We all know about the damage caused by the sun, but what about the light emanating from your devices. Like the one you’re on right now/the one you’re on all day, every day. Yup, add another worry to the list because it turns out the screens you use for work, fun, and entertainment are aging you and your hair. Not to be a total bearer of bad news—we don’t need to wait for Elon Musk to invent a phone that implants into your brain to eliminate the blue light issue. You can take protective measures (tries to take our own advice) and unplug. Like, even if it’s just for a few minutes that you gradually build up, there are about a million reasons to distance yourself from your devices.
Jeniece Trizzino is the VP of Product Development for Goodhabit, a skincare brand totally devoted to protecting you from blue light. And we couldn’t think of a better person to help answer, what is blue light, anyway? “From a technical perspective, blue light is a color in the visible light spectrum that can be seen by human eyes. Blue light is a short wavelength, which means it produces higher amounts of energy. It is generally defined as visible light ranging from 380 to 500 nm. Blue light is everywhere in our world,” she clarifies. “It used to be that the only source of blue light was from the sun. Now we have brought artificial blue light inside by way of digital screens (found on TVs, Smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, and gaming systems), electronic devices, LED, and fluorescent lighting.” In other words, too many devices.
What Damage Does Blue Light Cause?
To put it simply, blue light promotes skin stressors and oxidative damage that cause premature signs of photo-aging; that is, aging from exposure to light. It can cause damage similar to that of UVA/UVB rays (think dark spots, hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, inflammation, weakening of skin’s surface, reduction in elasticity and collagen production, loss of your youthful glow, etc.). But because we are exposed to our devices over 12 hours a day on average, blue light may actually be worse for your skin.
Board-certified NYC-based Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King adds to the blue light conversation. “Blue light is all around us—it’s part of the light we can see. It is primarily from the sun, but it’s also emitted by smartphones, tablets, televisions, fluorescent bulbs, and computer screens,” Dr. King seconds. “Routine exposure to blue light, preferably from daylight, helps regulate our body’s sleep-wake cycle, improves our mood, keeps us alert, and can enhance memory.” So, that’s kind of… promising?
The damage caused by blue light is cumulative—it builds and worsens over time. “On average, 1 hour in front of a screen is equivalent to 15 minutes of direct, unprotected sun exposure; and since we spend around 12 hours a day in front of screens, that’s basically like sitting in the sun for 3 hours a day, every day, for the rest of our lives,” says Jenice. “Imagine the impact that would have on your skin. Much like sun damage, blue light damage is cumulative and will get worse the longer you go unprotected.”
Difference Between Blue Light Damage and UV Damage
Which leads to our next question: how does blue light compare to the sun’s rays/UV light? “While UVA and UVB rays impact the first and second layers of skin, blue light actually penetrates at a deeper level and reaches the third layer, increasing the risk of dullness, discoloration, fine lines, and generally looking as tired as you feel after sitting in front of the computer for hours soaking it in,” says Jeniece.
The size of your screen matters but that’s not the full story. “We need to take into account both the size of the screen and its proximity to our skin. The bigger the screen, the more blue light is emitted. The closer the screen, the more direct exposure our skin receives,” she notes. “Think of it like this—airplane pilots get sunburns significantly quicker than people on land. Why? Because the pilots are much closer to the sun, thus increasing the intensity of their exposure. Blue light works in the same way. The closer we are to our screens, the more intense our blue light exposure is, the bigger impact on our skin.” And we’re now very much regretting holding our phones this close to our face.
Blue Light Effects on Hair
It gets worse! “Blue light exposure can contribute to insomnia, which is a stress for the body, and could therefore contribute to stress-related hair loss,” adds Dr. Hadley.
Master stylists and co-owners of Boston-based Salon 120 West Kasey Bertucci and Taylor Portanova continue this train of thought. “Although there have not been many studies done on how blue light affects hair health, there have been studies about how it affects your skin. That being said, it is important to remember that your scalp is a continuation of your skin. Excessive time spent on computer and phone screens can be damaging to your eyes, skin, and your sleep pattern. Inability to get a good night’s sleep can lead to stress which in turn leads to thinning hair or even hair loss. Anything that is draining you mentally could be a factor in losing hair or even the slowing of hair growth. So, although blue light may not directly affect your hair, it does take a toll on other parts of your body that do directly affect your hair growth and overall health.”
Solutions to Guard Against Blue Light
Now that we know what blue light actually is, how can we prevent it from doing serious damage? Like, seriously, help.
The first bit of advice is to buy products that say they block blue light and then investigate them. Make sure the anti-blue light product of your choice is formulated to protect against blue light specifically. “At Goodhabit, each and every one of our formulas are infused with our proprietary BLU5 Technology which hits the block and undo buttons on blue light and free radicals to reveal your healthiest, most radiant complexion yet. Our BLU5 Tech takes a more comprehensive approach to protection with a little help from a marine active extract sourced from the cold, deep waters off the coast of Greenland. Rich in proteins and polysaccharides, it creates a protective film over your skin to prevent blue light damage,” Jenice enlightens us.
That being said, the most obvious answer is to (try) to shut it down. Turn off screens approximately “30 min to 1 hour before bed and only use blue light free light bulbs in your bedroom,” says Jenice.
Here are some products that protect against blue light we love.
P.S. Those are affiliate links below, meaning we’ll possibly make a small share of the sale off any purchase you make. That’s all, keep scrolling.
Since you can’t totally go off grid, your best bet is to cover your phone and computers with a blue light shield. We aren’t touching our phone without this case, thank you very much.
Think of this serum as a three-in-one and slather it all over, including scalp and hair.
This anti-blue light mist guards against harmful device rays which is why we spritz it generously like our own personal filter.
A blue light blocking moisturizer that doubles as the perfect ends tamer is key for an all-nighter.
Oculamp is portable and has three settings to offset the bad blue light bombarding you from all directions.