Is blue light from screens really harmful to skin?

·2-min read
Research suggests that concerns about the harmful effects of artificial blue light on skin are unfounded.

In the end, it seems that artificial blue light from smartphones, tablets and other screens may not be harmful to skin. A new scientific study suggests that artificial blue light only has a "negligible effect" on skin, unlike natural blue light from the sun, which the scientists consider to be "the actual danger," potentially accelerating skin aging and increasing hyperpigmentation.

While artificial blue light is known to be bad for eyesight, its effects on skin have not yet been scientifically proven. Debates around the subject intensified, however, when the first covid-related lockdowns led people to spend more time in front of screens of all kinds, from laptops to smartphones to tablets.

Helmed by chief scientist in photobiology, Dr. Ludger Kolbe, a research team at Beiersdorf AG -- which specializes in sun protection and notably owns the Nivea brand -- studied the question and concluded that "artificial blue light has negligible impact on human skin." The study claims, for example, that spending an entire week uninterrupted in front of a monitor at a distance of 30cm from the screen would be equivalent to spending just one minute outside at midday on a sunny summer day in Hamburg, Germany.

"Public discourse has been characterized by a lack of knowledge and of scientific studies. But through our research activities, we've managed to prove that the amount of artificial blue light emitted during conventional use of electronic devices is nowhere near enough to trigger harmful skin effects," explains Dr. Ludger Kolbe.

The study goes on to state that, compared to the emissions of the sun's natural blue light, those of artificial blue light are virtually undetectable. And while time spent looking at screens --which has been on the up since the onset of the pandemic -- may be bad for vision and sleep, as several studies have shown, it apparently has virtually no (or very little) impact on skin.

"The much-feared negative impact of increased screen use due to the coronavirus -- for example, as a result of more online meetings or increased use of smartphones -- is therefore scientifically untenable. The effect on the skin is negligible, which means concerns about negative impacts on the skin are unfounded," continues Dr. Kolbe.

However, the study concludes that natural direct blue light from the sun's rays "poses a very high risk for the skin," arguing that this penetrates more deeply into skin and generates oxidative stress, thus accelerating skin aging and increasing hyperpigmentation.

Christelle Pellissier