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How Blue Light Affects Skin

LED-light skin therapy procedure utilizing high-energy blue light.

In recent years, there has been growing concern about the impact of blue light on skin health. Blue light is a type of high-energy visible light that is emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions. The sun also emits incredibly large amounts of this type of light, as do many forms of indoor LED lighting.

While some research has suggested that high-energy light may have skin benefits, there are also concerns that it may cause skin damage and premature aging. In this article, we will explore the current research on how blue wavelengths of light affect your skin and whether skin treatments utilizing them are effective for acne and other conditions.

Does Blue Light Have Skin Benefits?

Some research into blue light suggests it may have skin benefits, particularly when used for acne treatment. High-energy light is thought to have antimicrobial properties that can help kill Cutibacterium acnes — the bacteria that contribute to acne. A systematic review of 50 articles in 2021 found that blue light therapy effectively reduced inflammatory acne lesions by up to 63%.

Research also shows some benefits for other kinds of acne, in addition to blackheads. It seems to show comparable initial effects to red light acne therapy while producing a more sustained benefit than is possible with red wavelengths, which typically become less effective over time.

Does Blue Light Darken Skin?

There is some concern that blue light may darken your skin. While visible light doesn’t contain the same type of ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin darkening and sunburn after spending time in the sun, there’s evidence that exposure to certain short blue wavelengths can induce long-lasting hyperpigmentation in some people.

recent blue light skin study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology identified a protein called OPN3 as the key sensor in melanocytes responsible for hyperpigmentation induced by the shorter wavelengths of visible light. This finding suggests the light stimulates your skin to produce more melanin — the pigment responsible for tanning.

While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms involved in blue light-induced hyperpigmentation and to develop effective strategies for preventing or treating it, it’s worth noting that the effect is very mild. Blue light may lead to minor visible darkening of your skin, but it’s unlikely to cause significant darkening. You can probably deal with it using standard skin-brightening products, such as niacinamide or hydroquinone.

photo of person's hand with blue light
Photo by Masha Raymers on

Does Blue Light Age Your Skin?

There is some evidence to suggest that blue light may contribute to the premature aging of your skin. Studies show that exposure to blue light leads to the production of reactive oxygen species, which can contribute to oxidative stress. This stress may result in premature aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

However, lots of other stressors increase free radicals within your skin. UV light from the sun is one of the most significant sources, while air pollution can also do the same thing. Getting enough antioxidants in your diet or using topical antioxidants such as vitamin C may help neutralize the free radicals from blue light therapy.

Does Blue Light Damage Skin?

Much is still not yet known about how blue light affects your skin. While some studies have suggested that blue light can cause skin damage and premature aging, other research has not found a significant impact. 

The free radicals generated by blue light can potentially degrade collagen and elastin — proteins that help give your skin its tightness and structure. This same process is one of the mechanisms behind how sunlight ages and damages your skin. 

It’s best to be cautious about how much time you spend in front of screens, out in the sun, or using high-energy light therapies. Blue light research will likely continue to shed more mysteries about how this type of light interacts with your skin and provide a more definitive answer in the years to come.

black laptop beside black computer mouse inside room
Photo by Bich Tran on — Spending lots of time in front of screens likely increases your skin’s exposure to blue light

Can You Use Blue Light Skin Treatment for Acne?

Blue light therapy is a promising acne treatment. However, it is essential to note that blue light therapy should only be administered by skincare specialists, such as dermatologists. Devices and products designed for home-use likely carry health and beauty claims not yet backed up by science or adequate testing.

What Other Conditions Can Blue Light Treat?

In addition to acne, there is some evidence to suggest that blue-light skin cancer therapy may be possible in the future. Studies show this kind of light can impair the growth of certain kinds of tumor cells, which may make it an effective treatment when paired with radiation, chemotherapy, and other standard therapies.

Blue Wavelength Therapy is Promising But Needs More Research

The current research on the effects of blue light on your skin is still inconclusive. While some studies have suggested that high-energy light may have skin benefits, there are also concerns that it may contribute to skin damage and premature aging. 

Unless you have acne, it’s likely best to avoid trying therapies that utilize blue wavelengths of light. You may also like to apply antioxidant skin products to help protect your skin outdoors.

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