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Blue Light & Skin Aging

THE EFFECT OF BLUE LIGHT ON THE SKIN


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  • - JOSHUA BENCHAYA
  • - M.D.C.M CANDIDATE
  • - MCGILL UNIVERSITY

BLUE LIGHT IN SOLAR RADIATION

It is well established in the literature that solar radiation, in particular ultraviolet radiation (UVR), both UVA and UVB, contribute to skin damage resulting in accelerated photoaging and carcinogenesis. UVA causes damage to cells by inducing oxidative stress, while UVB causes direct damage to the DNA of skin cells. Visible light on the other hand, is generally not thought to contribute to skin damage.

The visible light spectrum is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet light. However, studies are beginning to show that exposure to visible light, another form of solar radiation, specifically high intensity blue light can result in skin damage through a similar mechanism to UVA rays leading to accelerated skin aging and increased risk of skin cancer.

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WHAT ABOUT BLUE LIGHT EMITTED FROM SMARTPHONES AND OTHER TABLET AND COMPUTER SCREENS?

In our modern and technologically advanced society we are constantly using our smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers throughout the day (i.e., screen time). One of the most widespread technologies used to power the screens of these devices are light emitting diodes (LEDs), which have their peak emissions of blue light. This results in daily exposures to large amounts of visible light to the human eye and the skin.

HOW DOES THIS EFFECT OUR SKIN?

Fact: There is a growing concern regarding the safety of skin exposure to blue light emitted from LEDs. Recent studies show that even exposures as short as 1 hour can result oxidative stress in skin cells, leading to skin damage. Furthermore, the link between oxidative stress and skin aging is well established and is a key factor contributing to accelerated skin aging. The main concern is related to the widespread and frequent daily exposure though our technology, where the long-term effects are now being investigated.

Another source of high intensity blue light exposure is from smartphone and other digital camera photoflash when taking photos and selfies. Most smartphones use white LED light for the photoflash which has its peak emission in the blue light region.

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HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES FROM BLUE LIGHT (SOLAR AND ARTIFICIAL)?

One idea put forth by Arjmandi et al. is that increasing the distance of the screen or camera flash from oneself can reduce the intensity of the blue light reaching one’s skin.

Secondly, maybe we should be considering changing the peak emission of LED photoflash in cameras as well as LEDs used to power smartphone, tablet and computer screens to different colors within the visible light spectrum, whose exposures have not been shown to cause oxidative stress and skin damage.

Regular sunscreen with UV filters that are meant to protect against UVA and UVB radiation do provide some protection against visible blue light, however it is insufficient. Therefore, sunscreen that contain UV filters as well as physical filters would provide protection against UVR as well as harmful visible light.

In conclusion, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that both natural blue light emitted from the sun as well as artificial blue light emitted from screens and camera flashes can induce oxidative stress leading to skin damage and accelerate skin aging. Further research is needed to better determine the long-term impact of such exposure.

  • Nakashima Y, Ohta S, Wolf AM. Blue light-induced oxidative stress in live skin. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2017 Jul 1;108:300-10..
  • Arjmandi N, Mortazavi G, Zarei S, Faraz M, Mortazavi SA. Can Light Emitted from Smartphone Screens and Taking Selfies Cause Premature Aging and Wrinkles?. Journal of Biomedical Physics & Engineering. 2018 Dec;8(4):447.
  • Campiche R, Curpen SJ, Lutchmanen‐Kolanthan V, Gougeon S, Cherel M, Laurent G, Gempeler M, Schuetz R. Pigmentation effects of blue light irradiation on skin and how to protect against them. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2020 Jun 1.