Just How Damaging Is HEV Light From Our Devices?

We know the reliance on our mobile devices, tablets, and computers is affecting our daily habits, lifestyle, and arguably our mental health.  But what about physical health?  Studies are being conducted on not only the changes in our posture (as we look down at our phones more and more) but the effect of the HEV light that is emitted from these devices.  It is still early to tell the full impact of these relatively new devices, but research shows that HEV light, or blue light, is definitely a genuine concern.  

What is HEV Light?

High Energy Visible light (HEV), is blue light or near ultra violet light, that you have more exposure to than you might realize.  Sources of HEV light include sun exposure, mobile devices, tablets, computer monitors, laptops, and full spectrum lighting.  Additional sources can come from reflective surfaces (we know these also intensify sunburn) such as water, sand, snow, and glass.  

What are the Effects of HEV Exposure?

Most people know the dangers of UVA and UVB rays, these are the rays that cause sunburns and premature aging of the skin!  However, HEV light may be even more damaging than UVA and UVB rays because it reaches deeper into the layers of our skin.  The UVA and UVB rays reach from 100-400 nanometers into the skins surface.  By comparison, Blue/Violet HEV rays penetrate 380-500 nanometers into the skin, and Blue/Turquoise light reaches further still at 450-500 nanometers.  

This is important to be conscious of because HEV light exposure can lead to many health issues like inflammation, impaired healing, melanogenesis, skin sensitivity, dryness, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, uneven texture, and more.  I have even had a number of cases where my patients, many scientists or computer analysts, had developed hyperpigmentation from excessive HEV light exposure from their work computers.  These were patients who did not enjoy time outdoors and had very limited sun exposure!

How To Protect Yourself HEV Light

As dermatologists we cannot stress the importance of a good sun protectant for a growing list of reasons.   Unfortunately, there is a lot of misleading marketing out there so as consumers we need to be aware of what constitutes a “good” sun protectant.  It is very important to know that SPF (Sun Protectant Factor) only protects against UVB rays.  A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both the UVB and UVA rays.  However, without a doubt you are going to get the best protection with a sunscreen that contains a mineral blocker, like zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide.  These mineral ingredients actually reflect the harmful light and prevent them from penetrating your skins surface at all.  Therefore, to protect yourself from UVA, UVB, and HEV light from your devices, I recommend you use a zinc sunscreen (at least 6% zinc or more) daily, whether you are in the sun or not!  Other measures that you can take are to get a blue light filter for your digital devices, wear glasses that are designed to block HEV light, and definitely avoid using your tablet or phone in bed.  In the cases of my patients who developed hyperpigmentation, we were able to treat the condition simply with Hydroquinone and the daily use of a zinc sunscreen.  

It is important to note that not all exposure to HEV light is harmful, it can be beneficial in certain circumstances.  Moderate exposure to HEV light during the day helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, increase mental alertness, memory, cognitive function, and even mood.  But as with most things in life, balance is definitely key, and I think it’s safe to say most of us are getting more than ideal quantities of HEV light exposure on a daily basis.  We are not in a position to simply cut out our phones, work computers, and tablets, but we can protect our skin from unnecessary damage with the simple use of a good sun protectant.

If you are experiencing any of the possible side effects of excessive HEV light exposure, have questions about your daily skincare routine, or more, you can schedule an appointment with any of our seasoned medical providers.  Skin Solutions Dermatology has locations in NashvilleBrentwoodFranklinColumbiaHendersonvilleMt. JulietSmyrna, and Pulaski.

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