Ep 156 – The Rogue Pharmacist: Worried About Blue Light? What you Should Know

Woman looking at her cell phon

Although blue light is often used to target acne bacteria, recent research suggests blue light from electronic devices may lead to changes in skin cells. Pigmentation, redness, and wrinkles may all be an indication of overexposure. In this episode of The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, RPh, we take a closer look and get Ben’s perspective on protection from this high energy visible light. 

Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) presents The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R.Ph. This podcast takes an enlightening approach to supporting licensed estheticians in their pursuit to achieve results-driven skin care treatments for their clients. You can always count on us to share professional skin care education, innovative techniques, and the latest in skin science.

Benjamin Knight Fuchs is a registered pharmacist, nutritionist, and skin care chemist with 35 years of experience developing pharmacy-potent skin health products for estheticians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons. Ben’s expert advice gives licensed estheticians the education and skin science to better support the skin care services performed in the treatment room while sharing insights to enhance clients’ at-home skin care routines.

Connect with Ben Fuchs: 

Website: www.brightsideben.com 

Phone: 844-236-6010 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/The-Bright-Side-with-Pharmacist-Ben-Fuchs-1011628013346...


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0:00:55.7 Maggie Staszcuk: Hello and welcome to ASCP and the Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs. In each episode we'll explore how internal and external factors can impact the skin. I'm Maggie Staszcuk, ASCP's Education Program Manager and joining me is of course Ben. Hi Ben. 


0:01:11.6 Ben Fuchs: Hello Maggie, nice to see you. 


0:01:13.5 MS: Nice to see you. So Ben, I read recently that blue light from electronic devices can lead to changes in your skin cells and that's including like cell shrinkage and death. 


0:01:26.4 BF: Oh, that's horrible. 


0:01:26.8 MS: Is that true?  


0:01:27.5 BF: No. Blue light is an issue but blue light from devices is a very small fraction of the blue light we get. Most of the blue light that we get comes from the place we get most of our light, which is the sun. And as far as blue light itself goes, yeah, that's true. Blue light is very stimulating. Quick digression, everything's light. Everything we see is light. Everything in reality is vibrations. That's all it is. And sometimes I wonder, isn't light weird?  


0:01:53.5 MS: It's so weird. 


0:01:54.5 BF: What exactly is light? Right? And when you think about it, light is just movement. It's just vibrations. And these vibrations are measured on a scale that we refer to as the electromagnetic spectrum. So the electromagnetic spectrum is all of the ways electricity shows up. All of reality is just electricity. And electricity shows up in different forms based on its speed, or not really speed but frequency. By frequency we mean on-off. So light is just vibration. Vibration means on-off. Electromagnetic spectrum is based on on-offs. 


0:02:27.1 MS: I like how you explain that. 


0:02:27.6 BF: How things are going on and off. So just think about turning the light switch on and off, on and off, and on and off. One on-off cycle, on-off, is called a frequency. It's called, it's what we refer to as frequency. So one on-off cycle would have a frequency of one. Ten on-off cycles would have a frequency of ten. When we talk about the light and the electromagnetic spectrum, we're talking about on-offs trillions of times a second. So one on-off of the light switch is one cycle per second or one frequency. A trillion on-off cycles would have a frequency of a trillion. And light is measured in hundreds of trillions of times a second. And what distinguishes the colors, the electromagnetic spectrum, that part we see is called the light spectrum, and it's made up of ROYGBIV. Remember ROYGBIV?  


0:03:13.5 MS: I do. 


0:03:13.6 BF: So it's made up of ROYGBIV. And that's the light spectrum. That's the stuff we see. Now to the left, if you will, of the ROYGBIV, you'll have infrared and that's measured as heat. We can't see that. And to the right of the electromagnetic spectrum that we see, the light spectrum that we see, you have ultraviolet. We can't see that. So between infrared and ultraviolet on either side, you have the light spectrum, which is ROYGBIV. And the only thing that makes red different from orange, different from yellow, different from green and blue and indigo and violet is the amount of times it's blinking on and off. So for example, red is blinking on and off 400 trillion times a second. Okay? Orange is turning on and off 500 trillion times a second. I'm giving you approximate numbers. Violet, which is at the other end, the high end of the spectrum is blinking on a 600 or 700 trillion times a second. And when I say blinking on and off, it's hitting molecules in your eyes trillions of times a second, hundreds of trillions of times a second. 


