(ORDO NEWS) — Walk through the skin care line at any health and beauty store and you’ll come across a plethora of creams and sprays that promise to protect you from various threats to your skin.
You may have noticed that skin care companies claim that their products can protect you from blue light exposure. If you haven’t thought about blue light before, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you should.
First of all, you need to understand what blue light is.
Visible light makes up 50 percent of the sunlight spectrum and, as the name suggests, it is the only part of the light that can be detected by the human eye. The blue range of the visible spectrum has a particularly high energy level.
The longer the wavelength, the less energy it transmits. Blue light has very short high energy waves.
Blue light surrounds you everywhere. The sun emits blue light. So are fluorescent and incandescent lights, mobile phones, computer screens and flat-screen TVs.
What are the risks?
There is growing evidence that blue light can harm your skin and eyes and disrupt your circadian rhythm (your internal clock). Typically, research into the effects of solar radiation on the skin has focused on ultraviolet radiation, especially the UV rays that cause sunburn.
The most common effect of blue light exposure is a significant increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS), highly reactive chemicals formed from oxygen. Too much ROS can damage your DNA and key enzymes such as those responsible for DNA repair, increasing your risk of cancer.
Our research has shown that blue light can cause pigmentation (tanning) in all skin types. While many people consider deep tanning to be desirable, it is a marker of skin damage and ROS.
Other researchers have found that visible light tanning (which includes blue light) is darker pigmented and lasts longer compared to UV exposure.
Our research has also shown that blue light can activate genes associated with inflammation and photoaging (skin damage). Several studies have proven that conventional sunscreens do not prevent damage from blue and visible light.
Although blue light appears to be less powerful than ultraviolet radiation, this may be due to the relatively large amount of blue light reaching Earth. Ultraviolet radiation accounts for about 5 per cent of solar radiation in the UK at noon in the summer. Blue light makes up about three times as much – 15 percent.
There are a number of positive effects of blue light. It is used to treat skin conditions including eczema, is widely used in photodynamic therapy, which is used to treat a range of skin conditions from acne to cancer, and promotes wound healing. However, the harmful effects of blue light are likely to outweigh the positives for healthy people.
Blue light can damage the skin, but it’s not entirely clear which sources of blue light are harmful to humans. Blue light from screens makes up only a small fraction of all the doses of blue light we receive. Research has shown that device screens can increase ROS production.
However, a study by German skincare manufacturer Biersdorf found that exposure to blue light from a screen from a distance of 30 cm for a week is equivalent to one minute of midday summer sun in Hamburg, Germany.
Another study found that blue light from screens is 100 to 1,000 times less intense than blue light from the sun. It also did not cause melasma, which causes skin discoloration, in patients suffering from this condition.
It’s true that we’re spending more time in front of screens than ever before, but while screens can do some harm, it’s negligible compared to sun exposure.
Skin care with blue light
The cosmetics industry has begun developing a wide range of skin care products that brands claim to prevent blue light damage to the skin. However, there is no regulated or standardized test to evaluate a product’s ability to prevent blue light damage.
Companies conduct scientific testing of these products. But in their work, they can use any number of assessments.
This is very different from the regulations for sunscreens that claim to have a sun protection factor (SPF). SPF testing is strictly regulated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). All products claiming to have SPF go through the same testing regime.
The lack of regulation of blue light protection claims makes it impossible for consumers to make an informed choice about the level of protection and differences between products.
Lack of regulation is unlikely to be harmful to consumers, but the benefits of such products may be limited.
Given the data on blue light emitted by screens, any claims that a particular product is necessary to prevent damage to a computer or phone screen should be skeptical.
Traditional sunscreens (such as sunscreens) usually do not protect against blue light damage. It is encouraging that the skincare industry is trying to address this issue. But it is critical that governments take the next step in this process and develop industry-wide standardized testing.
In the meantime, it is important to remember to limit any exposure to the sun. The use of sunscreen (or any SPF-rated product) has been shown to prevent skin cancer and photoaging, and products that advertise blue light protection may provide additional benefits.
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