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Power Lines 

With suggested links to pigmentation and premature aging, is the blue light from our devices the new UV - or just a ray of hype? asks Sarah Brown 

Soon after the first iPhone came out a decade ago, fashion executive Gigi Mortimer found herself sitting next to an ophthalmologist at a dinner party. "I told him 'when you find out the light coming from these screens is bad for us, give me a call,' " she remembers. Mortimer was alarmed by studies that had started trickling out, suggesting the harmful effects of the light from a smart device could have on vision, sleep - and even skin. Concerned for the potential health risk for her and her children, Mortimer, who got her start designing accessories, including eyeglasses, at Ralph Lauren and is now the director of design inspiration at Tory Burch, set out to create a tempered glass mobile filter that partially blocks blue light. 

Research is ongoing and dermatologists are debating whether we're truly at risk. but cosmetic companies are banking on the idea that consumers are as concerned about blue light damage to their skin as they are about its effects on their eyes (potential eyestrain) and sleep (a 2014 study links it to disrupted circadian rhythms, which in turn may be associated with developing depression and diabetes.) Big brands and small are starting to introduce sunscreens that will block it out, in the same way out SPFs protect us from UVA and UVB rays today. 

Also known as high energy visible light (HEV), blue light us all around us - in sunlight as well as emitted by the LEDs that illuminate the smartphones, tablets, and computers that the average American is exposed to for six to ten hours every day. So prevalent is this light source that HEV is not being referred to as "digital pollution" by skincare marketers. 

Lessening risk might also come down to moderation - a tall order in our ever wired world. Dimming the display lighting on laptops is a start. (Apple recently admitted that most of its monitors are turned to settings that are more on the blue spectrum that sunlight). Mortimer takes comfort in her mobile phone screens which filter out 37 percent of the blue light; larger versions for tablets are to come. "I look at it like SPF," she says. "Its part of the equation." But soon, too, might be HEV fighting sunscreen. 

(Abridged Version)

Full article by Sarah Brown in Vogue May 2018 issue (page 92, 94). 




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