We’ve all heard how we should limit the usage of our digital devices in the evenings to diminish disruptions to our sleep cycles. And how we should avoid staring and squinting at our screens too long to reduce eyestrain and minimize the crow’s-feet at the corners of our eyes. But did you know that the blue light our tech devices emit may be aging and discoloring us, too?
“Exposure to blue light, or high energy visible (HEV) light, in the 400–500 wavelength range, from computers, cellphones, TVs and tablets, can cause inflammation and result in the same amount of damage in skin as UVA/UVB rays combined,” warns West Coast dermatologist Sameer Bashey, M.D., FAAD. And according to Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in South Florida and co-founder of the Dr Loretta skin care line, broad spectrum SPF isn’t enough to protect our skin from HEV.
Studies from the Henry Ford Medical School’s dermatology department show that in people who are melanocompetent (a fancy word to describe those of us who get darker easily when we’re in the sun), HEV is responsible for more visible changes in our complexions than UVA light. “It causes swelling and hyperpigmentation. And although the hyperpigmentation from UVA fades within days, the hyperpigmentation from HEV can last up to two weeks after a single exposure,” explains Ciraldo.
So how can we protect ourselves from these damaging rays? Ciraldo suggests investing in a screen protector. Turn the brightness levels down on your devices to lessen HEV emissions. Wear opaque clothing to avoid worsening any existing pigmentation problems. Use a skin protectant to shade your face and body from overexposure to HEV.
Some medical professionals, however, don’t really think the light given off from our digital devices is of real concern and cite the lack of long-term, in-depth studies on the subject matter. “I don’t think the energy these devices put out is strong enough to cause our skin harm,” says Dr. Kenneth Howe, M.D., a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist. “Honestly, I think it’s mostly marketing. You would need extreme exposure to [HEV] for it to show physical damage. Yes, we should protect ourselves from infrared light, but I don’t think we need a new product for that. Just use a good sunscreen with an antioxidant, and limit your exposure of electronic screens. It’s as simple as that.”
Digital-age skin care to shield you from HEV
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Joane Amay is the Beauty and Style Director at Ebony magazine. A hoarder of shoes, baubles and sparkly things, she dreams one day of owning her own private island.