[Reprinted from The Guardian]
Screen burn: why the glare from your computer could be ageing your skin
Researchers have suggested a week in front of a screen is the same as 25 minutes in the sun. So should you be slapping on the sunblock every morning before sitting down to work?
‘Blue light’ may cause premature ageing, although it is unclear what dose may be required. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images
Age: Me? I’m 17.
No, you never are, you liar! Seventy-one, more like. Look at your skin, all old and leathery like a turtle’s. Seriously, I’m 17.
Then you’ve been spending way too much time out in the midday sun without any factor 50 on. Nope. Spent the whole summer indoors looking into a phone or a laptop, like any normal well-behaved teenager in lockdown. It’s screen burn.
Screen burn! Seriously, is that a thing? Well, that’s what researchers at the consumer-goods multinational Unilever are saying: that a week in front of a digital screen can have the same effect on the skin as 25 minutes in the sun.
A week against 25 minutes … that’s quite a difference. It all adds up as we spend more and more time staring into screens. By “a week” they mean five working days in front of a digital device for more than six hours. It’s the artificial “blue light” these devices emit, apparently – it’s the highest-energy light on the visible spectrum. It does occur naturally, but people often get more from a screen.
And what does this “blue light” do? Penetrates deep into the skin, through the epidermis and dermis, to the subcutis layer, destroying collagen. It can cause premature ageing, although it’s still unclear what dose is required to do this or what the effects of long-term exposure are. There are also effects on melatonin levels and sleeping patterns.
Sounds as if more research is needed. Are you sure this is good science? Well, Samantha Tucker-Samaras said: “Long-term exposure to blue light has the potential to have significant negative impact on people’s wellbeing.”
And she is? Global vice-president, science and technology, beauty and personal care at Unilever. That’s science and technology.
What does ST-S suggest we do about it? “People should be looking for skincare products loaded with antioxidants, as well as niacinamide and zinc oxide.”
Such as those made by Unilever brands? Others are available.
Hang on, is this why Donald Trump has an orange face? Because he spends the majority of his waking hours staring at – shouting at – his phone? That could be it, yes.
But you don’t really look like that, do you, from spending a few hours at a laptop? No, I did it on a face-ageing app. Just hope I can figure out how to undo it.
Do say: “Time for a screen break. And to engage with three-dimensional living people for a while.”
Don’t say: “And I get a tan as well! My own little portable sunbed! Yay!”