What is Blue Light Pollution and How Does it Affect Your Body?
At this point, we’ve all heard about the effects blue light has on our eyes—there’s no shortage of stylish blue-light-blocking glasses out there.
But lately, there’s been talk about the effect it might have on our skin, too.
So, are the rumors true? How is it possible that blue light can affect our skin? What is blue light pollution, anyway? And does it really have a negative effect on our health?
We’re here to lay it all out for you (and give you some tips on how to protect yourself).
What is blue light?
Put simply, blue light is a type of electromagnetic wave.
When it comes to electromagnetic waves, it’s important to know that the longer the wave, the less energy it gives off. Blue light waves are some of the shortest waves on the visible spectrum, meaning they are extremely high-energy. In fact, they’re only slightly shorter than UV rays (which we know to be very powerful and harmful to our skin and eyes).
So where does blue light come from? There are a couple of sources to consider.
Originally, blue light’s sole source was the sun. Blue light waves from the sun keep our circadian rhythms in check by keeping us awake and alert throughout the day. When the sun goes down, our bodies lose that source of blue light, we produce melatonin, and get sleepy.
Well … that’s how it used to be. Before light emitting diodes (LEDs) existed.
Any technology that uses LEDs—which includes cell phones, tablets, TVs, E-Readers, hand-held gaming consoles, and LED lightbulbs—emits artificial blue light. Meaning our bodies have way more access to blue light than they used to.
This is where blue light pollution comes in.
Blue light pollution is a term used to describe overexposure to blue light due to the increased use of LED technology. Let’s be honest, most of us are pretty much glued to some sort of device throughout the day. And it may not even be something we can easily avoid—most jobs these days rely on screens.
Unfortunately, repeated and prolonged exposure to blue light may be affecting our bodies in negative ways.
Is blue light bad for you?
There may be some dangers when it comes to blue light pollution—namely sleep disorders, eye strain, and something called “digital aging.”
How blue light affects your sleep
Like we talked about earlier, the blue light emitted from the sun keeps our bodies awake and alert during the day.
How? By inhibiting our bodies’ ability to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps us go to sleep.
Now, this is great for 14ish hours, until it’s time to go to bed. Exposing ourselves to artificial blue light (i.e. scrolling through Instagram or TikTok) before we go to sleep can confuse our bodies and prevent melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep.
Blue light’s effect on your eyes
It’s important to note that our eyes aren’t evolved to block blue light.
This means almost all of the blue light we’re exposed to is directly hitting our retinas, which may speed up the aging process of our eyes.
This wouldn’t really be a problem if we were only being exposed to natural blue light. But, since our screens are always in our faces, and in such close proximity, the risk of eye damage and strain is higher.
Ultimately, blue light can cause dry eyes, fatigue, blurred vision, cataracts, and potentially retinal damage.
What does blue light do to your skin?
All of the information we have on blue light’s effect on our skin comes from preliminary research—meaning, we’re still in the middle of discovering what the effects actually are.
Overall, the fear is that blue light penetrates the skin, affects our collagen production, and potentially damages our DNA. Prolonged exposure can also lead to cell death which can speed up the skin’s aging process (this is where the term “digital aging” comes from).
Blue light does seem to have some benefits in controlled medical settings—it’s used in therapy to treat skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. But this level of exposure is very minimal, as it’s only a small amount of blue light for a short period of time.
How to protect yourself from blue light pollution
Now that we know a little more about blue light and blue light pollution, let’s look at some of the ways you can protect yourself from overexposure.
1. Sunscreen with zinc oxide or iron oxide
This one’s easy—you should wear sunscreen every single day anyway!
When it comes to protection against blue light, sunscreens with zinc oxide or iron oxide (found in most mineral sunscreens) are the best option. These ingredients reflect and block blue light while also shielding skin from UV rays.
Wearing sunscreen every day can help prevent skin damage and cancer, and with the addition of blue light protection, your skin will seriously love you.
2. Blue-light-blocking skincare
More and more brands are coming out with skincare that protects you from blue light—and we’re loving it.
Products like Able Skincare’s 2-1 Glycolic Blue Light Exfoliating & Illuminating DUO Moisturizer (featred in Kinder Beauty’s May 2022 box!), Earth Harbor’s Samphire and ILIA’s Blue Light Mist create a barrier to protect your skin from the potentially harmful blue light waves, both natural and artificial.
3. Night mode on your devices
Yeah—there’s a reason technology comes with night mode nowadays.
Although some people prefer bright, blue light as opposed to warm, yellow-y light when it comes to screens, switching your devices to night mode close to bedtime may help your brain recognize it’s time to start shutting down for the day.
4. Blue light glasses
These babies are more than just a trend.
Blue-light-blocking glasses have amber-tinted lenses that effectively block blue light from reaching your eyes. Wearing these glasses, especially in the evening, can potentially reduce eye strain and headaches that come with staring at a screen for too long.
Psst—there are clear prescription and non-prescription lenses out there that filter blue light, too!
5. Blue light screen protectors
If you don’t want to bother with glasses or skincare, there are some blue-light-blocking screen protectors out there that you can simply slap onto your screens.
These screen protectors filter out blue light directly from the source, reducing your exposure overall and saving you from potential risks.
It looks like artificial blue light is here to stay, considering our world’s reliance on technology. But all hope isn’t lost—simply protecting yourself from overexposure can make all the difference in the world.
Always put your health first by signing up for Kinder Beauty Box—we deliver 5 vegan, cruelty-free, and clean beauty products to your door every single month!
Ashley Webb is a professional copywriter for the clean, vegan, and cruelty-free beauty industry. Using SEO and consumer research, she writes blogs, webpage copy, product descriptions, and emails for beauty brands that are committed to making a difference. Adopting her two kitties, Ivy and Binx, started her journey to advocacy for animal rights, and even led her to go vegan! Learn more about her and her work at ashleywebbagency.com.
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