Here’s What Too Much Screen Time is Doing to Your Skin

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Here’s What Too Much Screen Time is Doing to Your Skin featured image
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This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Blue light, or high-energy visible (HEV) light is a component of white light—the light that comes from the sun, computer screens and other light sources—that experts point to as a contributing factor that can cause damage to our faces.

“Much has been made about the effects of blue light emitted from phones, laptops and televisions, but most blue light exposure comes from the sun, even though everyone is constantly attached to a screen these days,” says Birmingham, AL dermatologist Corey Hartman, MD. “The reason blue light gets so much attention is that it is the most energetic visible light, and thus can result in the most biological effects in organs exposed to the sun and other light sources, which are mainly the skin and eyes.”

What Can Too Much Exposure to Blue Light Do?
EYE STRAINER: “In the eyes, it can cause eye strain and fatigue, but also damage to the retina and the inner lining of the back of the eye. This can lead to macular degeneration, which is a disease that can cause significant and permanent vision loss,” says Tampa, FL oculoplastic surgeon Jasmine Mohadjer, MD.

SKIN STRESSOR: Increased exposure to blue light can lead to premature skin aging: “Blue light can cause inflammation and freeradical production, which can result in sun damage, wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin, and even skin cancer. Small studies show that blue light from the sun contributes to melasma, but it is not yet known if blue light from phones does as well,” adds Dr. Hartman.

SLEEP DISRUPTOR: Believe it or not, blue light is necessary for vital functions, like regulating a healthy circadian rhythm (the body’s natural wakefulness and sleep cycle). “However, too much blue light late at night can disrupt this natural cycle, which can cause sleepless nights and fatigue during the day,” Newport Beach, CA ophthalmologist Sheri Rowen, MD says. “The UV component aids vitamin D synthesis in moderation, so therefore HEV blue light actually produces both benefits and concerns for our eyes and overall health.”

Protection Plan
BLINK MORE: Humans normally blink about 15 times per minute, but not when scrolling. “Studies show that we only blink about five to seven times in a minute while using computers and other digital screens,” says Dr. Rowen. “Blinking is the eye’s way of getting the moisture it needs on its surface.” SWITCH TO NIGHT MODE: If this quick tip seems too easy, that’s because it is. Go into your settings and choose the dimmest lighting possible on your smartphone and computing devices. Using the hands-free options for phone calls can also limit face-to-screen time.

TARGETED SKIN SAVERS: While products formulated specifically with blue light in mind continue to hit the market, doctors we spoke to say the first line of defense is still a good SPF. “The best protection against skin damage remains physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and a tint like iron oxide,” says Dr. Hartman. When it comes to skin-care creams and serums, look for ones with antioxidants, which “combat matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that result from free radicals and destroy collagen, promoting wrinkles,” he adds. “Products with ingredients like marine algae and cacao extract have also been found to be helpful protection.”

BLUE LIGHT BLOCKERS: Limiting screen time is the best blue light blocker there is, but it can be nearly impossible with the increased demand to remain constantly “on.” To give your eyes a break without the fear of missing out, “you can use anti-reflective glasses, or computer glasses with a yellow tint, and in some cases with cataract surgery, you can get lens replacements that can block some blue light as well,” says Dr. Mohadjer.

SCREEN SAFEGUARD: Finally, there are very good solutions if you can’t break away from your digital devices. “Any products that carry the Eyesafe brand of certification have been found to protect from blue light damage,” says Dr. Rowen. “There are screen protection covers that have blue light filters built into the protective glass that sits on top of tablets and smartphones, just like normal screen protectors. Dell has also partnered with Eyesafe to produce new blue light–filtered displays in its laptops.”

Prep + Shield
Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Fluid Powder Foundation SPF 20 ($40) is perfect for Zoom calls on work-from-home days. The antioxidants in this liquid-to-powder formula help serve as a built-in blue light filter.

StriVectin Full Screen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 100% Mineral Sunscreen ($39) harnesses its blue light protection from French rice germ and also gives skin a boost of vitamins A, B, C and pro-vitamin D.

Using a marine active extract that is rich in both proteins and exopolysaccharides, goodhabit Rescue Me Glow Potion Oil Serum ($80) creates a protective barrier over your skin as you scroll.

The lenses on FLOWER Blue Light Computer Glasses ($20) are treated with five layers of anti–blue light coating to absorb 40 percent of the light emitted from screens before it ever hits your eyes.

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