Stuck with stubborn dark spots? Even though you are using sunscreen regularly? Spots that appear out of nowhere and take up prime estate on your face? Chances are super-high you are dealing with blue light exposure, especially if you’ve been getting a lot of screen time (like me!).
But what is this blue light everyone keeps talking about? And is this blue light bad for your skin? And do you need a blue light sunscreen or other blue light skincare products?
Let’s answer ALL your questions right here!
So, by now, unless you’ve been living under a huge size rock, you are well aware of two things:
- Sunscreens are the best route to great skin — for all skin types.
- The blue light from our gazillion tech devices (think tablets, phones, television… !) kills our sleep patterns by suppressing the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
However, an emerging problem combines these two facts into a whole new form of skin sabotage — the blue light that suppresses melatonin and disturbs our circadian rhythm is now proven also to damage our skin. Who says so? Science.
And to counteract this blue light induced skin damage, we need a particular kind of sunscreen.
And yes, it’s seriously important.
So, let’s take the dangers of blue light exposure for your skin — and the solutions — from the top.
What is blue light?
Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum (380 to 500 nanometers) that contains the most energy. That’s why it’s also known as High Energy Visible light (HEV light).
The fact that blue light makes up about 35% of the sun’s radiation is cause for concern in itself. This is accelerating research on the ways that blue light impacts our skin and ways to protect against the damage.
However, unlike other damaging aspects of the visible light spectrum, like UVA and UVB rays, blue light is also given off by electronic devices and indoor lighting.
This means it’s all around us, even in the depths of our houses, windowless offices, and long after the sun has set.
The blue light is right there if you have the lights on indoors or look at an electronic screen. Day. And. Night.
And while the amount of blue light given out by these devices is a fraction of that emitted by the big blazing ball in the sky, the amount of time we spend surrounded by electronic screens and their proximity to our faces has dermatologists sending out warning research about consequent skin damage!
Is blue light bad for your skin?
Short answer: Yes, it is. In very significant ways.
Now let’s understand that by looking at the long answer.
With its intense energy and a longer wavelength, blue light can penetrate the skin even more deeply than both UVA and UVB rays — right down to the dermal layer of tissue.
Research shows that blue light can lead to visible changes in our skin cells, including cell shrinkage and premature cell death, causing long-term damage to skin health.
Blue light exposure also generates free radicals, which causes the skin to produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin. What is the result of this oxidative stress? Fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging.
And that’s not all.
Blue light also increases melanin production, which can darken hyperpigmentation. So, if you are wondering where all those dark spots are coming from, even though you use broad-spectrum sunscreen religiously, this may be the missing piece of the puzzle.
Blue light also weakens the skin barrier, leading to inflammation, sensitivity, loss of moisture, and reduced immunity to bacteria and environmental toxins.
(One good news, though: Blue light is not associated with developing skin cancer. Fortunately.)
How to protect skin from blue light
So, now that we have determined the skin-damaging effects of blue light — and the fact is that blue light is everywhere, all the time! — how can you protect your complexion?
The good news is you may not need to add another product to your skincare routine, and your regular sunscreen may be enough.
That’s if you use a physical sunscreen (not chemical sunscreens), which can double up as blue light sunscreen!
Physical sunscreens (mineral sunscreens) containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are the best way to prevent high-energy blue light from damaging your skin.
Both these ingredients sit on the skin’s surface and create a physical barrier against damaging rays — including blue light, UVA, and UVB rays.
Physical sunscreens that combine these iron oxides with antioxidants such as vitamin C or niacinamide are a bonus as they help mop free radical damage.
And if you really want to be on the safe side, choose products specifically designed to protect the skin against blue light.
The best blue light sunscreens
Best options for a blue light sunscreen? We have them all here, and each is expert-approved for blue light protection.
Again, this serum is not a traditional sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, so you would need to layer an SPF on top.
However, where blue light protection is concerned, you can't ask for a better option.
Fermented botanical extracts reduce the visible effects of blue light — such as dark spots and wrinkles — while tamarind extract, algae extract, and multiple molecular weights of hyaluronic acid step up hydration and skin firmness to smooth away fine lines.
There's also red sage root extract to improve the appearance of stressed skin, and amino acids for an immediately smoother look. Wow?
While this formula from sunscreen expert Supergoop! is already right on top of all our sunscreen ratings (it's the best sunscreen to wear under makeup, to begin with!) the addition of red algae makes it one of the top choices for blue light protection as well.
Red algae is super-rich in amino acid derivatives (the building blocks of proteins) that make for an incredible HEV light defense act.
Plus, the clear gel disappears into skin sans any chalkiness (even on darker skin tones), is weightless and dries down to a blurring finish — almost like a primer. AND it’s sweat- and water-resistant.
This Korean product is the first sunscreen to be specifically formulated for blue light exposure.
