The Skin's Silent Enemy: The Risks of Blue Light Exposure


In our modern, digital world, we are surrounded by electronic screens everywhere we go - smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, and even some outdoor billboards now use bright LED and LCD displays. While this technology allows for incredible light, crisp visuals, there is a hidden danger that many are just becoming aware of - the blue light emitted from these screens in addition to the blue light already being emitted from the sun. (Did you know, the main source of blue light is not your phone- it’s the sun!)

With all of this heightened awareness of blue light, it’s important to understand exactly what blue light is, and the truths and myths behind common blue light claims. This section of the visible light spectrum contains high energy visible (HEV) rays with wavelengths between 400-500nm. Numerous studies have shown that even relatively brief, repeated exposures to blue light can contribute to premature skin aging and damage.

What Is Blue Light, and Where Does It Come From?

Blue light is a type of visible light with a relatively short wavelength and high energy. It is part of the spectrum of light that is emitted by the sun, and plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythm. Blue light can have both positive and negative effects on our health.

While the main source of blue light exposure is sunlight- modern sources of extended blue light exposure include display screens like those found on smartphones, tablets, computer monitors, and TVs. Outdoor LED screens and energy-efficient LED light bulbs emit some blue light as well.

The closer the screen, and the more hours spent looking at it, the higher the potential risk. In fact, one study found just 1 hour of exposure to light from electronic screens increased ROS production in skin cells.

While not as intense as the sun's UV rays, the cumulative effect of lower level blue light adds up over time with our increased digital usage.

full light spectrum graphic for blue light

The Science Behind The Impact Of Blue Light

Like ultraviolet radiation from the sun's rays, blue light has been shown to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) in skin cells. These unstable oxygen molecules can damage DNA, protein structure, and cell membranes, leading to inflammation, collagen degradation, and even cell death over time.

Blue light exposure has been directly linked to visible signs of accelerated skin aging or "photoaging" including:

  • Wrinkling
  • Loss of Elasticity
  • Hyperpigmentation & Age Spots
  • Redness
  • It can also disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin production.

This can impact skin's ability to repair damage overnight. Using a sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage that contains ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium oxide, or iron oxide can prevent these side effects of blue light.

Sunscreens With Blue Light Protection

Ingredients That Block Blue Light

Luckily, some of the same mineral ingredients found in effective broad spectrum sunscreens can also help block blue light waves from penetrating the skin. These include:

  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Iron Oxides
  • Zinc Oxide

Other antioxidant ingredients like niacinamide have been shown to mitigate skin reddening, hyperpigmentation, and oxidative stress caused by blue light exposure.

Blue Light's Role In Dermatology

While general overexposure does seem to carry risks, some dermatologists are exploring the potential benefits of targeted, controlled doses of blue light therapy. Early research indicates blue light in moderation may help treat certain skin conditions like:

  • Acne
  • Actinic keratosis (precancerous growths)
  • Cutaneous infections
  • Psoriasis

However, more studies are still needed on optimal treatment protocols and long-term safety profiles. Some studies that are currently available state that limited targeted exposure of blue light on skin can kill some of the bacteria that cause acne, as well as trigger anti-inflammatory responses on the skin. These kinds of results are very specific to clinical trials and do not mean that staring at your phone will cure acne. That will not happen. Similarly, holding your phone up to your face will not cure psoriasis on its own. The best treatments for acne are specifically formulated to tackle the various causes such as clogged pores, inflammation, and bacterial infection. Here are some of our favorite acne products.

Tips To Reduce Blue Light Damage

Based on what we know so far about blue light's impact, there are some simple steps you can take to limit your skin's exposure:

  1. Use blue light filter settings on devices when possible
  2. Take regular screen breaks to give your skin a rest
  3. Apply sunscreen/blue light protection products daily, even indoors
  4. Consider blue light blocking glasses or screen filters
  5. Prop devices farther away from your face
  6. Opt for warm LED light bulbs which emit less blue wavelengths


While our increased screen time habits necessitate more research on blue light's long term effects, the initial evidence indicates it's a risk factor for premature skin aging that shouldn't be ignored. Taking proactive steps to shield your skin by using sunscreens and skincare containing blue light blocking ingredients can help prevent potential damage down the line.

Make sure you’re using your sunscreen even when indoors all day if you plan to be in front of a screen for hours. It can make a huge difference in keeping your skin looking and feeling young!

blue light dangers and protective measures
Emily at Exclusive Beauty

The Author: Robert Baumann

Robert Baumann is a passionate advocate for science-backed skincare and wellness. With a lineage deeply rooted in dermatology as the son of renowned dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann, Robert brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his writing. Through his writing, he seamlessly combines his profound understanding of dermatology with the latest advancements in the industry. Robert strives to empower readers to make informed decisions about their skincare routines, guiding them on a journey where science meets beauty.

References & Studies

  1. Nakashima, Y., Ohta, S., & Wolf, A. M. (2017). Blue light-induced oxidative stress in live skin. Free Radical Biology and Medicine108, 300-310.

  2. Suitthimeathegorn, O., Yang, C., Ma, Y., & Liu, W. (2022). Direct and Indirect Effects of Blue Light Exposure on Skin: A Review of Published Literature. Skin pharmacology and physiology35(6), 305-318.

  3. Kleinpenning, M. M., Smits, T., Frunt, M. H., Van Erp, P. E., Van De Kerkhof, P. C., & Gerritsen, R. M. (2010). Clinical and histological effects of blue light on normal skin. Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine26(1), 16-21.

  4. Campiche, R., Curpen, S. J., Lutchmanen‐Kolanthan, V., Gougeon, S., Cherel, M., Laurent, G., ... & Schuetz, R. (2020). Pigmentation effects of blue light irradiation on skin and how to protect against them. International journal of cosmetic science42(4), 399-406.

  5. Coats, J. G., Maktabi, B., Abou‐Dahech, M. S., & Baki, G. (2021). Blue Light Protection, Part I—Effects of blue light on the skin. Journal of cosmetic dermatology20(3), 714-717.

  6. Pieper, C., Lee, E. B., Swali, R., Harp, K., & Wysong, A. (2022). Effects of Blue Light on the Skin and Its Therapeutic Uses: Photodynamic Therapy and Beyond. Dermatologic Surgery, 10-1097.

  7. Arjmandi N, Mortazavi G, Zarei S, Faraz M, Mortazavi SAR. Can Light Emitted from Smartphone Screens and Taking Selfies Cause Premature Aging and Wrinkles? J Biomed Phys Eng. 2018 Dec 1;8(4):447-452. PMID: 30568934; PMCID: PMC6280109.

  8. Dong, K., Goyarts, E. C., Pelle, E., Trivero, J., & Pernodet, N. (2019). Blue light disrupts the circadian rhythm and create damage in skin cells. International journal of cosmetic science41(6), 558-562.

  9. Chamayou‐Robert, C., DiGiorgio, C., Brack, O., & Doucet, O. (2022). Blue light induces DNA damage in normal human skin keratinocytes. Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine38(1), 69-75.

  10. Kumari, J., Das, K., Babaei, M., Rokni, G. R., & Goldust, M. (2023). The impact of blue light and digital screens on the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology22(4), 1185-1190.

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