Sunlight: the good, the bad and the blue
Nothing beats the feeling of the warmth of the warmth of the sun on your face and body. Instantly uplifting, it gives you a healthy glow and it boosts the body’s Vitamin D supply.
It also helps to improve sleep, lower stress, maintain strong bones and strengthen the immune system, plus it can ease depression and even give is a longer life. On the flip side, too much sun can cause long term skin damage and accelerate the ageing process.
UV light from the sun is a form of electromagnetic radiation; UVA is the weakest but it can still cause our skin to age faster, while UVB is much stronger and can cause skin cancer and sunburn. But there is another light, more damaging than UV, that many of us don't think (or know!) about.... blue light. Blue light waves bounce and scatter off nitrogen and oxygen particles into the atmosphere (making the sky blue!) Artificial blue light emits from our computer screens and phones and other electronic devices but we are actually exposed to blue light as soon as we step outside and its more damaging than our devices.
Blue light has the shortest wavelength of visible light and is therefore the highest energy. Some blue light is beneficial but it can also be harmful for prolonged periods or at the wrong time of the day.
Blue light wakes us up in the morning, tuning our circadian rhythms, and setting us up for a good nights sleep. It can also help relieve skin conditions and plays a big part in improving mental health.
Sunlight is made up of four or five times the amount of blue light compared to UV and as it has the shortest wavelength. This rapid moving light penetrates deeper into the skin down to the dermis (the layer beneath the epidermis) It can have a negative impact on collagen and elastin which is formed here.
Blue light can also cause increased melanin production which can result in hyperpigmentation causing darkened patches on the skin. Once established, pigmentation is extremely difficult to remove. But that’s not all…. blue light doesn’t just affect our skin it can impact our eyes too, passing straight through the cornea and lens directly to the retina resulting in damage to vision. People are wearing blue light glasses more and more to safeguard their eyes from artificial sources and sunlight. I'm not suggesting that you should wear these glasses to watch TV every evening, but it's worth considering if you are exposed to blue light on a regular basis. So many of us spend hours scrolling through our phones and laptops (exactly what I’m doing writing this article!) but too much time spent on these devices can cause eye strain, dry eyes and macular degeneration and not forgetting bad necks and stiff shoulders! It's advisable to work for short periods, step away, stretch and then come back to whatever you are working on.
So now for some common sense. We all know that you shouldn’t lie out for hours and hours in strong sunlight, especially the midday sun. Always use an SPF and remember to keep reapplying it - once in the morning isn’t enough, its recommended that you apply every 2 hours and make sure that you cover every inch of your body. Did you know that if you use an SPF30 you are blocking out 96.7% of the sun’s rays and with SPF50 this increases to 98%?
Whilst the sun can be damaging, we mustn’t forget about the positive impact that it has on our wellbeing. Like everything in life, its all about moderation.