What Is Blue Light Skincare (And Is It Necessary)?
It’s no secret that spending long hours in front of a screen glowing with blue light can take a toll on your body, causing eye strain, difficulty concentrating, and more. But what a lot of people don’t know, is that blue light exposure can have negative effects on your skin as well.
Let’s take a look into what blue light really is in today’s digital age, how it affects the appearance of your skin, and which skincare ingredients can help reverse the effects. If you’re looking to formulate blue light skincare (or just want to know the best options out there), you’ll want to stay tuned!
What Is Blue Light?
You may remember the acronym “ROY G BIV” from elementary school (to jog your memory: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). Well, that knowledge will come in handy today. These colors make up the visible light spectrum. Each color on the spectrum has a different wavelength and energy level. Blue is the shortest wavelength and is also the closest to ultraviolet (UV) light which we know causes skin aging.
Sources Of Blue Light
How does it affect your skin in everyday life? Let’s take a deeper look.
Sunlight: This range of light that we can see produces what we know as “white light” or most commonly known as “visible sunlight”.
Lighting: As for man-made blue light sources, those include fluorescent and LED lighting as well as flat-screen televisions.
Screens: Did you know that some smartphone users spend 4 hours and 30 minutes per day on their devices? The display screens of smartphones, as well as laptops and tablets, emit significant amounts of blue light.
How Does Blue Light Affect Your Skin?
Most of us already have a firm grasp on the fact that ultraviolet (UV) light is damaging to the skin. In fact, it’s the main cause of photoaging and premature aging of the skin (think: wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, loss of elasticity, and more), as well as skin cancer.
Blue light and its effects on the skin aren’t as well documented as its UV counterpart. However, research shows that blue light exposure can lead to oxidative stress in the skin. This oxidative stress is what accelerates collagen breakdown, which then leads to fine lines and wrinkles. It may also be responsible for triggering some pigmentary conditions in the skin, such as melasma.
Is a Blue Light Skincare Routine Necessary?
If you’re asking yourself if a blue light skincare routine is an essential part of self-care or the key to great-looking skin, the answer is really up to you! At the end of the day, the largest source of blue light (AKA the sun) is really what you’ll need protection from day-to-day. This is why sunscreen is the best protection you have against premature skin aging (more on that below).
While checking a text message or binging a TV series isn’t going to wreak havoc on your complexion, you may want to consider a blue light skincare routine if you spend a lot of time in front of screens. In addition, because blue light is associated with screen time, you can also find yourself facing the effects of squinting. This action creates fine lines around the eyes—for which an excellent anti-aging or blue light skincare routine can help.
Chances are, you’re reading this article on a device that emits blue light, so it’s worth a look at the next ingredients!
Blue Light Blocking Skincare Ingredients to Look For
Now before you go off the grid to stay away from blue light, it’s important to understand you can fight the negative effects –or prevent them– with the right ingredients. Blue light-blocking skincare comes in many different forms, from sunscreens (as mentioned earlier) to creams to serums and more. Some contain particles that block blue light, while others contain ingredients that fight the damage of blue light. Let’s take a look!
Zinc oxide is a primary component in mineral (AKA “physical”) sunscreens, and it’s actually older than the SPFs we know and love today. Historical reports of the use of zinc oxide for medicinal purposes date back to as far as 500 BC! This white and powdery inorganic compound comes from mineral zincite, and is the reason why sunscreens create a white cast (a fancy term for when sunscreen turns your face white). While that part isn’t aesthetically pleasing, zinc oxide stays on the skin’s surface to reflect, scatter, and physically block light. This makes it a great ingredient for sunscreen (which is a great blue light-blocking skincare product).
Titanium dioxide is similar to zinc oxide in many ways. Because of its ability to reflect the sun’s rays, titanium dioxide is used in mineral (AKA “physical”) sunscreens and is quite effective at protecting the skin from UVA and UVB damage as well as blue light. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which are formulated with ingredients to absorb damaging sun rays, titanium dioxide works by forming a protective barrier on your skin.
Next up on the list of important ingredients for sunscreens is iron oxide. This ingredient is often added to mineral sunscreens to improve the look of the dreaded “white cast.” You’ll often see it in tinted sunscreens, makeup shades, and cosmetic pigments. It typically comes in shades of red, orange, brown, and black. While iron oxide is effective at absorbing all wavelengths of visible light, it’s particularly effective at absorbing longer blue light.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant powerhouse that you’ll definitely want in your skincare products. Antioxidants protect against blue light in the same way they help protect against UV rays, they prevent and/or banish free radicals in the skin. This is beneficial for your skin because free radicals can damage DNA and cause premature skin aging. Moreover, it also helps lighten dark spots, which helps if blue light is worsening your pigmentation. It’s most commonly formulated into a sunscreen or serum.
Green tea and green tea oil are abundant sources of plant polyphenols (micronutrients that naturally occur in plants). Polyphenols have antioxidant effects which, as we have stated, are key to blue light-blocking skincare products. Green tea has anti-fungal/anti-viral effects in protecting the skin, as an added bonus! Green tea pairs perfectly with SPF and is commonly found in serums and moisturizers.
Carotenoids are the natural yellow, orange, red, or sometimes violet dyes found in plants, most notably carrots. Carotenoids are useful in absorbing the blue light spectrum and also act as antioxidants. One example in skincare is β-carotene which can also help alleviate acute or chronic photodamage and regulate sebum secretion. This ingredient can be used in many types of skincare products (moisturizers and creams are popular) and it works very well in synergy with vitamin E.
Blue Light Skincare FAQs
We understand there are a lot of new(ish) concepts when it comes to blue light and skincare. Let’s review some of the main points.
Does Blue Light Skincare Work?
Yes, blue light skincare provides protection against the damaging effects of blue light. It works by physically blocking the light and fighting off free radicals formed by blue light (e.g., photoaging, fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, and dark spots) as a preventative measure.
Is Blue Light Skin Protection Necessary?
While blue light skin protection isn’t an absolute necessity, protection from visible light (most notable: ultraviolet AKA UV light) is the top-rated dermatological skincare step you can take in your morning routine. So while it isn’t essential, it’s still probably a good idea to use sunscreen every day to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun.
Since you can’t avoid screens in today’s technological climate, being proactive to avoid more damage is always a good idea. If you find yourself glued to a screen many hours of the day, you will want to consider a blue light-blocking skincare routine.
Is Blue Light Damaging to Skin?
Blue light can damage the skin by inducing oxidative stress, which happens when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Blue light can also cause photoaging or skin aging caused by light waves, which is the same thing that UVA and UVB rays do to the skin.
Formulate Blue Light Skincare Products With Beauty Ingredients
At this point, you may be interested in formulating your own blue light skincare regimen. Whether you’re looking for specific specialty ingredients, have a formulation or technical challenge, need application testing, or are looking for support to scale up and launch in a new & dynamic market, we can help.
Shop Ingredients for Blue Light Skincare Products
Want to shop ingredients and understand how they work together? For example, sunscreens formulated with iron oxides provide enhanced protection against blue light, especially when combined with zinc oxide. In addition, iron oxides tend to work well with all ingredients! Reach out for our expertise on ingredients or browse for an overview of our selection.
Contact Beauty Ingredients for Formulation Support
We’re here to connect you with world-class ingredients through our beauty lens. So if you are an indie or small cosmetic or skincare brand, formulator, or chemist looking for information about the latest cosmetic trends, get in touch to find out how we can cater to your needs when formulating.