Can Sunscreen Protect Against Blue Light? Let's Find Out

    Can Sunscreen Protect Against Blue Light? Let's Find Out

    The population that grew up with technology and the Internet are spending more and more time in front of device screens – computer, smartphones, large flat-screen televisions, and tablets, to name a few. Blue light has become a cause of concern as careers have become more digitally-dependent. Millennials and Gen Z-ers derive their entertainment from their phones and even use them as aids for education. In this article, we learn the answer to the question: Can sunscreen protect against blue light? To understand more, we first delve into what this light is and how it affects us. We then learn if sunscreen is effective against light, and if so, what kind.

    What is blue light?

    This type of light is part of the visible light spectrum between wavelengths of 400 nanometers (nm) to 500 nm. During the daytime, blue light is useful for increasing attention span and reaction time. It also influences mood. The problem is when we are exposed to blue light at night, it inhibits melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy. In this way, it affects the body’s natural sleep and wake cycle. Sunlight is the primary source of blue light. However, LED lights, fluorescent lights, electronic devices, TVs, and computer screens can also emit it.

    It might sound silly to ask can sunscreen protect against blue light, but studies have shown that blue light has both perks and disadvantages to the skin. A study has shown that low energy and low exposure times to high energy visible light (HEV), or blue light, prevent skin diseases. Its harms lie in longer exposure time – it causes damage to DNA, the eyes, skin barrier and can even cause cell and tissue death and photoaging.

    What are its effects?

    The most notable effect of blue light is the generation of non-enzymatic nitric oxide radicals (free radicals) and reactive oxygen species. Many factors contribute to skin aging: extreme physical or psychological stress, alcohol, improper nutrition and pollution. But ultraviolet radiation makes up 80% of these environmental factors. In fact, it is the most crucial factor in skin cancer and aging.

    Blue light accounts for 10% of skin aging and can manifest in the following ways: melasma, freckles, actinic keratoses (precancerous spots), and texture change.

    What are the signs of photoaging?

    Sun exposure and UV light exposure can damage skin. However, 10% of skin aging is attributed to HEV.

    Other signs of photoaging include:

    • Spider veins on nose, cheeks, neck
    • Pigmented spots
    • Uneven skin color
    • wrinkles and deep creases

    Can sunscreen protect against blue light?

    The answer is yes.

    To protect against visible light, the sunscreen itself must be visible. Tinted sunscreens contain a formulation that includes ultraviolet filters such as titanium oxide and iron oxides.

    A study revealed that sunscreens with titanium oxide and zinc oxide are effective against UVA and UVB radiation, but are only somewhat effective against HEV (blue) light.

    However, sunscreens containing zinc oxide and iron oxides do protect against blue light.

    Key Takeaways

    With regards to the question can sunscreen protect against blue light, it is best to go with tinted ones with a formulation of titanium oxide and iron oxides.

    Blue light is potentially harmful, but we receive a lot of it from TV and computer screens, LED lights, fluorescent lights and electronic devices. Not only does it affect our eyes and sleep habits, but it also could spur on skin aging.

    Learn more about Skin Health here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    How Blue Light Affects Sleep, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/blue-light. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Blue Light Protection, Part I-Effects of blue light on the skin, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33247615/. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Blue-Violet Light Irradiation Dose Dependently Decreases Carotenoids in Human Skin, Which Indicates the Generation of Free Radicals, https://dx.doi.org/10.1155%2F2015%2F579675. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging, https://dx.doi.org/10.1155%2F2012%2F135206. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Photoaging: What You Need to Know About the Other Kind of Aging, https://www.skincancer.org/blog/photoaging-what-you-need-to-know/. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Photoaging, https://dermatology.ca/public-patients/skin/photoaging/#:~:text=Photoaging%20is%20premature%20aging%20of,sources%20%E2%80%93%20alter%20normal%20skin%20structures.. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Iron oxides in novel skin care formulations attenuate blue light for enhanced protection against skin damage, https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13803. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

    Tinted sunscreens: Benefits beyond an attractive glow, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/tinted-sunscreens-benefits-beyond-an-attractive-glow-2020071320534. Accessed 9 Mar 2022

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    Written by China Logarta Updated Apr 11
    Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD