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Chemistry + Cosmetics: A Deep Dive into the Effects of Blue Light




Throughout my high school career, my greatest enemy and fundamental foe has been grade eleven chemistry. I have come to the conclusion that we are all collectively pretending to understand how covalent bonds are formed. Can anyone really remember how to write a net ionic equation or the calculations for concentration of a stock solution? My poor relationship with chemistry has impacted my skin care journey as chemistry plays a major role in the composition of skin care products and their ability to nourish and enrich the skin. As I have had conversations with friends and family, it seems as though we tend to follow skin care advice blindly, believing that certain products are necessary without understanding why. Taking this impersonal approach to skin care can prevent consumers from picking up the products they truly need as they instead, choose to follow the masses. Today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into a product that will change your entire skin care routine and hopefully your relationship with chemistry!


We are surrounded by a world of skin care myths. From wet hair causing colds to makeup being a leading cause of aging, there is a wealth of misinformation at the tips of our fingers. When researching the chemistry of makeup I found a number of articles by Harper’s Bazaar and Allure Magazine discussing “blue light” and its long term impacts on the skin. Upon first glance, I assumed the hysteria surrounding blue light was another skin care myth, but as I dug deeper, my findings completely changed the way I looked at cosmetics.


WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT

To understand blue light, we begin with a quick chemistry lesson on the visible light spectrum. The visible light spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen by the human eye. On the visible light spectrum, wavelength and energy share an inverse relationship. For example, red light has the longest wavelengths and therefore the least amount of energy. In contrast, blue light rays are extremely short (380-500nm) and therefore contain the largest quantities of energy. Just beyond blue light rays are ultraviolet (UV) rays. Long term exposure to high quantities of UV rays can lead to sunburn and skin cancer. Rays of red, orange, yellow, green and blue light are combined to produce white-light, better known as sunlight. In the past, the majority of our interactions with blue light came from sunlight but increased use of electronic devices and televisions screens have exposed us to more blue light than ever.


THE DANGERS OF BLUE LIGHT:

Can you guess how many times a day you check your phone? I spent ⅓ of my childhood with my mom telling me that I was sitting too close to the television and it seems as though she was making a good point. An article by the New York Post found that Americans were checking their phones every 12 minutes for a total of 80 times a day. This statistic is particularly alarming because in contrast to blue light exposure from the sun that tends to have minimized effects due to the distance, our phones are very close to our faces for very long periods of time making the damaging effects more immediate and more profound. We are also using our phone for longer periods of time than we are traditionally exposed to sunlight. Round the clock cell phone use can also increase exposure to blue light. The effects of blue light continue to be widely debated but as more studies are completed dermatologists are getting a better grasp on what exactly blue light means for the skin. In an interview with the Zoe Report, dermatologist Dr. Eric Bernstein, the Director of the Main Line Center for Line Surgery, reported blue light to have damaging effects such as inflammation and sun damage in the form of wrinkles, age spots and even sagging skin. Dr. Shari Marchbein of the New York University School of Medicine has found a correlation between exposure to blue light and hyper-pigmentation. All of these can lead to the appearance of aging and cause unnecessary damage to the skin. In the long term, the damaging effects of blue light can manifest as skin cancer.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO PROTECT OURSELVES:

All of these factors considered, the question remains; what can I do to protect my skin from blue light? In your skin care routine, you can check out products like Empathy Cosmetics’ very own Blue Light Defense Cream! The cream is composed of amino acids, vitamins and minerals that shield the skin from UV rays. The formula is cutting edge and innovative to increase collagen levels and create the best results possible! Cutting down screen time is another amazing place to start. If you are someone who regularly uses their laptop or phone, try to implement the 20-20-20 rule. This practice asks after 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to take a break and can prevent long term damage. Another suggestion would be changing your phone’s settings from day-mode to night-mode. This will swap your phone’s natural blue light for a yellow light that is less damaging for both the eyes and the skin.


I hope our chemistry lesson has allowed you to develop a newfound appreciation for cosmetics and science as well as inspired you to take your skin care into your own hands!



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