Blue light is in the news – and not for good reasons. In the modern world, as we constantly flick on energy-saving lights and check smartphone, TV, tablet and computer screens, human beings are more exposed to ‘blue’ light sources, and for longer, than ever before. Why is it called blue light? Because different light wavelengths have different effects. Blue wavelengths have a stimulating effect on mood and energy: this might be useful during the day, but at night they can throw the body’s biological clock – the circadian rhythm – out of balance and upset sleep and metabolism.
This is thought to happen by disrupting the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that controls circadian rhythms (although other elements may play a role), and can potentially cause health problems: diabetes, obesity, depression, heart problems and cancer are all linked to sleep disorders. While light of any kind at night – such as experienced by shift workers – can affect melatonin, blue light seems to have a stronger effect. In one Harvard University study, exposure to blue light at night was shown to suppress melatonin secretion for twice as long as exposure to light of another colour wavelength. Nor are phone and computer screens the only culprit; ironically, we may be undermining our health with environmentally-friendly LED light bulbs – they are energy-efficient, but they also produce more blue light than older incandescent ones.
So how can you protect yourself and get a good night’s sleep?
Love natural light – Spend as much time as possible outside in natural light (even if it’s overcast) during the day. If you can position your desk near a window with natural light, do so. At lunch time, get out and walk with your face and forearms exposed. This will all help to improve your mood and focus during daylight hours, and your ability to wind down and sleep at night.
See red – When installing night lights, use red globes or shades, because the red light wavelength is the least stimulating. If you work night shifts, put red bulbs in the bathroom. Investigate apps that filter blue light on electronic devices, especially if you use them at night for work or study. Some smartphones have a setting that disables blue light in favour of yellow light, making it easier on your eyes. If your phone has this feature, then use it all the time.
Turn it off – If you do not need to use electronic devices at night-time for work or study, turn off all bright screens at least two hours before you want to sleep.
Support your skin – Research shows that protecting your skin against UVA and UVB rays is no longer enough, because the combination of the blue light or high energy visible light (HEV) emitted from the sun plus the extra blue light from digital devices and fluorescent lighting is even worse for skin. The effects of HEV exposure are the same as those caused by UVA and UVB exposure – uneven skin tone, pigmentation, wrinkles, dryness, premature ageing and impaired barrier function. However, the difference is that blue light rays – nicknamed ‘the silent agers of our generation’ – can penetrate further into the skin than either UVA or UVB rays. In fact, blue light can penetrate all the way into the dermis, where collagen and elastin are formed, and this can result in significantly more damage to skin.
The good news? You can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB and blue/HEV light by eating a diet rich in antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables, and also through the topical application of skincare products which provide natural antioxidants that strengthen the skin’s resistance to environmental damage. We love The Jojoba Company’s new Ultimate Day Cream for this reason – it contains a unique ingredient called Arctalis, a fermented marine active sourced from the ocean under the aurora of the Northern Lights, which has been clinically proven to protect the skin from damage caused by blue/HEV light exposure. Clinical tests have shown a dramatic 53 per cent decrease in blue light damage to skin in just four days. The Jojoba Company Ultimate Day Cream also contains vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from environmental damage. Akoactive Garuda, which is a mix of orchid and magnolia extracts, also features in this cream and is clinically proven to reduce skin sagging and increase skin elasticity.