Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/23/2022
How much time do you spend on your cell phone — texting friends, scrolling through social media, looking things up online?
What about in front of the television, streaming the latest binge-worthy show?
And, of course, if you work on a computer, you probably spend a good deal of time looking at your laptop.
For most of us, plenty of digital device use is just a way of life.
In fact, according to a 2018 Nielsen survey, the average person spends about 11 hours a day in front of a screen. With the pandemic, that number has likely increased. That’s almost half your day, every day.
You may have heard that the blue light emitted by screens can affect your sleep if you’re exposed to it in the evening hours. But there’s also some buzz that all that blue light may be bad for your skin.
We know blue light can affect sleep habits, but what about your skin?
Blue light is something within the visible light spectrum. Of all the different types of lights on the visible light spectrum, it has the shortest wavelength and contains the highest amount of energy.
Sunlight is actually where people get most of their blue light exposure from. However, it’s also emitted by fluorescent lights and screens on electronic devices — like the ones on televisions, computer monitors and tablets.
Blue light isn’t all bad. It can increase your alertness and help regulate your circadian rhythms when you’re exposed to it at the right times of day. It can also help memory and cognitive function.
There’s even some research that shows that not enough natural blue light exposure may affect the development of vision in children.
However, time spent on digital devices has been shown to have a few different negative effects. Too much blue light exposure at night can make it difficult to go to sleep. It may also cause dryness in your eyes.
As for this type of light exposure causing skin conditions? More research needs to be done, but there are some preliminary studies that seem to support this theory.
One small study of 20 people found that those who have darker skin tones who were exposed to visible blue light reported more irritation and hyperpigmentation issues, while lighter skin tones were relatively unaffected.
In a different study, there was a connection made between blue light exposure and increased free radicals in the skin — which can lead to premature aging.
A 2020 study also found that blue light can lead to skin barrier damage and photoaging.
Okay. So, too much blue light is bad. Got it. But what can you do about it?
If you want to prevent possible damage from blue light, one way to do it is to try and lessen the amount of time you spend in front of electronic screens.
Worried some damage has already been done? These things can help.
When you go out into the sun without any protection, it can age your skin — the process is called photoaging.
The solar radiation from the sun damages your skin in many ways. One is that it can harm the collagen and elastin fibers in your skin — they’re what add elasticity to it. Without that elasticity, sagging and wrinkles occur.
A mineral sunscreen (sometimes called physical sunscreen) that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is great for protecting against blue light.
When your skin is dehydrated, it can shine a spotlight on wrinkles and the texture can look rough and unpolished.
Retinoids are cell regulators with antioxidant effects. Two common options: retinol and tretinoin.
These both increase collagen production, which can give you plumper skin and increase your skin’s cell turnover rate, so wrinkles are not as noticeable. It may also help with age spots.
You can consider Hims’ anti-aging cream — it incorporates both retinol and tretinoin.
Along with products, there are some lifestyle habits you can incorporate into your routine to have healthier-looking skin. These include:
Drinking water: As we mentioned, dehydrated skin may look older. So, making sure you get enough H2O every day is key. Oh, and watch the whiskey (and beer and wine, for that matter). Alcohol can leave you dehydrated.
Stop smoking: If you smoke, stop now. Along with putting you at risk for cancer, those who smoke often have an increased risk of wrinkles.
Eat well: A diet filled with fruits and veggies may help reduce damage that leads to premature aging of the skin.
Get a workout in: There’s some research that suggests that exercising regularly can boost circulation — which can make your skin appear more youthful.
With how much time we all now spend on digital devices, there’s a good deal of buzz out there about the effects of blue light on our health — including how it may damage your skin.
Blue light is on the visible light spectrum and it appears to play an increasingly important role in our overall health. It keeps our circadian rhythms in check and can make us more alert.
But there are some downsides.
There are some studies that suggest it may age your skin — though more research needs to be done to confirm this.
No matter what the outcome of that research is, it’s never a bad idea to incorporate anti-aging habits into your skincare routine.
From wearing sunscreen that offers blue light protection to eating healthier foods, preventing blue light damage and having youthful-looking skin is possible.