Health

Staring at Your Phone Might be Harming Your Skin - Here’s How You Can Prevent it

Health experts have been warning us about digital eye strain for a while, but can excessive screen time damage your skin as well? Keep reading to find out about the negative effects blue light can have on your skin—and how you can prevent them.

By Adarsh Soni
29 October 2021
Staring at Your Phone Might be Harming Your Skin

You wake up in the morning and the very first thing that you do—even before brushing your teeth or having a cup of coffee—is—look at your phone. You might be doing that to answer overnight texts or read the news, but most of the time we stare at our phone purely out of habit. I mean, what else are we going to do during on and off periods of lockdown, right? Especially now that both our work and entertainment is completely dependent on technology.

 

While a lot of us have been in an unhealthy relationship with our devices for a long time, it has gotten much worse over the last two years. In fact, Facebook reported that there was a whopping 70 percent increase of usage during the Covid-19 pandemic across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Now we all know that excessive screen time can harm both our eyes and our mental health to some extent, but did you know that the blue light that your devices emit—could also damage your skin?

 

What is blue light?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, blue light, also known as Artificial Visible Light (AVL) and High Energy Visible Light (HEVL), is the spectrum of light that is very close in wavelength to ultraviolet (UV) light—something that we all know is harmful for our skin. Scientifically speaking, the sun is the largest source of blue light. Closer to home, common electronic devices like phones, computer screens, laptops and tablets emit similar blue light but in significantly smaller quantities. Other sources include fluorescent light, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and LED light.

Can blue light really harm your skin?
According to a study by Dr Jahnna G Coats, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toledo, USA, blue light can be both harmful and beneficial to the skin, depending on intensity and wavelength.

The research paper states that low-energy and low intensity exposure to high-energy blue light can help treat advanced cases of acne, certain types of skin cancer and precancerous spots. However, one must note that this only applies to professional skincare treatments that are performed by certified dermatologists. On the other hand, longer exposure to high-energy blue light can increase the amount of DNA damage, lead to cell and tissue injury, eye damage, skin barrier damage, and in prolonged cases—photoageing, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

How can you protect your skin from blue light?
We all know that applying a good quality sunscreen every single day is essential to any skincare routine—no matter if you step outside or not. Any sunscreen that contains minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can help in blocking blue light. But if you can’t commit to slathering on a layer of sunscreen while spending time indoors, the least you can do is invest in antioxidant-rich skincare products. A study by Dr Lucy Chen, Dermatology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA, states that antioxidants found in Vitamin-C and Vitamin-E can protect healthy skin cells from free radicals—the root cause of photoageing. Which is why you should use skincare products that contain these vitamins, as well as ingredients like green tea, ferulic acid and pomegranate.
 

Are there any other ways of limiting blue light exposure?
Apart from making alterations to your skincare routine, the obvious solution to protecting your skin from blue light would be limiting your screen time. You can also try the following alternative methods to stay protected:

  • Invest in a blue-light filter: According to research by Dr Andrew K Smith, Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, USA, commonly available blue light filtering screens can block around 30 to 60 percent of blue light from your devices.
  • Switch to Night Mode: The “Night Shift” or “Night Mode” setting on your device makes the blue light appear in warmer tones, which are significantly less harsh on the eyes. However, one must note that this merely works as a placebo effect and doesn’t actually protect your skin.
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