Updated 4/4/21. Every single skincare ingredient that’s used in a product has a purpose, and the latest are being used to target “digital aging.” This is when skin damage is caused by a high-energy visible light (also known as blue light) from our phones and computer screens. This blue light is penetrating deep into the skin, making it age faster.
The good news is that you can incorporate certain ingredients in your daily skincare routine to prevent blue light damage. In this post, I’ll discuss the effects of blue light on the skin and share the skincare ingredients that you can use to make a big difference.
What is blue light?
Blue light, a high-energy visible light (HEV), refers to light wavelengths between 390 and 500 nm that emit from phones, computer screens, and LED lights. Blue light penetrates farther into the skin than both UVA and UVB light. It also uses a higher level of energy than IR (infrared) light. This may result in even more damage to the skin—despite never even feeling a thing. Yikes!
How does blue light impact the skin?
Blue light irradiation negatively affects all layers of the skin. It affects the skin in the following ways:
- induces oxidative stress, via both reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), leading to damaged proteins and lipids. Blue light does not seem to create reactive carbonyl species (RCS)
- contributes to photo-aging and glycation of the skin
- weakens the epidermal barrier and delays barrier recovery
- disrupts melanocyte activity, leading to uneven and excessive pigmentation
(To make matters worse, blue light is also known to disrupt sleep cycles and cause premature aging of the eyes)
What are the best skincare ingredients to use to prevent blue light damage?
To lessen the damage caused by blue light, you’ll want to use products that contain direct and indirect antioxidants. What are antioxidants, you ask? Well, they’re members of a complicated biological system that defend the body against increased production of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable electrons that attack healthy cells and change their composition. They are caused from blue light, as well as from the air we breathe (oxygen), cigarette smoke, UV sunlight, stress, and smog.
Some of the best direct and indirect antioxidants to use in your skincare products include:
- gogi fruit
- noni fruit
- white tea
- green tea
- black tea
- elderberry fruit
- vitamin C (here’s proof that it really improves the skin)
- vitamin E
- retinol (vitamin A)
- cranberry seed oil
- grape seed
- superoxide dismutase
- niacinamide (vitamin B3)
- coenzyme Q10
- raspberry seed oil
- sea buckthorn
It’s important to understand the complexity of our skin cells’ antioxidant protection needs. Using just one antioxidant simply cannot control the many forms of ROS and RNS given off from blue light. A variety of antioxidants are needed within your skincare products. These should complement one another to ensure that as many free radicals are neutralized as possible. This is essential when it comes to creating a comprehensive skincare strategy, especially one that is focused on prevention.
How often should antioxidants be used?
It was once thought that the main stressors that create free radical damage were only caused during daytime hours, by things like the sun and pollution (which is why you’ve been using a vitamin C serum under your sunscreen in the morning). However, thanks to new research, we now know that the skin’s natural antioxidant supply is depleted during the day, and it needs to be replenished at night, which is why antioxidants should be used in both your AM and PM skincare routine. (It’s especially important to use antioxidants at night if you’re a person who looks at their phone screen well into the wee hours of the night).
What else can I do to protect my skin from blue light?
Shield your skin from blue light with a screen protector.
Consider getting a special filter to lay on the screen of your phone to filter out blue light rays. I have one on my own phone. It’s an easy, low-cost way to prevent premature skin aging.
Wear liquid foundation.
Not only does foundation (even if it doesn’t indicate it has sunscreen) provide protection from the sun, but new research shows that wearing makeup helps protect the skin against blue light, too. This is due to the iron oxides that are used in most foundation formulas. Other helpful ingredients to look for are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. If your skin is prone to clogged pores, see my list of the best liquid foundations.
Eat a diet rich in antioxidants.
The following foods will fuel your body from the inside out:
- sweet potatoes
- citrus fruits
Technology, while intended to make our lives easier, can negatively effect the skin. Not only through damaging blue light, but also through “tech neck,” which are the horizontal folds across the neck that result from looking down at screens, and “toasted skin syndrome,” which is a burning reaction that results in discoloration of the skin from the heat of a computer resting on the thighs. Rest assured that with the right skincare ingredients, you can keep skin damage under control.
Next: Read 10 skincare rules I swear by.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”