Is it enough to only protect our skin against UV-light from the sun?

Blue light from the sun, as well as electronic devices, has the potential to cause damage to facial skin every day.

What is blue light?

Blue light is a color in the visible light spectrum that can be seen by the human eye and is responsible for the blue of the sky. It is adjacent to ultraviolet in the spectrum of sunlight, high energy, and has a wavelength ranging from 400 to 500 nm. In recent years, blue light has come indoors, where it is emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and TV screens.

Why is this a concern?

Very few UV filters currently extend protection into the blue light range. However, there is already strong evidence that concentrated light of this wavelength has adverse effects on health. Its effects on the eyes are well documented. But does it affect our skin?

For many years, scientists underestimated the damage done to our skin by UVA rays. At DSM we strongly believe we should learn from the past, so our scientists have already begun to look closely at blue light and its activity in skin. Using light sources that excluded UV rays, DSM’s scientists were able to show that blue light has the potential to damage all skin layers. Blue light induces oxidative stress in the skin through the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). Oxidative stress triggers various adverse biological effects, including weakening of the epidermal barrier, hyperpigmentation, and damage to the extracellular matrix leading to accelerated aging.

At a deeper level, oxidative stress caused by blue light has been shown to trigger a process known as protein carbonylation. Carbonylated proteins in the skin lose their ability to function properly.

What are consumers saying?

Initial reports in the media are alerting consumers to the potential risks attached to blue light, whether it comes from the sun or electronic devices. However, a recent report from Mintel emphasizes that today’s consumers are looking for ways to reduce the steps in their beauty regimen. So any new element of protection must be part of a total protection package that reduces rather than increases the demands on their time.

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Taking total protection into the blue

With this in mind, scientists in our Sun and Skin Care segments dedicated themselves to finding solutions which would meet all the requirements of consumers for appealing, integrated total protection, and extend this protection into the blue range.

The result is two effective formulations based on cutting edge technology: UV filter(s) such as the newly introduced PARSOL® Max which extends UV protection in the blue wavelength range, selected vitamins such as Niacinamide PC counteract oxidative stress, and a new microalgal bioactive called PEPHA®-AGE stimulates skin’s own defense – all backed by strong claim substantiation. Does this necessitate an additional claim or seal relating to BPF, to provide greater transparency for consumers? We certainly think the question is worth debating. Together we will beat the blues!

DSM extends the horizons of sun protection – into the blue light range

Without the sun there would be no life. Sunlight is essential for health and wellbeing – just think seasonal affective disorder, or vitamin D. However, as most of us know, too much sunlight in the invisible ultraviolet (UV) range can have a devastating effect on health, and especially on skin.

Organizations like the World Health Organization have been campaigning for years to promote awareness of the need for sun protection, and we in the personal care industry have been playing our part by enhancing sun protection products and integrating sun care into skin care formulations.

Until now, the world has focused on UV light as the source of harm. However, we at DSM strongly believe there is a justification for taking protection further, extending it to cover blue light from the visible range of the spectrum.

High-energy blue light is the natural part of sunlight that is adjacent to UV light on the spectrum, falling within the wavelength range of approximately 400 to 500 nm. It can be seen by the human eye and is responsible for the blue of the sky. Consumers are exposed to blue light every day, and nearly everywhere – whether from the sun or, increasingly, as artificial light from electronic devices.

Early evidence indicates a need for blue light protection

So scientists at DSM decided to investigate blue light activity in the skin. We were able to confirm that blue light induces oxidative stress at the skin surface through the formation of ROS. In particular DSM scientists were able to prove that this triggers a process known as protein carbonylation, which may cause proteins to lose their functionality.

Building on our expertise in both Sun and Skin Care, we were able to follow up on this initial research and develop solutions that put our customers in the driving seat.

DSM scientists investigate impact of artificial blue light on skin

What’s new about blue light?

Blue light has been around longer than we have – it’s a natural part of  sunlight. So why the sudden interest now?

Because blue light has come indoors. Today, blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs can reach 80% of the intensity of a blue sky. Currently US and Japanese users already spend four hours a day looking at artificial blue light sources, and in Europe the figure is hovering around three hours.  Many people now even use two screens at once. In Britain, for example, 81% of 10–15 year olds with a mobile phone use a second screen while they watch TV. 

