How screens dam­age your skin

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Quick ques­tion: how many times have you looked at a screen to­day? Do you have one in your eye­line right now? If your answers are ‘too many’ and ‘yes’, your skin is likely at risk. The dan­gers of UV dam­age are hardly break­ing news, but the mod­ern de­pen­dency on tech is ex­pos­ing you to a new kind of light pol­lu­tion that matches UV in its abil­ity to rev up the age­ing process: high-en­ergy vis­i­ble (HEV) light. ‘HEV light, also known as blue light, is sim­i­lar to UV in struc­ture and oc­curs nat­u­rally in the sun’s rays to reg­u­late cir­ca­dian cy­cles and mem­ory,’ ex­plains Aurélie Guy­oux, sci­en­tific di­rec­tor at In­sti­tut Es­the­d­erm, Paris. So far, so good. ‘But, when emit­ted in large quan­ti­ties by screens, it can be dam­ag­ing to the der­mis.’ So, what is it ac­tu­ally do­ing to your skin? ‘HEV light is silent – it doesn’t gen­er­ate im­me­di­ately vis­i­ble marks or swelling like UV rays,’ ex­plains Dr Maryam Za­mani, aes­thetic doc­tor and founder of MZ Skin. ‘But its stealth makes it more dan­ger­ous. With­out you re­al­is­ing it’s hap­pen­ing, HEV light slowly but surely weak­ens your skin’s bar­rier func­tion, ac­cel­er­ates pho­toage­ing and sup­presses heal­ing.’ Worst of all, this free-rad­i­cal dam­age sig­nals the re­lease of MMP-1, an en­zyme that breaks down skin col­la­gen and elastin, mak­ing you look older, faster. And the dam­age runs deep. ‘Blue light is one of the short­est, high­est-en­ergy wave­lengths, which pen­e­trates skin more deeply than UVB and UVA rays,’ ex­plains Dr Howard Mu­rad, der­ma­tol­o­gist and founder of Mu­rad Skin­care. ‘On av­er­age, four eight-hour days in front of a lap­top is equiv­a­lent to 20 min­utes of mid­day UVA ex­po­sure.’ And, over time, that adds up. Go­ing on a dig­i­tal detox will sort that, right? A bit., but re­search shows that the HEV in day­light alone makes up 50% of the skin’s to­tal ox­ida­tive stress – that’s as much as UVA and UVB com­bined. Add this to the time spent sit­ting in front of your screen – let’s face it, prob­a­bly far more than you spend in the sun – and it’s no won­der your skin’s in trou­ble. As with UV dam­age, the fairer your skin, the less melanin (a pig­ment that blocks rays from en­ter­ing and dam­ag­ing skin) you have to pro­vide nat­u­ral pro­tec­tion. But it could be that those most at risk are those most con­cerned about ap­pear­ance. ‘It’s not un­usual for some peo­ple to take 50 or 60 self­ies a day,’ says Dr Jean-louis Se­bagh, skin ex­pert and cos­metic doc­tor. ‘This is the most ex­po­sure to HEV light you can get, be­cause you’re hold­ing your phone near to, and an­gling it to­wards, your face.’ In fact, Dr Zein Obagi, der­ma­tol­o­gist and founder of ZO Skin Health, claims he can tell which hand you hold your phone in just by the qual­ity of the skin on your face. Granted, 60 a day is an ex­treme num­ber of self­ies, but, while sci­en­tists and der­ma­tol­o­gists don’t know as much about HEV light as they do UV light, pre­lim­i­nary re­search sug­gests that the ef­fects may be just as dam­ag­ing.

One study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of In­ves­tiga­tive Der­ma­tol­ogy, con­cluded that, af­ter HEV light ex­po­sure, the skin bar­rier was com­pro­mised, while an­other* found that it caused more pro­nounced pig­men­ta­tion than UVB rays. Pretty un­set­tling if you tap away in front of a big com­puter screen all day at your desk, or feel anx­ious if you haven’t checked so­cial me­dia in the past hour. And just as UV rays can’t be shunned en­tirely for fear of a vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency, mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is a nec­es­sary evil – so your skin ba­si­cally just has to live with it. Luck­ily, beauty brands are tak­ing steps to pro­tect your skin from the dam­age caused by all that screen time. Here are some of the best prod­ucts to pro­tect your face from your Snapchat habit. Phew. Now, pass that phone.

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