What Staring at a Computer Screen All Day Does to Your Skin

The screen reports don’t lie. Many of us are spending an inordinate amount of time on our screens and (gulp) it’s starting to show on our skin. 

As Dr.Vivian Bucay, a board-certified dermatologist in San Antonio, Texas explains: “Visible light, especially blue light (which is emitted from our computer monitors and phones), is a major contributor to aging and dark spots. And because we’re always using our phones and sitting in front of computer screens for longer periods of time, we’re being exposed to more visible light than ever before.”  

What exactly is blue light?

“Blue light is one of the wavelengths of visible light, and visible light is one of the components of sunlight, also known as the solar spectrum or the electromagnetic spectrum,” explains Bucay. “The solar spectrum is comprised of electromagnetic rays of different wavelengths, which range from short wavelength to high energy ultraviolet radiation (i.e., UVC, UVB, UVA) to visible light (VL), and long wavelength, low energy, infrared radiation (IRR). Visible light is broken up into many colors of the rainbow from violet to blue to red,” says Bucay.  

Where does blue light come from?

Contrary to popular belief, blue light doesn't just come from computer screens. “Blue light comes from visible light, and visible light comes from sunlight or artificial sources of light, including fluorescent light bulbs, LED lighting, flat-screen television screens, smart phones, smart tablets, laptops and computer screens,” Bucay explains.

“Although we get most of our blue light exposure from outdoor light, we spend so much time in front of our digital devices and at much shorter distances (at arm’s length or closer) that, for many of us, these artificial sources of blue light have become significant sources of exposure.” 

How does blue light affect the skin and how can we minimize damage caused by it?

“Although the harmful effects of UVB and UVA radiation (like sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging) are well known, it is only recently that studies have shown that visible light and infrared radiation can also be detrimental to the skin,” says Bucay.

“Without getting too technical, the effects of blue light on skin include degradation of collagen, modification of stratum corneum lipid composition (aka the natural oils in the outermost layer of your skin), and changes in skin pigmentation,” explains Bucay. (Translation: It can cause premature aging, dryness and hyperpigmentation.)

Luckily the solution is simple.Apart from the obvious (reducing screen time), an easy way to minimize damage is to wear a mineral-based sunscreen, which will help filter out the visible light wavelengths.

Bucay cautions that,“Not all sunscreen protects against visible light, so it’s imperative to read the ingredients to ensure you’re getting full protection from all types of light. Look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label.” 

Photo by Getty Images

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