Is it possible that there is such a thing as blue light skin damage? We are well aware that our digital devices emit blue light. This causes eye strain and potential damage to our eyes, but how does blue light affect our skin?

In the modern world, it is nearly impossible to escape technology, and as a result, we encounter digital screens on a daily basis. From the use of cell phones to computers, screen time in America continues to increase, and in turn, blue light exposure also increases. Let’s take a look at how these behaviors may affect our skin and discuss ways to prevent and repair the damage done by blue light.


What is blue light?

Blue light, also know as high energy visible (HEV) light, is part of the visible light spectrum seen by the human eye. Each color on the spectrum holds a different energy and wavelength. Red light wavelengths are longer with less energy. Blue light has shorter wavelengths and produces more energy.

Most of the blue light you’re exposed to is produced by the sun. Blue light is also generated by smartphones, televisions, computer screens, and LED or fluorescent lighting. In the United States, the vast majority of the population owns a cell phone, and 77 percent own a smartphone. Many Americans spend their weekdays at the office in front of a computer, staring at a screen.

In recent years, we have become increasingly aware of how blue light may affect our eyes. While blue light is detectable to the human eye, large amounts of exposure to this kind of light can be harmful. It can contribute to digital eye strain, dry eyes, and even headaches. (1)

Eyewear companies and optometrists are now encouraging consumers and patients to purchase special lenses that filter blue light. (2) iPhones and most smartphones offer a “night mode” that removes blue light from the device’s display in the evening to allow eyes to be less strained and more relaxed.

Girl wearing glasses

More evidence suggests that blue light exposure, especially in the evening, interrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This disrupts the sleep cycle, and suppresses melatonin levels. (2)

According to Harvard Medical School, blue light not only affects the eyes and sleep patterns, but research shows that it may contribute to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Blue light does have a good side, though. It is common knowledge that “getting some sun” is beneficial for us. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours can help maintain cognitive function, elevate mood, or regulate the circadian rhythm. Blue light therapy even uses a similar part of the spectrum to treat skin conditions.

With electronic device usage so prevalent in our country, the connection between blue light exposure and skin damage is worth exploring.


How does blue light damage skin?

Blue light rays are unlike the UVA or UVB rays from the sun that you’ve likely heard. Those types of rays are invisible and cause sunburn, while HEV blue light is visible. Research on how blue light affects the skin is ongoing, though there have been early studies that revealed how blue light damages skin cells. (3)

A study conducted by Nippon Medical School in Tokyo concluded that blue light induced oxidative stress in the skin of animal subjects. (4) Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Unfortunately, a more in-depth look is needed to determine if this damage is coming from the amount of time spent in the sun or blue light from electronic devices.

According to some skincare companies, long-term exposure to concentrated blue light energy can cause skin damage. This damage may show up in color changes to the skin tone, called hyperpigmentation — as well as inflammation.

This is where things get tricky. There is research that backs up the claims of blue light skin damage. At the same time, other research states that a very similar blue light can be used to prevent or improve the effects of skin disorders. (5, 6)

Photodynamic therapy, or blue light therapy, is one way that blue light has been used for good. Patients with actinic keratoses at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and other institutions are undergoing this type of therapy to prevent skin cancer. During the photodynamic process, doctors apply a photosynthesizing drug and treat the targeted area with blue light. Additionally, blue light therapy has been used to treat other skin disorders, such as acne, sun spots, psoriasis, and scars. (7)


How to Prevent Blue Light Skin Damage

Research seems to be in early stages of discovering the relationship between blue light and skin damage. Though data may not be enough to convince dermatologists to jump on the bandwagon, it certainly will not do you any harm to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen on a regular basis.

Many major skincare companies are doing their own research. They are marketing blue light protection products as a part of their recommended daily skincare regimen.

Bareminerals is one of those companies. They offer makeup that prevents blue light damage. Complexion Rescue Defense is said to prevent premature aging, and damage from UV rays and blue light.

As far as everyday technology usage, purchasing a blue light screen shield for devices is a great way to prevent blue light skin damage and protect your eyes at the same time.  

Another option is to take advantage of the night mode on your cell phone. Lowering the brightness on your phone or laptop and using a hands-free mode (to prevent risk of hyperpigmentation) may be good choices, too.

Woman at night looking at screen


How to Repair Blue Light Skin Damage

While there are many skincare products that help to prevent blue light skin damage, there are some that assist in repairing the skin after damage is already done.

Estee Lauder has a product on the market that intends to “repair the visible impact of lack of sleep, UV, pollution, even blue light.” Some of these skincare items offer other benefits such as anti-aging, SPF protection, and hydration. Murad sells an SPF 50 sunscreen that prevents and corrects premature aging and blue light damage.

If you are experiencing hyperpigmentation from exposure to HEV light, you could try a Vitamin C supplement to help reduce changes to your skin tone. The antioxidants in vitamin C can help reverse the damage in dark spots. (8)


In Summary

Before real conclusions can be drawn, scientists will need to conduct more research regarding the effects of blue light on skin. It’s important to remember that moderation is key when it comes to blue light.

While some research suggests some validity to blue light skin damage, some research has shown that blue light therapy can be beneficial in the right circumstances. Just be sure not to spend too much time soaking up rays during the day or scrolling through social media at bedtime.

Tablet and computer


  1. Coles‐Brennan, C., Sulley, A., & Young, G. (2019). Management of digital eye strain. Clinical and Experimental Optometry, 102(1), 18-29. Full text:
  2. Sparrow, J. R., Miller, A. S., & Zhou, J. (2004). Blue light-absorbing intraocular lens and retinal pigment epithelium protection in vitro. Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, 30(4), 873-878. Abstract:
  3. Godley, B. F., Shamsi, F. A., Liang, F. Q., Jarrett, S. G., Davies, S., & Boulton, M. (2005). Blue light induces mitochondrial DNA damage and free radical production in epithelial cells. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 280(22), 21061-21066. Abstract:
  4. Nakashima, Y., Ohta, S., & Wolf, A. M. (2017). Blue light-induced oxidative stress in live skin. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 108, 300-310. Abstract:
  5. Svanberg, K., Andersson, T., Killander, D., Wang, I., Stenram, U., ANDERSSON‐ENGELS, S., … & Svanberg, S. (1994). Photodynamic therapy of non‐melanoma malignant tumours of the skin using topical δ‐amino levulinic acid sensitization and laser irradiation. British Journal of Dermatology, 130(6), 743-751. Abstract:
  6. De Rosa, F. S., & Bentley, M. V. L. (2000). Photodynamic therapy of skin cancers: sensitizers, clinical studies and future directives. Pharmaceutical research, 17(12), 1447-1455. Abstract:
  7. Kleinpenning, M. M., Otero, M. E., van Erp, P. E. J., Gerritsen, M. J. P., & van de Kerkhof, P. C. M. (2012). Efficacy of blue light vs. red light in the treatment of psoriasis: a double‐blind, randomized comparative study. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 26(2), 219-225. Abstract:
  8. Telang, P. S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 4(2), 143. Full text: