Screen ageing: Is your phone taking a toll on your skin?

Blue light from device screens has been linked to sleep and eye problems – but experts say it may also be affecting our skin.

It’s a fact of modern life that many of us frequently use smartphones, tablets and laptops.

But these devices are renowned for blue light emissions, which some experts say can create problems for the appearance and texture of the skin.

“In recent years, there has been increasing evidence for the effect of prolonged exposure to blue light from smart devices on skin pigmentation,” says Brisbane dermatologist Dr Leona Yip.

Spot the signs

Like sun damage, blue light pigmentation is cumulative so the effects may not be instantly noticeable.

But if you’re frequently glued to your phone or tablet, Dr Yip suggests being on the lookout for visible changes to your complexion.

“Blue screen pigmentation will appear as or worsen brown spots or patches,” says Dr Yip, adding that pre-existing conditions like hormonal melasma can also be exacerbated with excessive blue light exposure.

Dr Clara Hurst, of Blanc Skin Care in Perth, notes that device blue light emissions also potentially accelerates other skin ageing concerns.

“Excessive exposure to blue light can be a catalyst for photo-ageing and the breakdown of collagen,” says Dr Hurst.

“This may lead to fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity and an overall weakened skin barrier.”

How to manage blue screen skin damage

If you’ve spotted an uptick in the appearance of pigmentation, Dr Yip suggests getting on the front foot by introducing active ingredients to your skin care routine.

“Products that contain retinoids and glycolic acid are a good starting point to lighten pigment effected areas, where as anti-oxidants like vitamin C, E, and ferulic acid help prevent pigmentation,” says Dr Yip.

“I’d recommend using a retinoid in the evening and then alternating that the following night with a glycolic acid-based product.

“Just don’t use them together as it can cause skin irritation. Antioxidants should be used in the morning under moisturiser and sunscreen.”

In severe pigmentation cases, Dr Yip suggests investigating intensive treatment options.

Laser treatment is the gold standard for addressing pigmentation, so you’d need to see a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon to discuss whether this is suitable for your concerns,” she says.

For more general skin ageing concerns caused by blue light damage, Dr Hurst recommends using products that contain skin protective antioxidants like vitamin C or E in the morning – followed by a non-negotiable layer of sunscreen.

“Feed the skin with high-quality antioxidants as well as a daily application of SPF, and re-apply every few hours,” says Dr Hurst.

“This helps protect the skin from free-radical damage, environmental aggressors and stressors such as light damage.”

More blue light protection methods

Amid a growing reliance on tech devices, both experts recommend adopting some general blue light protective measures for the sake of your skin.

“You can do things like use a monitor filter to reduce visible light and also change the settings on your devices to switch off the blue light function. Also wear covered clothing to limit your skin exposure,” says Dr Yip.

Dr Hurst says it’s best to limit your overall screen time usage by avoiding unnecessary, mindless scrolling of social media and newsfeeds.

“Actively log off after work hours and engage in an activity that doesn’t involve technology. Your skin – and mind – will thank you for it,” says Dr Hurst.

Written by Sharon Hunt