Most savvy spa-goers are aware of the damage sunlight and pollution can do to the skin. But there is a new type of exposure that is also making headlines for its potentially negative impact on the skin—blue light, also known as high-energy visible light (HEV), that is emitted from our digital devices. In small doses, it actually helps the body’s internal cycles stay in rhythm—think hormone release. Unfortunately, more and more people are being exposed to unchecked, harmful amounts of blue light emitted from computer, tablet, television, and cell phone screens as well as indoor lighting, and they are seeing negative effects on the skin, eyes, and sleep cycles. The good news, however, is that a number of skincare companies and spas are addressing this exposure by offering products and experiences to address this negative impact.
According to a study by Nielsen, in the first quarter of 2018, U.S. consumers spent an average of three hours and 48 minutes a day on digital mediums, and 62 percent of that time was spent using the internet and apps on smartphones. This amount of screen usage is affecting people’s health. In fact, blue light has been known to disrupt sleep patterns, because the body uses blue light from the sun to regulate the awake and asleep cycles, so using a device late at night can make the body more alert when it should be resting. Another issue is the impact on the eyes, as blue light destroys light-detecting cells in the eyes with prolonged exposure.
It’s not just people’s eyes that are suffering—it’s skin, too. Unfortunately, blue light, which penetrates about 1mm into the skin, is believed to increase inflammation. This inflammation can lead to increased amounts of pigmentation and, in turn, speeds up the signs of aging. However, more studies are needed to identify all the effects of blue light. “It’s important to be aware of what the devices are doing to our skin,” says Nicole Landon, west coast training director of Guinot.
The skincare industry is responding to this threat by developing a range of products that help combat blue rays. Among the most effective approaches are antioxidants, which fight against free radicals and heal the skin, and melanin from plants, which absorb the rays. Just as sunscreen is used to provide UV protection, topical protection works well to block out blue light. For example, Guinot recently launched a sunscreen that uses melanin and lutiene to absorb blue light rays, and Natura Bissé has a prebiotic concentrate that strengthens the skin’s barrier to protect against blue light.
“OxySkin-HEV is a cutting-edge ingredient that prevents biological damage,” says Josanna Gaither, director of education and aesthetics of Natura Bissé. “It reduces free radicals and improves skin quality after exposure to the high-energy visible light emitted by digital devices.” Meanwhile, Coola offers a broad-spectrum SPF that lessens skin damage caused by blue light by using active plant cell cultures from jasmin, sambac, and mangosteen. In another form, Hydropeptide created a mist that uses somnifera root extract, which protects against blue light and pollution. “When formulated correctly, ingredients like somnifera root extract and certain biosaccharides can play a role in helping to form a protective shield over skin,” says Erin Larson, esthetician and director of brand management and education at Hydropeptide. Other formulas include Ceramiracle’s supplement, which is loaded with antioxidants to fight the effects of blue light from within.
Spas are also offering guests ways to fight digital addiction, which reduces exposure to blue light. At Scandinave Spa (multiple locations), digital devices are not allowed to be used in the spa. In fact, many spas including Sojo Spa Club (Edgewater, NJ), Canyon Ranch (multiple locations), and Burke Williams Day Spa (multiple locations), to name a few, all have limitations on how and when guests can use cell phones. Miraval Resort & Spa (Tucson, AZ) even offers a class about digital detoxing, and Mandarin Oriental offers guests the Digital Wellness Escape, which eases strain on the eyes, hands, head, feet, neck, and shoulders that comes with frequent device use.
In the future, Larson believes that protecting against blue light will become just as important as protecting against UV light. Larson says, “Blue light will continue to be one of many environmental aggressors from which skincare professionals and their clients are tasked with protecting skin."