Is there real cause for concern over blue-light rays? Is there scientific evidence?
LEDs use blue light(400-490nm) for illumination of devices like TV monitors, computers and smart phones.
The main health concern of blue light is the light-induced damage to the retina(sensory component) of the eyes.
Animal studies show that blue light can make the pigments in the retina more sensitive to oxidative damage caused by visible light. Fortunately there is evidence that light in the 470-490nm range maybe less damaging making the development of LEDs with peak emission of around 470-490nm safer for our eyes.
The association between blue-light exposure and development of age-related macular degeneration & accelerated skin-aging is relatively new.
However, there are increasingly reports that shows that long-term exposure to blue light emiting sources may cause skin damage, through inflammation and accelerated photo-aging, and skin tone changes.
What are some damaging effects of blue light on the skin and sleep cycle?
Some studies show that blue-light in the range of 460-480nm have a role to play in our sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). A pigment from our retina (eye sensory organ) absorbs this blue-light and sends signals to our brain to regulate this sleep-wake cycle. Studies show that exposure to blue-light increases our alertness and stimulates cognitive functions. One study even showed that exposure to blue-light at bedtime negatively affected sleep and the circadian rhythm. Blue-light may even be used to treat mood disorders, that present with sleep disorders.
Blue-light, also known as High Energy Visible (HEV) light has wavelengths between 400-500nm. This light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum and occupies part of the spectrum between UVA and visible light. It is part of the light that we see from the sun. In fact, blue-light actually penetrates deeper than UVA and UVB, into the dermis layer creating free radicals that can breakdown collagen & elastin and cause inflammation to the skin.
Similar to UV light, HEV light can lead to worsening of hyper-pigmentation. These individuals usually have an underlying hyperpigmentation condition and prolonged exposure to blue-light may trigger and aggravate these darkening.
How else can blue light affect physical and mental health?
As discussed above, blue-light can affect our sleep-wake cycles and may be used to treat mood disorders with sleep disorder patterns.
As we age, our eye lens opacifies and turns yellow. This reduces the transmission of blue-light into our eyes and might lead to sleep disorders. There is a report of sleep pattern improvement in patients after cataract removal. The evidence out there is controversial, making the association between aging and photo-reception of blue-light into our eyes subject to debate.
- What gives a product the ability to claim that it offers blue-light protection? Is it a matter of ingredient make-up or a combination of factors?
- If it’s about ingredients, what specific ingredients should consumers look out for in products to combat blue light?
The ingredient that helps prevent blue-light damage to our skin is Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract.
This marigold extract (Calendula) is known as an anti-inflammatory and/or a wound healer.
It contains lutein which filter as much as 90% of the high-energy, wavelengths of blue-light from the visible-light spectrum.
- How will you be able to tell if a product with blue-light protection is actually working?
A simple placebo-controlled experiment can be conducted to measure the transmission of light (wavelengths 400-490nm) through an empty glass tube and another glass tube containing a liquid that filters off blue-light, using a light emitting device.
During this stay-home period, could you give 3-5 easy tips on how to better protect ourselves from blue light that don’t involve products? Ie. Things people can do at home to work with what they have, without buying anything new
Try to take regular breaks from looking at the computer screen for long periods of time.
Turn on the screen function to reduce the brightness of the white light if you plan to spend long periods on your computer.
Are there any kinds of foods we can consume that might help combat blue light or improve overall skin and eye nutrition?
The best advice is to have a well-balanced diet. Vitamin A is important in preventing blindness, especially night blindness.
The richest source of vitamin A are livers (eg. beef liver and cod-liver oil).
You can also consume food that are high in Lutein and zeaxanthin.
Foods with lutein and zeaxanthin include: