how blue light affects your skin

We just launched daily SPF, our clean, lightweight, reef-safe sunscreen! Our formula is unique because it protects against UVA and UVB rays as well as blue light and pollution. 

Now, you might be wondering why you’d want to protect your skin from blue light. That’s why we spoke with Helen, our resident expert on blue light (she’s even had a white paper on the topic published by Global Cosmetic Industry!), to discuss how it affects your skin and what you can do about it. Here’s the scoop. 

Q: how does blue light differ from other types of light, like UV rays for example?

A: Blue light actually isn’t too different from UV - blue light is visible where UV is not, but they have similar wavelengths and properties. They’re similar in that they both penetrate the skin, and blue light can actually reach deeper into the skin than UV rays. 

Blue light can penetrate the skin, and it’s also the highest energy of all of the visible colors. Other colors of light (green, yellow, orange, red) can also penetrate the skin, but they are way lower energy and therefore don’t cause as much damage.

Q: where does blue light come from?

A: As you’ve probably heard we’re exposed to blue light from digital screens every day - cell phones, computers, TVs, etc. Almost every indoor light source exposes you to blue light as well - fluorescent lights, any lightbulbs that appear white, even the light inside your refrigerator!

There’s also blue light in solar rays - in fact, the sun is the most intense source of blue light out there. Even on a cloudy day, the intensity of blue light coming from the sun is at least 6 times higher than the dose from a digital device. We did the math: having an iPhone, laptop, and overhead lamp pressed directly to your skin at full brightness for 12 hours exposes you to as much blue light as standing outdoors for just 2 hours on a cloudy day!

Blue light also isn’t new to the digital age; because solar rays contain blue light, we’re exposed to it when we’re outdoors AND indoors.

Q: how does blue light affect your skin? 

A: Blue light doesn’t burn your skin like UV rays do, but it can similarly lead to signs of early aging by causing oxidative stress, increasing dark spots, and making your skin less elastic. 

Q: can blue light ever be beneficial to the skin?

A: Yes, but it’s all about dosage. You may have seen blue light “acne pens” or light therapy devices before, which help reduce acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. These devices emit a specific wavelength of blue light in a targeted dose. With an acne pen for example, the targeted blue light helps reduce the acne by killing the bacteria on your skin that is causing it. 

Since blue light therapy works by killing bacteria, you can imagine why people are worried about blue light causing damage from long-term daily exposure. For those with healthy skin, it’s best to protect your skin from overexposure to large doses of blue light.

Q: how can you protect your skin from blue light?

A: Besides avoiding too much time in the sun, use skincare products that can prevent blue light damage. We have two options--products that actually block blue light from hitting the skin, and products that contain ingredients to help repair damage. 

Protective products contain a pigment or mineral that reflects blue light. For example, blue phytoplankton, which we use in our daily SPF, naturally contains a blue pigment (phycocyanin) that reflects blue light and therefore shields your skin from blue light damage. It works just like a mineral sunscreen works for UV!

Reparative products contain antioxidants or DNA-repairing ingredients to offset blue light-induced damage. For example, our blue phytoplankton contains an enzyme (a special protein) that helps fix damaged skin DNA.

Since the largest dose of blue light comes from the sun, it makes sense to include blue light protectors in sunscreens. But remember--not all sunscreens protect against blue light! Even “broad-spectrum” sunscreens are only tested to block UVA & UVB, so be sure to choose a sunscreen that has either been tested to block blue light or contains a specific ingredient proven to reflect blue light and repair damage.

Q: are there any other environmental factors that we need to be more conscious of in protecting our skin?

A: Definitely air pollution! Air pollution can include smog, airborne chemicals, and particulate matter (tiny dust particles) flying around, especially in urban or industrialized areas. These substances can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which prematurely age your skin. The smallest pollution particles can even enter your pores and hair follicles, causing further damage. 

Pollution is the main reason that we formulated our daily SPF with a type of microalgae called “diatoms.” These tiny algae strengthen the skin barrier to defend against air pollution. Essentially, the microalgae shield your skin so that these damaging pollutants don’t do as much harm and fewer skin cells die. They also help calm and soothe the skin, which is a bonus.

Q: final thoughts?

A: Blue light and pollution protection are super important to avoid premature skin aging, and it’s especially useful to have these things in a sunscreen. Most of us know about the dangers of UV light, but in truth, UV is just one of the many stressors that your skin is exposed to everyday. 

There’s also a reason we recommend wearing our daily SPF every day, whether you’re inside or outside. Even if you’re indoors, you’re still being exposed to blue light from digital devices and indoor light sources. Also, UVA rays penetrate glass and can damage your skin when you’re indoors near a window. 

we hope you found this helpful! for more skincare education, tips, tricks, and tutorials, make sure to sign up for our emails below!