THE ‘SCREEN FACE’ EPIDEMIC
Gone are the days when the only light source was the sun, and people actually connected in person! These days our lives are heavily reliant on ubiquitous technology that empowers us to connect, communicate, and process.
The cosmetics industry has been ploughing time, money and research into the effects of High Energy Visible Light (HEV) – specifically blue light. Yep, turns out we have another ‘Skin Enemy’ tasked with accelerating the ageing process – affectionately dubbed, ‘Screen Face’.
With increasing exposure to digital screens from smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions, our skin is subject to compounding effect. But it’s not just the skin – HEV can affect us internally too – after all, blue light is the most effective melatonin inhibitor (the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythms).
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT & WHY IS IT POTENTIALLY DAMAGING?
Blue light is a high energy visible light wave, generally considered to fall between 390-500 nanometres (nm). Some articles define the bandwidth between 400-450nm as the most deleterious to the skin.
Given our rising exposure to artificial ‘blue light’ generators, the need for protection has risen – studies have suggested that 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of digital devices! Blue light penetrates deeper than UVA, UVB, and also has a higher energy output to Infrared – there is a potential here for skin damage to occur
The latest studies have concluded that HEV irradiation generates reactive oxygen species in the skin which lead to oxidative damage and contribute to the photo ageing process. It has also been shown that blue light irradiation delays skin barrier recovery
Note: that there is no evidence to suggest that HEV/blue causes cancer.
IN ANCIENT WORLD
We would wake when the sun rises, and sleep when the sun sets. Blue light is the most effective regulator of our circadian rhythms i.e. “it’s time to get up now – stop sleeping!”
Obviously in the day time, we don’t need melatonin – we need to be alert and full of energy – hence the sun emits blue light. During the night, when we need to rest and recharge our bodies, there is no blue light. Our melatonin would kick in and promote healthy sleep patterns to repair and recharge for the day ahead.
BLUE LIGHT AT NIGHT
Excessive screen time before bed interrupts our body’s natural processes i.e. melatonin production is interrupted resulting is change to sleep pattern and a less quality sleep.
Research concludes that irregular and/or poor quality sleep leads to premature ageing – reduced repair function, depleted natural antioxidant production, weakened immune defence. When we sleep, cortisol levels naturally decrease. Prolonged cortisol elevation can lead to breakouts, reduced immune function, weakened collagen fibres and skin redness.
Human Growth Hormone is reduced production when sleep quality is poor. Therefore, skin will have reduced thickness and reduced ability to produce cells to replace damaged cells
In addition, we naturally produce anti-oxidants when we sleep, essential for ‘tomorrow’s’ protection
HOW TO MINIMISE THE EFFECTS.
- Large, wrap-around sun glasses – with darker lenses for better UV rating
- ‘Computer glasses’ – yellow tinted glasses that help to filter blue light from monitors.
- Install covers on your screens that block blue light
- GRAY SCALE at night time – for your phone
- TURN OFF by 9-10pm
- Amp up your anti-oxidant intake in topical products
BENEFITS OF BLUE LIGHT
It’s not all bad. Blue light has its advantages (in moderation, and generally, of natural source)
- Enhanced mood
- Enhanced energy
- Improved memory
- Improved alertness
A large body of evidence is available, concluding that violet, blue light, particularly 405 nm, has significant anti-microbial properties against a wide range of bacterial and fungal pathogens, although the germicidal efficacy is lower than UV light. Many LED treatments for acne and rosacea apply a blue/violet wavelength for this reasoning.
In another article however, 405 nm light induced cytotoxicity attributed to reactive oxygen species formation, leading to oxidative stress —- but this was for an exposure period of 2 hours.