How To Protect Yourself From Blue Light Damage With Supplements & Antioxidants
In our new normal, one area that's gained a lot of attention is screen time. Given we're all spending more time indoors, reading news alerts on our phones, perhaps working remotely, or maybe teaching kids via video classrooms, this likely adds up to more screen time than we're used to. And, for better or for worse, this is just the reality of it for many of us. As much as we'd like to put down the screen and opt for face-to-face interaction, we can't yet.
But people are rightfully concerned about how the increased blue light might be affecting us. We know it can mess with our circadian rhythms, especially if we use phones late at night before bed. We also strongly suspect blue light is doing something to our skin (to what extent and how badly is still in question, but more on that soon). The latter query has many beauty and wellness brands looking for a protective solution, like "blue light protecting face mists." What's the deal with these, and should you get one?
What is blue light, and how does it affect our skin?
Light—from the sun, light bulbs, LED light, or our screens—contains a full spectrum of wavelengths. UVA and UVB get the most attention as we know how ultraviolet radiation can be very damaging to the skin. And recently the focus has shifted to high-energy blue light. High-energy blue light is part of what's called the visible light spectrum (meaning, you can see it, unlike UVs). The largest source of high-energy blue light is the sun, but screens also emit it—and that's why so many people are discussing it lately.
The only studies connecting blue light and skin damage have been about blue light coming from the sun1, and thus at much higher levels than we might be exposed to via our screens and cellphones. These studies do show that blue light exposure2 can cause hyperpigmentation (dark spots), signs of premature aging like wrinkles (also known as photo-aging), and it can trigger inflammation and oxidative stress.
The problem is that while we know that blue light exposure is damaging, we just don't have conclusive evidence about blue light exposure from our screens and skin damage. However, dermatologists say we're not wrong to be suspect of screen time's effect on skin. "I do think all this glare and light from the computer has to be doing something," board-certified dermatologist Jeanine Downie, M.D., has told us. "Even if we don't have full answers yet, we need to prepare for the possibility that they are harming our skin."
Should you get a blue light protection mist?
You may have seen blue light protection mists popping up a lot more lately. Blue light protection mists are essentially face mists that are filled with antioxidants, hydrators, or adaptogens to neutralize oxidative stress, free radicals, and moisture loss. Inherently, these are all good things for your skin. It should be noted, though, that they do not protect your skin from blue light in the same way that SPF protects your skin from UV rays; SPF blocks UV rays from affecting your skin cells, whereas these simply mitigate or neutralize the blue light's effects.
So, that being said, if you already apply an antioxidant serum or moisturizer with these ingredients, you're already protecting yourself from the damage that might come from blue light. So in the end, it's not really about how you apply the antioxidants (mist versus serum, for example); it's just that you are utilizing plenty of antioxidants in your overall topical skin care routine.
And as board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group, has previously told us: With antioxidants, it's the more the better. "The more you can help neutralize unstable molecules caused by free radical formation, the longer you can salvage the health of your cells and skin," she said. "There's really no limit to how much you can protect and repair your body!"
But another thing to think about with some of these mists is they may also be filled with less-than-ideal ingredients like drying alcohol, questionable preservatives like parabens or phthalates if it's not a clean brand or astringent ingredients, which may cause irritation for those with sensitive skin. So if you decide to purchase a "blue light mist," be sure it's from a beauty brand you can trust and is made with ingredients that won't irritate your skin (essentially undoing any good from the antioxidants.)
What is the most effective way to protect yourself from blue light?
If you really want to protect skin from oxidative damage and free radicals, you must provide your skin cells with antioxidants internally.* Of course, this means eating a rich diet in leafy greens and fruits, but you should also include a smart supplement that has effective, potent antioxidants.*
mindbodygreen's grass-fed collagen+ contains a host of added antioxidants to help balance the body's inflammatory response and to protect against free radicals, oxidative stress, and photoaging.* First up: Sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS) is extracted from cruciferous vegetables. SGS activates the body's natural antioxidant enzymes, and this helps protect the skin from photoaging.* Then there's curcumin and L-glutamine, which help support your body's inflammatory response*; inflammation is one of the key triggers for free radicals in the body—and a suspected side effect of blue light damage. Finally, there is vitamin C and vitamin E, two potent antioxidants that help support skin from a variety of pathways, including managing photoaging.*
Not to mention a few of the things that damages collagen—those vital structural proteins in the body and skin—are oxidative stress, inflammation, and free radicals. So not only are you neutralizing any damage before it starts with the antioxidants, but you are supporting your collagen production internally too.*
In addition to taking collagen supplements and antioxidants, you should also be smart about your blue light exposure. Try to limit your cellphone time before bed (much like excessive UV damage, one way to mitigate its effects is to simply limit it). Many phones and laptops are also able to reduce the blue light output on the screen, so you can also look into that—although it will distort the color.
We suspect blue light to have adverse effects on our skin, even if we don't fully know the extent or what it means long term. That being said, it's always important to manage damage from free radicals and oxidative stress, so load up on antioxidants from smart supplements to support your skin from the inside out.*
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.