Beiersdorf: Digital blue light skin health concerns are ‘unfounded’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Beiersdorf says a ten-hour call on a smartphone equated to just one minute of sunlight exposure around midday when looking specifically at blue light (Image: Getty Images)
Beiersdorf says a ten-hour call on a smartphone equated to just one minute of sunlight exposure around midday when looking specifically at blue light (Image: Getty Images)

Related tags: blue light, blue light protection, Beiersdorf, Unilever, Skin care, Skin health, skin protection, protective beauty

Artificial blue light from digital devices does not damage skin because the levels emitted during use are not enough to trigger harmful effects, says Beiersdorf – claims matched by a recent study from Norway.

In recent years, interest in blue light protection had soared amongst industry and consumers alike. And earlier this year, a review said ingredient launches for blue light protection and on-pack claims would surge in the beauty and personal care space​ as industry learned more about the mechanism of damage occurring in the skin and testing methods to verify claims evolved.

And certain big brands had already got involved in the blue light conversation, notably Unilever when it told CosmeticsDesign-Europe back in September 2020 that education on the harmful effects of blue light exposure was industry’s responsibility​, particularly blue light emitted from digital devices. The personal care major said during COVID-19 60% of consumers now spent more than six hours per day in front of digital devices, equating to 25 minutes in midday sun without protection when spread across five working days. A separate Unilever Science & Technology study suggested 30 hours of exposure from digital blue light emitted from smartphones or laptop screens could increase the inflammation level in skin cells by 40%.

However, fellow personal care major Beiersdorf had now come forward to dispute information circulating about the negative effects of artificial blue light on the skin.

Much-feared skin impact of digital blue light is ‘unfounded’

Dr Ludger Kolbe, chief scientist of photobiology at Beiersdorf, said: “Public discourse has been characterised by a lack of knowledge and of scientific studies.”

“But through our research activities, we’ve managed to prove that the amount of artificial blue light emitted during conventional use of electronic devices is nowhere near enough to trigger harmful skin effects,” ​Kolbe said in a press statement.

Beiersdorf had conducted its own scientific research, he said, that indicated spending an entire week  in front of a monitor, uninterrupted and at a 30cm distance from the screen, equated to just one minute outside on a sunny summer day in Hamburg, Germany at midday. Similarly, a ten-hour phone call on a smartphone equated to one minute in this same sunlight.

“Compared to the emissions of the sun’s natural blue light, those of artificial blue light are virtually undetectable,”​ Kolbe said. “…The much-feared negative impact of increased screen use due to the coronavirus – for example, as a result of more online meetings or increased use of smartphones – is therefore scientifically untenable. The effect on the skin is negligible, which means concerns about the negative impacts on the skin are unfounded.”

Beiersdorf said these concerns had gained momentum during the COVID-19 crisis, as consumers spent more time connected to digital devices, including laptops, smartphones, and TV screens, but they were “often on the basis of insufficient evidence”.

Artificial vs. natural blue blight – ‘the actual danger comes from natural blue light’

Beiersdorf said it was natural blue light from the sun that posed the real danger.

“The discussions surrounding artificial blue light should not distract from the actual danger sufficiently proven by many years of research at Beiersdorf,”​ the company said.

“Unlike the artificial variant, the sun’s natural blue light poses a very high risk for the skin, which can and must be protected against.”

Visible light, Beiersdorf said, accounted for around 50% of solar radiation, one-third of which was natural blue light that penetrated “much deeper into the skin”​ than UVA rays.

In a 2020 study, published in Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed​, the company showed that natural blue light (high-energy visible light or HEV light) generated oxidative stress and thus accelerated skin ageing and increased hyperpigmentation but could be countered by the protective effect of antioxidant ingredients such as licochalcone A.

This protective action associated with antioxidants was an area Unilever and Beiersdorf aligned on. Unilever also said antioxidants, particularly vitamin C and vitamin B6, were effective at protecting and recovering skin calls from blue-light-induced oxidative stress and damage. Unilever also said zinc oxide created a protective barrier and niacinamide restored skin surface cells.

Protection against artificial violet-blue light ‘superfluous’ – Norway research

A separate research study recently published in Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences​ by researchers from Norway concluded that protection against artificial blue light, specifically violet-blue (VBL) that had a wavelength of 400-500nm, was not necessary.

“Advocates of skin protection against blue light express concern about exposure to indoor lighting and electronic screens as well as natural outdoor exposure. However, the nature of adverse effects in skin is unclear and the doses to induce effects are unknown,”​ the researchers wrote.

Findings from the study that considered existing literature and results from exposure assessments concluded that doses of VBL emissions from domestic sources, electronic screens and medical operating lights were “lower than doses reported to induce observable effects in the skin within practical exposure times”.

“…Skin protection against VBL is superfluous for exposures to domestic lighting sources or screens and for solar radiation; however, it may be advantageous for patients suffering from photosensitive diseases or taking photosensitising medication,”​ the researchers concluded.

Beiersdorf 2020 study
Source: Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed
Published March 2020, doi: 10.1111/phpp.12523
Title: "High-energy visible light at ambient doses and intensities induces oxidative stress of skin-protective effects of the antioxidant and Nrf2 inducer Licochalcone A in vitro and in vivo"
Authors: T. Mann et al.

Norway Research
Source: Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s43630-021-00043-9
Title: "Violet-blue light exposure of the skin: is there need for protection?"
Authors: T. Christensen, BJ. Johnsen and EM. Bruzell

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