We all know screen time is bad for our sleep because the blue light disrupts your sleep hormone Melatonin but is blue light bad for your skin too?
With the winter months drawing in and various states of lockdown still in place for many months to come; we’re all spending much time in front of screens and TVs. Add in the extra zoom calls and computer time as a result of working from home and you’re suddenly racking up some serious screen hours. The result… a massive increase in our exposure to blue light.
But is it a problem?
If you’re sleeping ok is there a downside to too much blue light and time in front of a screen?
In simple terms, yes.
Studies have shown that screen time not only affects our sleep, but it can have a negative impact on our mental health, physical health and our skin too!
What Is Blue Light?
It seems that the problem is something called blue light.
Blue light is pretty much what it sounds like – it’s a type of light that has blue colour wavelengths.
The problem is that this blue light is very close in wavelength to ultraviolet (UV) light, which can potentially cause long-term damage to our skin.
Most people these days know about the damage that UVA and UVB rays can do to the skin.
UVA rays reach deep into the layers of your skin damaging your collagen, impacting your DNA and accelerating the ageing process. This leads to fine lines, wrinkles, loose skin, sun spots and pigmentation.
UVB rays, however, affect the top layers of your skin. UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburn which can permanently damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Blue light has a longer wavelength than both UVA and UVB rays, which means that it can penetrate deeper into the skin.
Does Blue Light Damage Your Skin?
There are currently no conclusive studies on real human skin, but there is some pretty concerning research evolving showing damage to individual skin cells.
One study found that just one hour of blue light exposure increased the free radicals and enzymes that can break down collagen and cause premature ageing and hyperpigmentation.
Other research is showing that increased ageing, pigment changes and overall skin damage from blue light use IS something that we should be taking seriously.
So if you are glued to your screen morning, noon and night this can lead to increased stress within your skin leading to inflammation and accelerated ageing.
Blue light also disrupts sleep, reducing melatonin production and affecting your ability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Disrupted sleep is directly linked to increased inflammation, disease and will also wreak havoc with your skin. Read my recent post about how sleep affects your skin.
Why Collagen Matters
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll have noticed that I mention collagen a lot. That’s because when it comes to ageing it’s one of the most important things for helping you to retain the firmness and tightness of your skin.
Collagen and elastin are the building blocks that give your skin its structure and flexibility. As we age, our body’s ability to produce collagen naturally reduces. It’s this reduction that causes lines, wrinkles and sagging.
So to put it simply, if you want to help prevent the signs of ageing, you’ve got to protect your collagen.
If, as the research suggests, blue light plays a part in damaging your collagen then reducing screen time is something that we should all be trying to do.
How To Reduce Exposure to Blue Light
Reducing your screen time is a great way to protect your skin – and improve your mental health too. But with screens playing such a huge part in our lives, how can you reduce your screen time without missing out?
The simplest solution is to make small adjustments that have a minimal impact on your life, but maximum impact on your “zombie” screen time.
What do I mean by “zombie” screen time?
Well, there is productive, useful and enjoyable screen time – such as watching a movie with your spouse, doing a zoom call for work, messaging an old friend to catch up. Then there’s “zombie” screen time.
Zombie screen time is the time we spend on screens that’s not purposeful. The mindless scrolling through social media, Netflix bingeing and constant email checking. Zombie screen time is wasted time. It doesn’t bring you joy or help you to achieve something worthwhile. It just fills a little time and mindlessly numbs your boredom for a few minutes – or hours.
By reducing your zombie screen time in tiny ways, you can cut your skin’s exposure to blue light without missing out on any of the good things that screens have to offer. In fact, by cutting down your zombie screen time you can enhance your whole life, not just your skin!
Simple ways to easily reduce screen time and protect your skin:
Track Your Screen Time
First of all, most people spend WAY more time on a screen than they realise. By adding a tracking app to your devices, you can monitor how much time you’re spending online and which apps or devices you use most often.
You might be surprised at just how much of your time Facebook is taking from you!
Turn Off Notifications
Notifications are the worst when it comes to reducing screen time. How many times have you been happily engaged in something when that “ding” from your phone distracts you and makes you take a look? And it’s surprising, isn’t it, just how hard it is to ignore that notification sound?
By turning off notifications on your phone you can take control of your time, consciously deciding when to give your devices some attention.
Do Screen-Free Meals
Mealtimes used to be a social occasion. A time that the whole family would come together, talk about their day and spend some quality time with one another. An easy way to ensure some screen-free time in your day is to bring back the family dinner. Make it a habit to leave your phones in another room and eat dinner together.
Find Some “Off Screen” Hobbies
Screens offer easy entertainment. But not only that, many of our previous offline hobbies have now migrated to a device. Books are no longer paper but read on the Kindle app. Games have moved to digital versions. Even creative hobbies are moving online.
So buy that next book in paperback or grab a puzzle book from the newsagents. By consciously choosing to do your offline hobbies offline, you can still do the things you enjoy while also reducing your skin’s exposure to blue light.
Swap Screen Time For Exercise
How many people say they don’t have time for exercise but then spend 2-3 hours on the phone each day on social media? Be honest!!
Whether it is taking a walk in the fresh air, doing some Yoga or doing the latest Joe Wick’s workout, swapping screen time for being more active is definitely a good idea.
Buy An Alarm Clock
Phones in the bedroom can sometimes be a hot topic. But by creating a habit of keeping your phone out of the bedroom, you can easily limit your blue light exposure, protect your skin and probably improve your sleep too!
Most people argue that they need their phone in the bedroom because of their morning wake up alarm. Well, there is a simple solution. Buy an alarm clock! Move your charger downstairs and give your self some screen-free wind-down time at the end of the day.
Buy a Blue Light Shield
You can buy blue light blocking glasses to wear in the evening around your home, these are proven to help improve sleep but they aren’t really protecting you skin. You could try putting your phone or tablet into night mode which would help a bit or you can buy a blue-blocking screen protector from Amazon, like this one from Ocushield who make screen protectors for all devices.
Wear a Sunscreen That Includes Protection From Blue Light
Wearing sunscreen all year round is really important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, even in the winter. But some sunscreens now are able to provide an added level of protection that can protect your skin from blue light too.
At The Body Clinic, we recommend daily use of one of the products from the award-winning Heliocare 360 range of sunscreens. The 360 range provides full-spectrum protection including blue light. It uses a special antioxidant ingredient call Fernblock which protects the skin from the UVA, UVB Visible Light and Infrared-A, as well as reducing free radical damage and protecting your DNA.
We stock the full range of Heliocare 360 and can provide samples for you to try.
Want to Learn More About How To Protect Your Skin?
Here at the Body Clinic, we’re passionate about helping people to protect their skin and prevent the signs of premature ageing. If you’d like to learn more how to keep your skin healthy then check out my previous blog posts here…
Or if you would like to book a FREE skin consultation give us a call on 01562 265001.