What You Should Know about Blue Light and Your Health

blue light effects on eye and skin health

Right now you are reading this article from a device that emits blue light, whether it’s your phone, laptop, desktop, or tablet. Perhaps you’ll pop over to your TV later and catch a few shows or watch them on any of the aforementioned devices. You/we are living in a blue light world, and experts have expressed growing concern about the impact this exposure is having on our eyes and skin health. So what’s the story?

What is blue light?

Blue light is one of the colors of the visible spectrum (380 to 500 nanometers) of the electromagnetic spectrum that the human eye can see. It is contained in sunlight and electronic devices that many of us use for hours every day. According to Gary Heiting, OD, and member of the Eyesafe Vision Advisory Board, blue light has “nearly the same amount of energy as some ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are associated with skin cancer, cataracts, and other eye health problems.” Even though blue light has less energy than UV, it can penetrate deeper into the eye, which means it has the potential to damage cells in the retina and ultimately has long-term effects on vision. Blue light exposure is associated with eye discomfort and eye strain and also can cause or worsen dry eye.

It’s important to note that blue light provides benefits during daylight hours. That’s when it can enhance attention, mood, and reaction times.

Read about 5 ways to end sleep disruption from computer and tablet blue-lights

Blue light and circadian rhythm

One of the most important effects of blue light is on circadian rhythm and sleep. Exposure to blue light prior to retiring for the evening can disrupt the release of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. This can result in difficulty falling asleep as well as waking up in the middle of the night and getting up too early in the morning. Blue light comes not only from back-lit electronic screens but also from fluorescent and LED lights.

Get the latest information, tips & recipes for healthy living delivered directly to your inbox.
Your privacy is important to us.

A 2014 Harvard study compared the impact of six and a half hours of exposure to blue light and green light. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and also shifted circadian rhythm twofold (3 hours vs 1.5 hours).

You can block your exposure to blue light by wearing blue light-blocking glasses or placing screen filters on your laptop and other devices. Recent research has shown that glasses can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep among people with sleep disorders, variable shift work schedules, and jet lag.

Read about why you need blue light-blocking glasses

Blue light and skin health

Consider the amount of time you spend every day looking at a computer, tablet, or smartphone screen. You are facing blue light emissions, so what are they doing to your skin? According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology in New York City, “as we spend more and more time looking at our devices, we do need to consider the effects of long-term, low-level exposure.”

Research on the effects of blue light on skin health is still in its infancy. Thus far, evidence indicates that when blue light penetrates the skin, it can “cause reactive oxygen species, which then can lead to DNA damage and breakdown of our collagen and elastin fibers,” notes Jason Bloom, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. A small study also reported that exposure to blue light is connected to the production of cell-damaging free radicals in the skin. This can lead to accelerated aging of the skin.

How to protect skin against blue light damage

One way to protect your skin against the potential damage associated with blue light exposure is to apply iron oxides. These are pigments approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in beauty products, foods, drugs, and other consumer products. Iron oxides can protect the skin against blue light, according to board-certified dermatologist Geeta Dr. Yadav, MD. The Environmental Working Group rates iron oxides as safe, with low concerns for cancer, immunotoxicity, allergies, and developmental and reproductive toxicity.

Some other tips on how to protect your skin against blue light damage:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, even when indoors and using electronic devices.
  • Use skincare products that contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and zinc oxide.
  • Use a blue light screen protector on your electronic devices.
  • Use night mode on your electronic devices. This disables blue light and turns on yellow light instead.
  • Keep your devices at arm’s length, especially your phone. Use the speaker and place your phone away from your body.

Bottom line

Blue light is everywhere around us, and extensive use of electronic devices has greatly increased that exposure. Take steps to reduce your exposure to help protect your vision, skin, and sleep health.

Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Medical School 2020 Jul 7
Celletti E. Is blue-light blocking skincare necessary? We investigate. Byrdie 2022 Jan 18
Groth L. Is blue light harming your skin health? Everyday Health 2021 Nov 8
Hester L et al. Evening wear of blue-blocking glasses for sleep and mood disorders: a systematic review. Chronobiology International 2021 Oct; 38(10):1375-83.
Iron oxides. Environmental Working Group
Vandersee S et al. Blue-violet light irradiation dose dependently decreases carotenoids in human skin, which indicates the generation of free radicals. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2015;2015:579675.
Zhao ZC et al. Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. International Journal of Ophthalmology 2018; 11(12):1999-2003.
Leave a Comment

Lisa Roth Collins, RHN
Lisa Roth Collins is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and is the Marketing Manager at NaturallySavvy.com. She is passionate about health and wellness and tries her best to make healthier choices every day for herself and her family. Her journey to natural health was driven by her own struggles with digestive discomfort, depression, and anxiety. Lisa returned to school in 2014 to study nutrition at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. She threw herself into her studies so she could learn as much as she could to help herself feel better and thrive. Upon completing the program and being certified as an RHN, Lisa began her work at Naturally Savvy where she has been able to help so many people learn to make healthier choices for themselves. Through her work, she has connected with so many incredible people in the industry whether other authors, influencers, or brands. Plus, she is affectionately known as "Techie Spice" because of her ability to wrap her head around technology. Every day she gets up with a renewed sense of energy and ready to make a difference. You can read all of Lisa's content here. In her spare time, Lisa loves to try new recipes, make delicious and nourishing meals, and she is an avid reader. For more information about Lisa, check out her profile on here.