0:04:10.0 BF: If it blinks on, if it hits molecules in your eye and it causes them to vibrate 700 trillion times a second, you say, "Oh, that's purple." If it's vibrating 400 trillion times a second, you say, "Oh, that's blue or that's red," depending on the amount of times it's bouncing. So what distinguishes the different colors is the frequency of the on-offs in the eye. What makes blue light so problematic is it's faster. It's more, it has a higher frequency than red. It's higher energy, we say. So on the electromagnetic spectrum, which goes from red to blue or red to violet, on this side, the right side, the blue indigo violet, you have the higher frequencies and the red, orange, yellow are the lower frequencies. So what makes blue light a problem is it's very high frequency relative to the lower frequencies. I don't know if you've ever seen a red light, but if you've seen a red light and you just look at it, it has a kind of relaxing quality to it. 


0:05:10.1 BF: In fact, I have a red light bulb in my bedroom and I'll use it right before I go to sleep. I'll leave it on for a couple of hours because it has a kind of relaxing sort of quality. Right? Blue light, on the other hand, is very stimulating. Problems that we have today is that we're inundating our bodies and our eyes with blue lights through smartphones and computers and devices, which tend to be high blue light emitters, which by the way, is one reason why you don't want to be scrolling in the middle of the night or you don't want to be watching TV or working on your computer before you go to bed because the blue light that's being emitted from these kinds of electrical devices has a stimulating effect and it has a suppressing effect on melatonin, which is a relaxing hormone. And by suppressing melatonin, it can cause cortisol stress hormone to be out of balance. 


0:05:57.2 BF: So you feel more cortisol or stress effects. So the problem that you hear about blue light is it's very stimulating. That stimulation can be associated with things like UV damage, cell death, cell shrinkage, all the things that you're talking about. Even hyperpigmentation can be associated with blue light. So it's not so much blue light from the devices that's a problem. It's the blue light from the sun that's the problem. And most of the sun's energy is in the ultraviolet UVB range. So about maybe 5 or 10% of sunlight on the earth is UVA. Maybe another 50% or 45% is UVB, and the rest of it is visible light. So about 50% of the light that comes from the sun is visible light. And of that 50%, about 20 or 30% is blue light. So the big problem with blue light is not from devices, it's from the sun. 


0:06:49.5 MS: Sure. That makes sense. 


0:06:51.6 BF: Right? So I was going to say, the way you want to protect yourself from blue light is to use sun protection. That's the best way to just... All the things we talk about, internal sun protection, as well as topical sun protection. Also, this is kind of interesting. The hyperpigmentation effects of blue light are different from a mechanistic state, from a biochemical state, than the hyperpigmentation effects of ordinary sunlight. Ordinary sunlight, regular sunlight or regular ultraviolet, I should say, causes hyperpigmentation through a melanin-like effect. So a tan is actually protective against ultraviolet radiation, hyperpigmentation or some of the sun effects of hyperpigmentation. In fact, that's what a tan is. Melanin is produced in response to the sun as a protective mechanism. The pigmentation that occurs from blue light is a little bit different. It's caused by proteins in the skin, not by melanin. 


0:07:44.7 BF: And these proteins in the skin vibrate and they induce melanization, which means, interestingly enough, that people who have darker skin types, who would ordinarily be protected from regular tanning or regular sun damage by virtue of their pigmentation, they're more susceptible to hyperpigmentation from blue light because of the mechanism. People who have more pigment tend to have more of these molecules called opsins, and these opsins vibrate in response to blue light and radiate and cause an effect on melanin. So it's the opsins that are responsible for the hyperpigmentation effects of blue light, and people with darker skin types actually have more opsins. So they're more susceptible to the tanning that comes from blue light or the pigmentation effects of blue light. If you have more pigment, you're going to be more susceptible to hyperpigmentation from blue light. 


0:08:40.8 BF: If you have more pigment, you're going to be more protected from hyperpigmentation or from sun damage effects, we'll say, not necessarily hyperpigmentation. Because hyperpigmentation is kind of controlled by various hormones. It's not only a result of the activity of the sun. So we'll say, forget hyperpigmentation, say sun damage. People who have higher amounts of opsins, which are associated with more pigment, are going to be more susceptible to sun damage than people who have lighter skin types, which is kind of an interesting counterintuitive kind of fact. 


0:09:13.2 MS: So you see a lot of skincare lines that are promoting protection from blue light, like in their sunscreens and things like that. And would you say that that is truth or that it's marketing?  


