This high intensity blue light unfortunately penetrates skin even further than UVB and UVA causing photo-damage, dull skin, aging and hyperpigmentation. Very few UV filters currently extend protection into the blue light range. Blue light potentially damages all skin layers.
According to Dr. Leslie Baumann, studies suggest, blue light ages the skin. Low level 449nm light photo biomodulation kills p. acnes, according to a study published March 28, 2019, in “Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.”1 But there is a dark side to using blue light. It contributes to skin aging similar to UVA according to authors of a paper, published in July 2017 in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.2 Oxidative stress triggers various adverse biological effects, including weakening of the epidermal barrier, hyperpigmentation, and damage to the extracellular matrix leading to accelerated aging.
This column will review the role blue light plays in skin aging. Unilever has mounted a campaign to alert consumers how best to protect themselves from blue light exposure. According to Dr. Samantha Tucker Samaras, global VP-science and technology, Unilever, blue light penetrates the skin more deeply than UV light, passing through the epidermis and dermis to the subcutis layer inducing both immediate and persistent pigmentation which could be present even after three months. Blue light also can inhibit melatonin generation, increase stress hormone levels, and excite nerves, which in turn disturbs sleeping pattern and circadian rhythm.
Unilever scientists found that 30 hours of exposure to blue light from smart phone or laptop screens can increase the inflammation level in skin cells by almost 40%. The study determined that 60% of people now spend more than six hours a day in front of a digital device that emits blue light. According to Dermatologist Howard Murad MD, spending four eight-hour work days in front of a computer exposes one to the same amount of energy as 20 minutes in the mid-day sun. To put this in perspective, seven minutes of sun exposure at 1pm is powerful enough to induce erythema.
“We do not have great data on exactly what is happening to cells when they are exposed to blue light,” cautions Dermatologist Glynis Ablon MD of the Ablon Skin Institute & Research Center. “The only thing of concern is the effect that it can have on sleep patterns and the eyes.
Similarly, Dr. Wei-Lilee PhD, director of research at SUNY Downstate’s Experimental Dermatology Laboratory, said, “I do not see any possibility why you would have to protect the skin from blue light.”
Several companies have developed blue light-specific ingredients. As more research on blue light and skin comes out, more blue light specific claims will emerge. Botanical ingredients with antioxidant and shielding properties are expected to benefit from this trend, which is growing as more consumers are likely to seek protection from blue light-induced pigmentation and to protect skin from digital stress.
Givaudan has developed Synchronight. It is made from gardenia fruit extract designed to protect skin from digital stress. It allows skin melatonin to play its natural role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Sederma developed several actives such as Synchrolife, Senestem, Majestem and Citystem. Synchrolife is designed to realign circadian rhythm, counteract the effects of digital pollution, erase signs of fatigue, deliver neuro-beauty benefits and impart a sense of wellbeing. Senestem visibly fades signs of senescence, especially screen light-induced dark spots. It enhances skin visco-elastic properties and brightens skin.
DSM created Parsol Max, which extends UV protection in the blue wavelength range. Its Niacinamide PC protects against oxidative stress and an extract from the green, fresh water microalga Scenedesmus rubescence (Pepha-age) strengthens skin defenses.
Naturex introduced Eliorelys. It is extracted from cherry tree flowers. In topical skin care applications, it offers a superior phytochemical profile that delivers protection against both UV and blue ray induced cell damage.
Lipotec launched Lumicease, a ferment extract obtained through biotechnology from radiation resistant microorganisms. The ingredient prepares, protects and repairs the skin from solar and artificial blue light-induced damage, and minimizes the main signs of photoaging, spots and wrinkles. It promotes adaptive responses such as induction of lipid accumulation, DNA repair pathways and antioxidant defenses, which help prepare the skin for future light exposure.
Greentech launched Soliberine, an antioxidant that stimulates cellular detoxification systems, protects from inflammation and prevents photoaging. It reduces the production of free radicals which are induced by blue light rays.
Ashland has developed Blue Light Bio-functional, a Cosmos-validated ingredient that helps mitigate the blue light stress and reduce digital aging. Extracted from criollo porcelana, a rare, premium cocoa variety, it reduces oxidative stress.
