Experts have rubbished claims that exposing your skin to blue light from a mobile phone or computer screen for 12 hours is just as dangerous as 12 hours of direct sun exposure.
One claim in a recent media report suggested mobile phone use has “serious consequences for our youthful complexions”.
Another claimed the light from electronic devices makes our skin age. “Excessive phone usage is increasing the volume of dangerous free radicals in our skin which rapidly speeds up the ageing process,” it reported.
But Australia’s radiation protection agency ARPANSA slammed the reports comparing blue light emitted while using a mobile phone to spending the same length of time in the sun during peak UV as “concerning”.
The research in question had, in fact, found that blue light could lower the amount of (antioxidant-like) carotenoids in our skin when used in high doses for phototherapy, such as light therapy to treat acne.
It did not analyse blue light in levels emitted by electronic devices.
“The study looked mainly at levels of blue light exposure that could come from phototherapy (or light therapy) which is much higher than the level of blue light from mobile phone use,” an ARPANSA spokesman said.
Dr Konrad Pesudovs from the Australian College of Optometry agreed the research findings could not be extrapolated to mobile phones damaging the skin.
“The doses [of blue light] used in the study were equivalent to one to two hours of sun exposure at noon in southern Europe,” he said.
“This is many times greater than the exposure from mobile phone use. In other words the article is BS.”
Dermatologist Adam Sheridan said any form of radiation causes damage to skin tissues at high and frequent doses, but admitted he was not aware of any scientific evidence regarding the threshold for damage.
What is blue light?
We are exposed to varying levels of UV every day when we are out in the sun. Sunlight contains both UV and blue light.
While UV light is a known carcinogen and can cause damage to our skin and eyes, little is yet known about the potential risks of exposure to blue light at levels emitted from electronic devices.
Blue light has short wavelengths that produce a high amount of energy and exposure can increase alertness.
Everyday devices such as computers, mobile phones and television screens – which occupy some people for more than one-third of each day – are enriched with blue light.
How blue light can disturb sleep
Dr Ken Karipidis, assistant director of ARPANSA, said more research was needed to confirm any potential health risks of mobile phone blue light.
“Research has shown that blue light from screens can disrupt sleep cycles, however the health implications of this are unclear,” he said.
“Exposure to blue light from the screens of smartphones and other devices in the night-time hours suppresses the production of melatonin (a hormone), which contributes to the regulation of sleep and wake cycles.”
At night we have high levels of melatonin which helps us feel sleepy. Our body suppresses melatonin if we expose ourselves to prolonged blue light at night time.
In the short term this could mean difficulty concentrating, making decisions or communicating, with long-term sleep problems potentially leading to cardiovascular, metabolic or obesity issues.
Blue light researcher Dr Tracey Sletten advised The New Daily that effects of blue light exposure could be reduced by dimming the screen, keeping the phone or computer at an arm’s length from your eyes, and using the ‘Night Shift’ function to adjust the display.