown to be protective against oxidative stress and prolonged blue light exposure to skin. iS Clinical products contain powerful antioxidants that are helpful. Many of these are derived from plants and plants also experience free radical damage from the sun – although they cannot move out of the way as humans can. These can be included in cosmeceuticals to convey protection against harmful blue light effects. Carotenoids from the Vitamin A group are especially effective in this regard. Specific carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, have been helpful in protecting the retina of the eye from age-related macular degeneration secondary to blue light exposure."

5. What is a good AM/PM regimen for those exposed to blue light?

"Any of the iS Clinical regimens would be helpful because they all contain functional antioxidants. A general and very simple regimen would be:


  1. An iS Clinical Cleanser of choice. Cleansing Complex is an excellent all-around cleanser).
  2. An iS Clinical antioxidant serum (Pro-Heal Serum ADVANCE+, Super Serum ADVANCE+, or GeneXC Serum).
  3. An iS Clinical sunscreen of choice."

Although screen time and blue light exposure is nearly unavoidable today, it is good to know there are steps we can take to combat damage from taking place in our our skin. Taking precautions and caring for our skin now is always the best way to prevent further damage from occurring in the future.