It contains a patented blue light defensive ingredient along with being broad spectrum (protection against both UVA and UVB rays) and reef-safe. It comes in two versions, for dry and oily skin. Both go on super smooth and are water-resistant.
The eco-friendly paper packaging is an innovative bonus for the sustainability conscious.
There's a reason EltaMD is loved by dermatologists. This one has it all — high doses of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide combined with hyalrunic acid for hydration, lactic acid to help keep pores clear and niacinamide to soothe the skin.
Perfect for an acne-prone complexion!
There's a reason this product, which contains titanium dioxide, sits right on top of every blue light sunscreen list.
It's ultra-light and uses a patented micro-crystal structure that forms a protective layer over the skin, while being completely non-sticky, non-greasy and non-white-residue-inducing.
Physical sunscreens are notorious for being gloopy and leaving a white cast.
Skinceuticals scores for not only containing a high concentration of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide but also being extremely translucent.
It's also oil absorbing, which makes it a perfect primer upon which to layer your makeup.
This specifically formulated blue light protection product goes on top of your regular sunscreen.
The super-light mist contains marine actives from Spain, which are supposed to have natural resistance against blue light exposure, while also being capable of repairing existing damage such as dark spots.
However, it doesn't offer either UVA or UVB protection, so you will need an additional sunscreen to factor in for these elements.
It's my go-to for late nights in front of the computer, when I don't need an actual SPF.
Are there any blue light skincare products that reverse the damage?
Considering it’s 2023, it’s safe to assume that you have already spent A LOT of time under the sun and in front of electric screens.
This means you already have a fair amount of blue light skin damage, even if it’s yet to show up (remember, blue light penetrates to the deepest layers of the skin, so some of the damage may not manifest immediately).
Fortunately, science has also developed products that focus on blue light skincare — some of which you may already have in your beauty kit — that may help reverse the damage.
The key ingredients to look for would be antioxidants, such as vitamin C, niacinamide, ferric acid, phloretin, resveratrol, vitamin E, and polyphenols.
All these powerful antioxidants bust those skin-sabotaging free radicals, help the skin repair itself, and brighten the skin tone.
These are the best expert-approved picks.
I love this one so much there's a whole post dedicated to it on the blog.
But to sum it up: The C.E.O Glow Vitamin + Turmeric Oil scores big because it uses the most potent form of vitamin C — THD Ascorbate — which is actually considered a quasi-drug in Japan for its skin brightening and rejuvenating benefits.
It works deep under the skin's outer surface to stimulate collagen production and address dullness, loss of firmness, lines and wrinkles, redness, and dark spots right at the very source.
Additional bonus: It’s also less irritating than conventional vitamin C for those with sensitive skin.
CE Ferulic has been the gold standard for antioxidant products since its launch in 2005.
And there's a reason the rave reviews continue: The patented combination of 15% pure L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), 0.5% ferulic acid1%, and 1% Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol).
This trifecta of ingredients help boost each other's efficacy, while also allowing for better absorption.
Result? Skin that's wiped clean of blue light damage, including fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and loss of firmness.
L'Occitane created this overnight mask (I tend to use it as a night cream) specifically to counter blue light damage.
With Immortelle Essential Oil and Immortelle Super Aqueous Extract (natural antioxidants and L'Occitane's most cult ingredients), and hyaluronic acid (to add hydration) it softens and nourishes the skin, while wiping away the signs of blue light damage such as dullness, dehydrated skin cells, fine lines, and an uneven skin texture.
Another product developed specifically for blue light damage, Ahava bases this on a patented technology called EnergiNius.
This calls upon Indian ginseng and Dead Sea Osmoter concentrate to not only reverse signs of exposure by boosting cellular hydration, cellular detox, and cellular energy but also preventing further blue damage damage.
FAQs about blue light skin protection
Here are the most frequently asked questions about blue light, it’s effects on our complexions, and the best blue light skincare products.
Are the beauty gadgets that use blue light technology bad for skin?
Beauty gadgets that use blue light technology do not damage the skin. In fact, they are very effective in certain areas, such as healing chronic acne.
The difference lies in controlled vs. uncontrolled exposure.
Beauty gadgets use blue light at a wavelength of 415 nanometers, which has healing properties.
However, the blue light you are exposed to in the natural environment or with electronic devices has a much broader spectrum, which is the cause of skin damage.
Can we reduce blue light exposure from our devices?
While nothing can completely negate the damaging effects of blue light from our digital screens, you can cut down on the amount of exposure by switching to night mode, wearing blue light blocking glasses, using screen protectors with advanced blue light filtration, and switching to hand free mode so the phone is not right next to your skin.
Which digital devices give out the most blue light?
Desktop computer screens, laptop screens, tablets, smartphones, TV, and fluorescent and CFL bulbs all use LED technologies with high amounts of blue light.