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Shining a light on the effects of digital aging

Statistics show that there are over 4.5 billion internet users, accounting for 59 percent of the global population. Surprisingly, the average amount of time spent online per user is nearly seven hours per day. We truly live in a digitized world.

But because we are spending so much time on our devices, the effects of usage are becoming harmful to our eyes. Research has shown that blue light, or high energy visible (HEV) light, emitted from device screens can also damage our skin.

How then can we avoid harming ourselves without having to disconnect? The key is to understand where we are most at risk and to know how to minimize our exposure to these damaging effects.

Shining a light on the effects of digital aging

Although we are exposed to blue light through devices, modern television sets and various LED and fluorescent lighting, the main source of blue light is in fact sunlight. In general, our highest exposure to blue light comes from being outdoors during daylight.


According to an American study, blue light is even more harmful to our skin than the sun’s ultraviolet rays as it penetrates far deeper into the lower layers of the skin. Blue light may even impact the skin’s regeneration process and damages cells. It also generates free radicals which can cause skin cells to produce enzymes that break down the collagen and elastin that give skin its plump, youthful appearance.


Long-term blue light exposure to concentrated sources of blue light energy can cause skin damage, including color changes, inflammation and weakening of the skin’s surface. This process is known as oxidative stress and is what causes photo-aging, that is, aging from exposure to light.


Research shows that millennials check their smartphones 157 times per day, in comparison to older adults, who check their phones only about 30 times per day. This means millennials are at a much higher risk of blue light exposure.

  • Loss of skin firmness and elasticity
  • Deterioration of cell membranes
  • The appearance of stains due to overproduction of melanin
  • Dehydration and flaccidity in face skin (caused by electromagnetic waves)
  • DNA changes in skin cells leading to skin cell death
  • Uneven skin pigmentation resulting in the appearance of wrinkles, the formation of age spots and pigmentation disorders

Many of today’s sunscreen products protect the skin against the two basic types of ultraviolet rays present in sunlight, namely UVA and UVB rays. However, the chemicals used to filter these rays do not filter out blue light.


As such, when seeking skin care products, look for those that use ingredients that contain both direct and indirect antioxidants like licochalcone A and glycyrrhetinic acid that can counter oxidative stress. Sunscreen with iron oxide coupled with vitamin C can also help to minimize damage from blue light as well as potentially repair skin damage.


Other beneficial natural ingredients that may be beneficial include:


  • Pomegranate
  • Gogi fruit
  • Noni fruit
  • Coffeeberry
  • White tea
  • Green tea
  • Vitamin E
  • Cranberry seed oil
  • Grape seed
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Raspberry seed oil
  • Rosehip
  • Sea buckthorn

Sunscreen with iron oxide coupled with vitamin C can also help to minimize damage from blue light as well as potentially repair skin damage. Other actives, like menthyl nicotinate, can significantly enhance skin barrier function.


Ultimately, it is highly unlikely that consumers will be scared off from using their devices to avoid blue light. But by using skin care products with the right defense mechanisms, they will at least be able to minimize the harmful effects of prolonged exposure.

Roland Kraut

About the author

Roland Kraut is based in Zurich, Switzerland. He is currently Vice President, Global Personal Care Industry, Performance Materials at DKSH Switzerland Ltd.