LED masks: Shining a light on social media’s skincare trend

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Blue light is a portion of the visible light spectrum that the human eye can see. Blue light has wavelengths ranging approximately from 380 to 500 nm. The primary source of blue light comes from the sun, but Millennials and Gen Z individuals are great examples of the so-called “digital age” — individuals who are increasingly exposed to blue light through televisions, laptops, and smartphones. The eyes are exposed to light-emitting diodes (LED) of video display terminals, which contain blue light (Kuse et al., 2014). This makes me believe that if blue-light really is damaging, then this population would see more effects of its damage. But there is a sparse amount of research done in this area. There are many claims that blue light is damaging to the skin, similar to how exposure to ultraviolet light is harmful. A culmination of these claims in the cosmetic industry are products being marketed that contain “blue light protection.” There are countless products with “photoaging control,” that are “defense serums” that block blue-light. But the question that stands is: are these specific products really necessary? Do we really need to protect our skin from blue-light damage? There is a lack of clinical studies that support these assertions. To date, we can really only assess information of short-term clinical studies, as the long term effects of blue light damage have not been fully understood.

Blue light can be harmful to our skin depending on intensity and wavelength (Coats et al., 2020). But the question that stands is whether or not the potential harm requires additional protection. One study found that visible blue light does not cause DNA damage or premature photo-aging. They concluded that the use of blue light is safe in dermatological practice (Kleinpenning et al., 2010). Another study came to the conclusion that violet blue light (400–500 nm) emission doses from selected sources (electronic screens, medical operating light, etc.) were lower than doses reported that induce effects within the skin. They observed that the UV component of solar radiation resulted in skin damage faster compared to that of violet blue-light. Therefore, additional protection from blue light is not needed (Christensen et al., 2021).

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However, the past two years have been a perfect opportunity to research the potential damage that blue-light from electronics can cause. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were required to work from home due to the stay-at-home mandate, using their smartphones and laptops daily for entertainment, work, online shopping, etc. A study was proposed that examined the idea of increased usage of smartphones during the pandemic in correlation to skin damage caused by blue-light. They suggest the idea that blue-light induced oxidative stress is a key factor that is thought to result in physiological effects on skin cells. Flavin (the photoreceptor for blue light) generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as nitric oxide (NO). Both of these may be responsible for DNA damage. Because the adverse effects of blue-light on retinal tissue are already well known, they believe that further study is needed for damage related to the skin (Jakhar et al., 2020).

In contrast to studies presented earlier, there have also been studies exhibiting that blue light waves from digital devices cause retinal phototoxicity (Panda et al., 2021) An additional study has proven that blue light has a direct effect on the mitochondrial network of cutaneous fibroblast and that blue light generates oxidative stress, resulting in hyperpigmentation and accelerated aging (Klingman & Klingman, 1986). Further studies need to be conducted that examine long-term effects of blue light technology in order to understand its entirety.


1. Coats, J. G., Maktabi, B., Abou‐Dahech, M. S., & Baki, G. (2021). Blue Light Protection, Part I — Effects of blue light on the skin. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 20(3), 714–717.

2. Christensen, T., Johnsen, B.J. & Bruzell, E.M. Violet-blue light exposure of the skin: is there need for protection?. Photochem Photobiol Sci 20, 615–625 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43630-021-00043-9

3. Jakhar D, Kaul S, Kaur I. Increased usage of smartphones during COVID-19: Is that blue light causing skin damage? J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020 Oct;19(10):2466–2467. doi: 10.1111/jocd.13662. Epub 2020 Aug 26. PMID: 33460228.

4. Kligman, L.H. and Kligman, A.M. The nature of photoaging: its prevention and repair. Photodermatology 3, 215–227 (1986).

5. Kuse, Y., Ogawa, K., Tsuruma, K., Shimazawa, M., & Hara, H. (2014). Damage of photoreceptor-derived cells in culture induced by light emitting diode-derived blue light. Scientific reports, 4(1), 1–12.

6. Panda, P., Mohanty, S., Pal, A., & Mukkamala, S. (2021). Blue Light Protective Cosmetics: Demand of the Digital Era. Research Journal of Pharmacy and Life Sciences: Volume, 2(2), 43–58.

Author: Kat Vanta
Concept By: Ekta

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“THE SKIN AUTHORITY” (CEW) Exclusive look into the beauty industry via interviews with entrepreneurs & industry professionals. https://linktr.ee/Skincareanarchy