Wellness at Your Fingertips: The Effects of Blue Light

By: Dr. Neetu Ahluwalia


Hello Friends, 

The air quality in the Bay Area has improved dramatically and we can see blue skies, the sun, and Karl the fog again. What a difference a week can make! 

Since sheltering in place and the wildfires, more people are spending time indoors and on their devices. These devices (laptops, phones, tablets, TVs, LED light bulbs, etc.) emit blue light, which may affect our skin, potentially causing hyperpigmentation and premature aging. The research is ongoing but it is worth taking precautions.

What is blue light and what does it do?

You can actually see blue light—it is a high-energy, short-wavelength light. The sun is the biggest source of blue light. Most people learn of blue light because it can interrupt your sleep cycle and may cause harm to your retina. You may even have heard of blue light glasses.

With skin, the effects are not fully understood, but blue light seems to penetrate deeper into the dermis. Free radicals are formed and can damage collagen and elastin through oxidative stress. You can think of it as poking holes in your collagen (which helps with the structure and elasticity of the skin). It may also stimulate skin cells to produce more pigment, a double whammy. And with poor sleep, the healing time for skin cells is disrupted. So lots to think about.

So what can you do to prevent skin damage from blue light?

  1. Limit the amount of blue light emitted from your device—use the night shift mode on your iPhone, or bring down the brightness level by 50%.
  2. Swap out standard LED bulbs for ones that emit less blue light or have a filter. Check out Amazon for recommendations.
  3. Purchase a blue light shield for your computer.
  4. Use a mineral sunscreen that combines titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide (they form a barrier on the skin surface and reflect UV light) with iron oxide (the gold standard for blue light protection). Broad-spectrum sunscreen alone doesn’t protect you from blue light. Use it every day, even when you are indoors, and reapply often.
  5. Apply topical antioxidants 2-3 times/day (look for both vitamin C and vitamin E as they can bind the free radicals).
  6. Apply alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) as it can activate the natural defenses of skin cells.
  7. Buy blue light glasses to protect your eyes and the skin around them.
  8. Keep at least 12 inches between you and your screen, and take regular breaks.
  9. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (antioxidants) to boost your skin’s defensive mechanisms.

We are used to social distancing for COVID-19, so we can try social distancing from our devices by going hands-free. Our future skin may thank us. 

I look forward to seeing you soon! 

Dr. A

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.