Indoor blue light is not natural 

The peak emission of light from electronic devices is about 470 nm, firmly in the middle of the blue light range (400–500 nm). There is already strong evidence that concentrated light of this wavelength has adverse effects on health. Blue light at the wrong time of day – for example when we take our phones to bed with us, or stay up late in front of the TV – is known to upset our circadian rhythm and disrupt our sleep patterns.  

But what does it do to our skin?

Blue light goes deeper

Using light sources that excluded UV rays, DSM’s scientists were able to show that blue light has the potential to penetrate and damage all skin layers. At the surface it is a major source of oxidative stress and hence may weaken the epidermal barrier and cause hyperpigmentation. Damage to the extracellular matrix may accelerate the skin aging process.

What are consumers saying? 

Consumers are now beginning to make the link between blue light and potential harm to skin, with beauty journalists and bloggers devoting more articles to the subject. Evidently, they are seeking more information.

But information alone is not enough to beat the blues. As yet, only a handful of skin care products offer protection that extends beyond UV into the blue light spectrum. We in the beauty industry are therefore called on to find creative solutions to this new threat: solutions which DSM is ready to provide with its new concept, Taking total protection into the blue.

BPF – a helpful tool in the differentiation for blue light protection?

After SPF- is it time to recognize blue light protection factor?

Since the first sunscreens were commercially produced in the 1930s, products to protect the skin against sun damage have changed substantially. While the earliest products offered UVB protection only, a growing awareness of harmful UVA rays later led to the development of broad spectrum sunscreens. Today, products are not only available in a wide range of SPFs, they offer protection against UVA, UVB, IR and DNA and pigmentation damage. Moreover, sun protection has become an integral part of people’s skin care routine through its incorporation into moisturizers, foundations, refreshing facial sprays and many more.

Most recently the spotlight has fallen on high-energy visible light, also known as blue light.

Getting the message across

Skin today is increasingly exposed to stress from many sources. Blue light from screens is an added, as yet relatively unknown potential stressor. According to recent market research, only a handful of skin and sun care products address this issue, and then only in the context of several factors that make protection necessary.  

However, a growing number of people have already encountered the adverse effects of blue light on their eyes, for example, and are beginning to ask questions about consequences for the skin and overall beauty. There is therefore clearly a need for more information on this topic – information which needs to be readily accessible to consumers. Scientists at DSM have been addressing the point and the question that keeps coming up is: “Do we need a new label or seal for a Blue light Protection Factor – BPF?”

BPF – a helpful tool in the differentiation for blue light protection?

Both SPF labeling and UVA protection are globally regulated claims, and although surveys have shown that many consumers have only an imprecise idea of what they actually refer to, most people find them helpful. Generally, labeling reinforces the message that sun protection is vitally important if you want to reduce the risk of serious damage to your skin – not to mention premature skin aging. And everyone can work out that higher numbers mean more protection: hence labeling provides at the very least a guide as to which products are appropriate for people’s particular needs. 

So – would an additional claim or seal relating to BPF provide greater transparency for consumers, or might it just confuse them?  

Let us know your thoughts and talk to our expert!

Related Products

  • PARSOL® Max

    PARSOL® Max (INCI: Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol) is a photostable broad spectrum UV filter which delivers outstanding performance that breaks through the boundaries of UVB and UVA to continue into the blue light spectrum.

  • PARSOL® ZX

    PARSOL® ZX (INCI: Zinc Oxide, Triethoxycaprilylsilane) is an inorganic UV filter with a broad UVA‐UVB absorption curve that also goes into the blue light spectrum. Our grade with a particle size ensures SPF and best UVA performance.

  • NIACINAMIDE PC

    In cosmetic applications, Niacinamide PC, a form of vitamin B3, helps to rebalance skin pigmentation, refines pores and improves skin elasticity. It helps to protect from UV and blue light damage.

  • PEPHA® -AGE

    The natural skin care ingredient PEPHA®-AGE stimulates skin’s own defense against the negative impact of blue light protecting the skin barrier and boost the collagen synthesis.

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