With increased awareness of the dangers caused by prolonged sun exposure, the days of baking on a beach in search of a dark tan are long behind us. Instead, tanning has been replaced with SPF, wide-brimmed hats, and sunless tanning creams. But just as we seem to have conquered the threat of UVA and UVB rays, another type of light is proving to be just as dangerous to our health and our skin. Our team at Vancouver’s Fiore Skin Clinic, home of Facial Plastic Surgeon Dr. Thomas Buonassisi, has done the research for you! Here’s how sexy corn protects skin against damaging HEV light.
Like UVA and UVB rays, High Energy Visible Light (HEV) is emitted by the sun. But, unlike these other types of rays, much of our exposure to this potentially dangerous form of light comes from man made objects. HEV light (also known as Blue Light) is emitted by fluorescent and LED lighting, electronic devices, TVs, and all digital screens (including computers, laptops, smart phones, and tablets).
Despite the sources of HEV light differing from that of UVA, UVB, or IR-A, they are no less damaging. In fact, recent findings suggest that HEV light may cause as much damage as UVA and UVB combined. In our modern, digitalized world the sources of HEV light are overwhelming. Add that to the fact that around 60% of us spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device, it’s not hard to believe that we’re getting far more than our share of HEV light skin damage.
To understand HEV light, we need only to understand a few simple things. The first is that light is made up of particles that travel in waves which vary in length and strength. There are six types of light found on the electromagnetic spectrum, most of which we have all heard of, including: gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet (UV) rays, visible light, infrared light, and radio waves. Of these six types of light however, only visible light can be seen by the human eye.
On this spectrum, each type of light is represented by a colour. HEV light rays are experienced by us as the colour blue (think of your computer screen or a fluorescent light bulb), and are particularly powerful because they have a short wavelength, which produces higher energy. Of the entire spectrum, “beneficial light” is only a small sliver of visible light, with harmful UVA, UVB, UVC, IR-A, and HEV light making up the majority of the scale.
Consequences of too much HEV light include brown spots on the skin, accelerated skin aging, uneven pigmentation, increased redness and inflammation, and oxidative DNA damage. In addition, HEV light has been shown to generate the same amount of reactive oxygen species (ROSs) in the skin as those produced by UVA and UVB combined.
Not sure what a ROS is?
Chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen, ROSs are formed naturally, but during times of stress (which includes overexposure to UV), their levels rise dramatically and can cause damage to cells. Essentially speaking, they are free radicals largely responsible for aging, and for damaging our DNA.
On the electromagnetic spectrum, light is measured in nanometres. (One nanometer is one billionth of a metre!) HEV light, or Blue Light, ranges from 380 – 500 nm, while UVA and UVB light is measured around 200 – 380 nm.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with skin protection, it’s fairly simple. Until now, all sunscreen on the market has been focused on how to block out rays in the 200 – 380 nm category of the spectrum (UVA & UVB), while doing nothing to protect against HEV light skin damage. Fortunately, some products have finally arrived on the market to change all that.
The recent development of fractionated melanin (FM) is proving to be vital in protecting against HEV light. Designed to absorb light in the HEV blue to violet wavelength range of 400 – 500 nm, it provides UV and HEV light photoprotection.
Derived naturally from corn, fractionated melanin has proven to be highly effective at blocking HEV light skin damage. Found naturally in our skin, hair, and eyes; melanin is our body’s natural sunscreen. It acts by absorbing harmful UV and HEV rays, and is also what leads our skin to darken in colour when we tan. By that measure, the more melanin one has, the more protection it offers.
Despite how much melanin we start out with, this amount decreases dramatically with age. So much so, in fact, that by age 65 it is half of what we had at birth; therefore making us more vulnerable to the effects of all types of light damage, including HEV light skin damage.
Today one of the most comprehensive lines of sun protection products using fractionated melanin is ZO Skin Health by Dr. Zein Obagi, MD. With an entire sun protection portfolio, ZO Skin Health focuses on triple-spectrum protection that shields skin against UVA/UVB, HEV and IR-A rays. In certain skin-care circles, the FM found in their products has come to be known as “sexy corn.” It’s no wonder either; all this sunscreen protection is pretty attractive.
With products ranging from their Oclipse® Sunscreen + Primer SPF 30, which not only offers multiple defense sun protection but is tinted to reduce imperfections, to their Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50, which suppresses UV induced irritation; this is one of the best lines out there to protect against HEV light skin damage and the dangers of HEV.
Our circadian rhythm (also known as the internal clock that regulates our wake and sleep patterns) still has us pretty much hard-wired as farmers. For thousands of years, until the invention of artificial lighting, our ancestors’ daily routine revolved around the rising and setting of the sun. All that has changed considerably as we entered the epoch of 24/7; but the impact of being lit up like a bright idea day and night is turning out to have some pretty scary consequences.
Sleep in particular is easily disrupted by HEV light, especially at night time. But research has shown there is also a possibility it may contribute to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and even macular degeneration and damage to the retina.
Exposure to light during the nighttime hours causes a suppression of the hormone (and powerful antioxidant) melatonin, which plays a large role in influencing circadian rhythms. And while any kind of light can cause a disruption in melatonin levels, a recent Harvard experiment showed that HEV light in particular suppresses levels for up to twice as long as other forms of light. Low levels of melatonin have been implicated in everything from insomnia to an increased Body Mass Index. While exposure to light at night (whether from work exposure or lifestyle factors) has also been associated with cancers of the breast and colon.
Being proactive about sun protection, and using products that offer a multiple defense like our ZO Skin Health line is the best way to ensure your skin will stay healthy over the long term. Because we all know that there is nothing sexier than beautiful skin.