While the general public is largely aware of the harmful effects ultraviolet (UV) light can have on our bodies, as well as the basic measures that should be taken to protect ourselves against such effects, the dangers surrounding blue light seem to go relatively left unsaid. This is likely due to a significant contrast in the amounts of research and information available on the respective light forms. UV light is a component of sunlight, and ranges in wavelength from 100 to 400 nanometers (nm). Conversely, blue light, which falls into the broader designation of visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum, typically refers to light ranging in wavelength from 400 to 500 nanometers (nm). Having a longer wavelength in comparison to UV light allows blue light to penetrate deeper into the skin, however, the exact damage this can cause to the effected tissues is unknown.

Although the quantity of academic literature and scientific testing conducted on the subject of blue light is rather minimal, it was proven in a 2008 study that blue light and UV light yield many of the same effects on the human body, and therefore concluded that sun protectants, such as sunscreens, should expand their protection to include both UV and blue light. This deduction has gathered a significant amount of support from the scientific community over the past decade. For example, a paper in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, which suggested that in order for a sun protectant to provide full protection against the biological effects of solar radiation, including sun-induced skin aging, it must encompass more than just UV light and extend into the visible spectrum. However, currently “only titanium dioxide (TiO2), zinc oxide (ZnO) and methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol (MBBT) have shown absorbance spectra reaching into visible light; and the protection they provide is reportedly low” according to an article written on the peer reviewed cosmetic science resource, Cosmetics & Toiletries.

With respect to the skin, there is evidence to suggest exposure to certain wavelengths in the blue light spectrum can lead to apoptosis of keratinocytes in vitro, as well as contribute to the formation of uneven skin tones (solar lentigines) and photoaging. It is important to note that blue light can also be sourced from electronic sources, including computer and smartphone screens, and light-emitting diodes, or LED’s, and an overexposure to these light sources has the potential to lead to retinal damage and digital eye strain, according to several articles published in PLOS ONE and Acta Ophthalmologica.

While there are no current regulations pertaining to blue light protection in either Canada or the United States, it is noticeably becoming a continuously larger and more potent conversation with more and more companies acknowledging the potential harm and releasing products that offer protection against blue light damage. It is very likely we will see this trend continue, and blue light will become a much more significant topic in the sun protectant dialogue in the near future. In the meantime, alternative sun protection methods such as avoiding sun exposure at peak times and wearing protective clothing remain increasingly important and are proven to be effective in protecting against a wide range of the electromagnetic rays emitted from the sun.

For more information, please contact Focal Point Research Inc. We are leading North American Regulatory and New Product Consultants for Medical Devices, Natural Health Products, OTC Drugs, Cosmetics, and other consumer products regulated by Health Canada and the U.S. FDA.