Is your smartphone aging your skin? We investigate the hidden dangers behind HEV light and how you can protect your skin from the damages.
It's 4:00 p.m. and you've likely already spent several hours in front of your computer or using your smartphone. You may be feeling some eye strain, neck pain, and a little overdosed on emails or viral videos. For many of us, the side effects of extended screen time are often physically and emotionally evident. But what about what it's doing to our skin?
Why should you care about screen time?
The average Canadian spends 3.5 or more hours a day online, and our screen time has steadily increased by nearly 10% each year. While the conversation around screen time typically involves concerns about overall health and well being, it has recently been found to be directly affecting our skin cells.
When it comes to our skin, we're used to hearing about two different kinds of light: infrared and UV light (a.k.a. the ones that come from natural sources like the sun, or heat, like fire). But dermatologists have begun to consider the harmful effects of another type of light: visible light.
The science of how visible light affects your skin
Also known as blue light or high-energy visible light (HEV light), visible light waves come from screens, and have been proven to deteriorate the natural aspects of human skin, ultimately causing DNA damage.
Edmonton-based dermatologist Mariusz Sapijaszko has studied the effects of HEV light and its relation to potential skin damage. "Many women, despite good UV protection, continue to have abnormal facial pigmentation," says Dr. Sapijaszko, and there is evidence to suggest the culprit is HEV light. "HEV light is almost everywhere—from home TV screens, computer and tablet screens, to phone screens—and these devices are with us more and more yet we don't realise their hidden dangers."
So what exactly is happening to your skin when it's exposed to HEV light? "Visible light causes changes to the human skin through pigmentation and DNA damage," says Chloe Smith the scientific communications and national education lead at skin-care brand SkinCeuticals. "When your skin's DNA is damaged, this causes free radical cells to form in the skin." The development of free radical cells can lead to cell mutation, dark spots, rough and textured skin, or the weakening of your skin's natural collagen and elastin, which causes signs of aging like visible wrinkles or sagging. Considering that a single dose of HEV light is equal to 2.5 hours outside on a sunny day, you might want to pay attention to your screen time.
So what can you do to prevent and treat the effects of HEV light?
Reducing your screen time is the most optimal option for curbing its negative effects, but there are solutions for those of us who rely on devices for our everyday lives. Apps like Redshift and f.lux are available to help reduce the blue light your skin is exposed to via technology. Specialists also recommend keeping your devices at a distance while using them, or minimizing their brightness.
For products to use on your skin, Smith recommends looking for creams or serums that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants like vitamin C, green tea and resveratrol are your first line of defence when it comes to free radical damage, as they not only help to repair damaged cells, they can also help to prevent future damage when used regularly.
Maintaining proper skin-care habits and being considerate of the types of ingredients you're using is crucial to help prevent premature aging. Ultimately, if you're going to use a screen, using the right skin-care ingredients will maintain strong defences in the skin and combat those pesky free radicals that are caused by HEV light. You might not be able to go completely screen-free, but you can be smart about it.