Breaking down infrared and blue light and the effects on our skin.
When it comes to light radiation we tend to focus a tonne of attention on the effects of the well know UVA and UVB rays. Think premature ageing, increased capillaries, pigmentation, blotchy sun spots, and in the worst case scenario - skin cancer.
However more recently there has been a bigger push by researchers to understand the effects of other forms of radiation such as infrared as well as blue light (or high energy visible light).
Now, before you throw your arms in the air about another danger to your overall skin health, let’s break down each into a super summary to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.
What is infrared - is it a concern ?
Infrared radiation is electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore generally invisible to the human eye. It is sometimes called infrared light.
Infrared radiation is the heat we feel and is the thermal effect of sunlight. The sun actually gives off half of it’s total energy as infrared. On a regular day this is not alarming - however in extreme temperatures it has been shown to have ageing effects on the skin.
Until recently IR has not been studied in as much detail as UVA and UVB, however attention has turned to the potential damaging effects of this lesser understood form of radiation.
What does infrared do to our skin?
We now know a plethora of skin issues are fed by infrared or simply putting it - HEAT. Recent studies have shown that it can stimulate angiogenesis (ie the making of capillaries and redness in the skin), premature ageing and most importantly PIGMENTATION.
In fact, dermatologists in NYC were puzzled why their skincare devout clientele who were practically albino with their strict sun protection measures were still getting pigment. The culprit was the heat from HOT yoga!
Now, unlike UVA and UVB, infrared radiation doesn’t stop when we head indoors and we can stimulate the negative effects by partaking in activities such as bikhram yoga. The bad news is levels of infrared radiation are going up with global warming.
So how can we protect against the damaging effects of infrared:
1. Keep cool - Ambient 21-23 degrees is the best for skin.
2. When exercising - wear a cool damp face cloth around your neck to minimise the development of heat.
3. Avoid the following:
- Hot yoga
- Steam rooms
- Steam based facials
- Sitting too close to the fire or heater in winter
- Hot water bottles and electric blankets
4. Basically just sit in a cool dark room well moisturised ;)
What is the impact of blue light?
Just to start, the descriptions blue light and visible light are interchangeable in this context. Although the sun is the largest emitter of blue light, it is also emitted by devices such as your tablet, phone or computer.
In the past 15 - 20 years the way we work and live our lives has fundamentally changed and the majority of us can spend between 8 -10 hours (if not more) per day perched in front of our computers tapping away.
Combine this with incessant phone checking and you have a continual onslaught of blue light. This is a particular concern in the younger generations who have been observed to check their phone screens up to 150 times per day - so all millennials beware!
What does blue light do?
What we are starting to understand now is that blue light actually has the ability to penetrate deeper into our skin than UVA/UVB reaching our dermis (which is where collagen and elastin lives). Like infrared, some studies are showing that it may be causing premature ageing by inducing pigmentation - something that up until recently wasn’t considered possible. We also know that darker skin types have more ‘blue Light receptors’ in their skin than paler skin types, so they are more likely to develop issues with pigmentation.
Blue light could also interrupt our skin cells circadian rhythm, tricking our cells into believing it is still daytime, and preventing them from going into their nightly repair pattern. Long-term exposure to concentrated blue light energy can cause skin damage, including colour changes, inflammation, and weakening of the skin’s surface or barrier function.
To really break it down, blue light will accelerate skin ageing, especially with the development of pigmentation.
So what can we do…..
Topical antioxidants are a must:
The best protection against the damage from infrared heat and blue light is investing in and wearing antioxidants like vitamin B3 and C. These ingredients work to mop up the free radicals produced by infrared and blue light exposure, protecting your collagen and elastin and minimising pigment development.
In fact vitamin B3 (AKA niacinamide) is one of the most stable topical antioxidants and a must in all skin care routines to protect and repair against more than just UVA and UVB rays but infrared and blue light. Its why we put in 5% in our Moisturiser+, Hydration+ and the new Concentrated CC+ & 10% in the Concentrated Illuminator.
Shop the Concentrated Hydration+ here.
Will my sunscreen protect me against Infrared?
The answer is yes if it has physical blockers!
When it comes to infrared radiation, the good news is that some ingredients already found in sun protectors work to protect your skin from the destructive elements of deep heat.
If you have chosen to use a physical blocker with zinc or titanium dioxide, these molecules actually work as heat sinks forming a physical barrier between the infrared radiation and your skin. Choosing the right CC cream or potentially mineral based make-ups could assist in protecting your skin from this damage.
Add vitamin B3 and you have universal light protection.
Shop the Concentrated Hydration+ here.
So what does this mean for me :
Working and studying as a dermatologist for over 15 years has led me to develop a range backed by science. Using the right clinical strength skincare is a must! This means the correct combinations and concentrations of active ingredients.
To adequately protect against UVA/UVB, Infrared and blue light you need more than sunscreen. Look for the addition of antioxidants in the form of vitamin B3 and vitamin C.