Lipo Chemical developed Liposhield HEV melanin, which acts as an umbrella to shield the skin from HEV light.
Sytheon’s Synastol TC reduces pollution- and blue light-induced oxidative stress at very low concentrations in a model using human epidermal keratinocytes.
Working with Actives
From a formulation standpoint, Unilever’s Tucker Samaras recommends adding ingredients such as vitamin C and vitamin B6 antioxidants to protect skin cells and help them recover from blue light-induced oxidative stress and damage, zinc oxide to create a protective barrier on the skin, and niacinamide to restore skin surface cells from blue light-induced oxidative stress.
Here are some leading products that are said to protect against blue light damage:
Protect n’ Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 (Unilever) provides triple protection against potential skin damaging elements including UVA/UVB light, pollution and blue light. Its key ingredients are sodium ascorbyl phosphate, niacinamide, vitamin E, glycerin, ethyl hexyl methoxycinnamate and zinc oxide.
Physical Defense Cream (Dermalogica) contains non-nano zinc oxide, bio-active mushroom complex and green tea.
City Skin and Age Defense (Murad) includes lutein, iron oxides, polymer matrix, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It shields skin from pollution and blue light, and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes.
Goodhabit Rescue Me Glow Potion Oil Serum contains technology called BLU5 which is a marine active, extracted from the coast of Greenland. It reportedly creates a protective film over skin to prevent damage, while hydrating it with hyaluronic acid and reducing inflammation with blue spirulina and blue tansy flowers.
One Ocean Beauty Blue Light Protection Hydration Mist contains high performance heptapeptide, an ingredient that reduces crêpey skin.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-pollution Drops contains cocoa seed extract, hyaluronic acid and strong antioxidant-like purslane.
Chantecaille Blue Light Protection Hyaluronic Serum includes fermented-algae extract, which is said to activate skin’s photosensors to repair blue-light damage. It also contains nasturtium flower extract which revitalizes skin damaged by overexposure to blue light. It also has amino acids and tamarind extract.
Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 contains hydrolyzed seaweed to protect skin against further blue-light damage. It also contains hyaluronic acid, squalene and niacinamide.
Ahava Dead Sea Osmoter Concentrate Supreme Hydration Cream contains EnergiNius technology which is developed from Indian ginseng, which protects the skin from artificial light.
Finally, Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex from Estée Lauder works to repair and prevent the visible impact of blue light at night and other skin damaging assaults. Other actives include hyaluronic acid, Chronolux CB and powerful antioxidants that protect thin skin around the eyes against free radical damage according to Nadine Pernodet PhD.3
One caveat. On his Chemists Corner website, Perry Romanowski notes that although there has been a wave of blue light specific-skin care products, these formulas are no different from other antioxidant serums. Furthermore, unlike sunscreen, blue-light protection is not closely regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
- Boyd JM et al. blue light photo biomodulation Lasers Surgery Medicine 2019.
- Nakashima Y et al, Free Radic. Biol. Med. 20-17:108:300-310.
- Best Products to protect your skin from Blue Light Damage. Bazar, K. Intner, Apr.27, 2020.
Navin M. Geria
Chief Scientific Officer
AyurDerm Technologies, LLC
Navin Geria, former Pfizer Research Fellow is a cosmetic and pharmaceutical product development chemist and the chief scientific officer of AyurDerm Technologies LLC, which provides Ayurvedic, natural and cosmeceutical custom formulation development and consulting services to the spa-wellness-dermatology industries. He has launched dozens of cosmeceutical and ayurvedic anti-aging products. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick-Energizer, Bristol-Myers and Spa Dermaceuticals. He has nearly 20 US patents and has been published extensively. Geria edited the Handbook of Skin-Aging Theories for Cosmetic Formulation Development focus book published in April 2016 by Harry’s Cosmeticology. He is a speaker, moderator and chairman at cosmetic industry events. Most recently, he is author of the soon-to-be-released Aging Well: Advances & Treatments published by Chemical Publishing Company.