0:09:24.9 BF: Yeah, your best protection from blue light damage is going to be sun protection. So things like carotenoids, niacin, zinc oxide. It turns out that iron oxide in combination with zinc oxide, iron oxide is sort of brown and it's found in makeups and foundations and clay masks and such. Iron oxide with zinc oxide is protective against blue light. I don't know if you've ever heard of ____ Fucoxanthin algae that has a lot of carotenoids in it. That could be protective against blue light. But basically, you want to just think about ordinary sun protection and then internal sun protection. We always talk about internal pigments, eating fruits and veggies and braising them and releasing the pigments, juicing. Those also have protective effects against the sun. And you don't want to think of blue light as being something special. It's part of the solar spectrum. And just like you can have sun damage from ultraviolet radiation, you can have sun damage from blue light as well. 


0:10:18.1 BF: So it's not like blue light is special in any way. It's just a higher energy part of the visible light spectrum. And then as you keep moving on into higher energy, you go from red to orange, to yellow, to blue, to green, to violet and to ultraviolet. And it's this stuff on the right end as you're moving forward that's going to be the most problematic. On the other hand, red light has nice relaxing effects. You can still get sun damage though from red light too, but not, certainly not as much as you do from the super fast molecules with the shorter wavelengths that are to the right on the electromagnetic spectrum. And I was also going to say, oh, blue light is not all bad either. Blue light is used to treat skin diseases. It's used to treat acne. It's used to treat sun damage. It's used to treat... It has anti-aging properties. It's stimulating, but with all things stimulating, you can be overstimulating. 


0:11:07.8 MS: Sure. So with that said, our cells are to some degree absorbing that energy, right? Or the wavelength. 


0:11:16.1 BF: Totally. Absolutely. They're absolutely absorbing it. Now you have a stratum corneum barrier that's going to be a little bit protective, but the really fast vibrating solar energy, the blue and the indigo and the violet and the ultraviolet, that's going to go through the stratum corneum. And that'll definitely go into the lower levels of the skin. That's the big problem with ultraviolet radiation. 


0:11:36.7 MS: So what about the light bulbs in our ceiling? Do we need to be worried about that too?  


0:11:40.0 BF: No, no. There is some... They're stimulating. They're emitting blue light. That's for sure. And we have light pollution, up until... Think about this, up until about 150 years ago, when the sun went down, it was dark. There were maybe candles, but other than that, it wasn't like there were lights everywhere. Today, our bodies have had to get used to this, all of this light, this 24 hour light cycle that we have. And that throws off a lot of biochemistry because of circadian rhythms. We have these rhythms that are tied into the sun, these biochemical rhythms that are tied into the sun. And what's supposed to happen is certain hormones are supposed to go up and other hormones are supposed to go down, all in relationship to the movement of the sun, especially cortisol, stress hormone and melatonin. And by this 24/7 inundation of light that we have, we have light literally 24/7, it totally throws off our hormones. 


0:12:31.1 BF: And nobody really knows what the effect is on melatonin, on cortisol, on insulin, on estrogen, on our other steroid hormones. We don't really know the impact of that, but you can rest assured there is going to be some impact because for years when the sun went up, we had a certain hormone profile. And when the sun went down, we had a certain hormone profile. And as the sun was rising, we had a certain hormone profile. As the sun was setting, we had a certain hormone profile. That's been completely destroyed and only in the last 150 years or so. And the impact on our biochemistry in terms of cancer and obesity and hormone issues, there's no way to measure that, but you can assume that they're there. 


0:13:07.4 MS: So why do you think that this trend in protecting against blue light, we're only seeing that in, I don't know, the last year or two?  


0:13:14.2 BF: I guess we're always looking for something new. In the skincare business, we're always looking for something that's different, that's unusual. And blue light fits the bill. It's different. It's unusual. It's new. It sounds high tech, but really Maggie, it boils down to just taking care of yourself internally with good nutrition, good diet, staying away from processed food. And it sounds so trite and sounds so mundane, but that's really what it's about. Now taking care of your overall health spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, exercising, relaxing, making sure you're doing good nutrition, making sure you're not overeating. All the stuff that we all know we're supposed to be doing. 


0:13:52.9 BF: And as far as topical skincare goes, the best topical skincare I think is internal. And then topically using what your skin would be doing anyway. And that is nutrition. When you eat niacin, niacin goes into your blood, it gets deposited in your skin. When you eat vitamin C, vitamin C goes into your blood and goes into your skin. When you eat polyphenols and bioflavonoids and carotenes and amino acids and essential fatty acids, they go into your bloodstream and they go into your skin. So to me, topical skincare should just be those kinds of molecules that would be going into your skin anyway if we didn't have a skincare industry. And it all just boils down to just in with the good and out with the bad. 


0:14:30.1 MS: So that wraps our show for today and we thank you for listening. But if you just can't get enough of Ben Fuchs, the ASCP Rogue Pharmacist, you can listen to his syndicated radio program at brightsideben.com. For more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Ben Fuchs or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes. 


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