The question, does the blue light from my phone harm my skin? is one that I have been receiving since I started the Mask of Vanity Blog, however in the last month it has become the top question in my inbox.
The reason for the heightened interest in the blue light subject is because recently a Youtube personality named Valkyrae, who I had never heard of until last week, started a skin care line, called RFLCT. This skin care line was based on the assumption that blue light from phones harms the skin, and the products, allegedly, provided a defense against the blue light.
So why would someone whose "expertise" is online video gaming start a skin care company? The scheme was, she is a gamer, gamers like her and her "followers" are always in front of a screen and screens emit skin-damaging blue light. Therefore you need her blue light-shielding skin care to prevent aging and to continue gaming.
Valkyrae also has no background in skin care, biology, or any scientific, medical or cosmetological field.
The RFLCT line's premise was kept a secret until release and apparently upon reveal the internet was not happy. The online community lambasted Valkyrae for this skin care line and after being live for just a few days, RFLCT is now defunct and shuttered. Apparently RFCLT's pseudoscientific premise was too gimmicky, even by "influencer" brand standards
The criticism for this brand had two major points:
- Scientific research has not substantiated the claim that blue light from phones can damage the skin
- If blue light did damage the skin, RFLCT's products did not actually have any ingredients that would shield the skin from damaging radiation.
The line is now gone and Valkyrae, I am assuming, is back in her lane of playing video games.
Although this brand is gone, I believe that this debacle brought an insidious issue to the forefront. The subject of influencer-made skincare and pseudoscietific marketing is a disaster waiting to happen because skin care has a direct impact on your health, it can act as both a healer and destroyer. Good skin care can make your skin clear and healthy, bad skin care can cause acne, poison your blood stream and cause cancer. It is not something that should be made or promoted by someone whose profession is entertainment.
But at least the internet wasn't as dull as the marketers for this RFLCT thought they were. Despite all of the positive PR from beauty blogs and magazines touting the virtue of this product, the rest of the internet was not convinced and called out the brand for its outlandish and unscientific foundation.
If her more intelligent critics didn't call out this brand for the nonsense that it was, this skin care would have been sold in Ulta and other mainstream outlets and would have offered as much protection against blue light as the emperors clothes did against a cold breeze.
And everyone would have bought it because all of the press on this brand was positive and it was sold by a "celebrity"
False assumption vs. reality
The number one way bad skin care is created is from scientific illiteracy. The best example of this is the Vitamin C serum scam.
Vitamin C is involved in collagen synthesis in humans. But collagen synthesis involving vitamin C only occurs when it is incorporated into the body in the form of diet from food ingested. And vitamin C is only one step in about 20 steps in the collagen synthesis process. It is not the only step in collagen synthesis and it is not the only thing needed. In fact, vitamin C is only needed AFTER collagen protein has already been made and is only needed to alter the shape of the protein.
However, someone many years ago misappropriated the facts, plucked vitamin C as the sole player in collagen biosynthesis and created the vitamin C serum gimmick. And yet somehow no other scientist has stepped in to say that this is a gross misrepresentation of biology, and it is physically impossible to make a collagen molecule from one vitamin. Especially if that vitamin is only used once collagen has already been made. And you especially cannot do anything inside the body from a serum that can only sit on the surface of dead skin.
But here we are, and this is the same route that the blue light gimmick walked down.
It is true, blue light can damage the skin. But the blue light that does damage is from the sun, not your phone. So what happened here is that a group of people illiterate in science read on google that the sun emits blue light, and then read that your phone emits blue light and did the internet math of 2+2=37 and now we have a fear over something nonexistent and one more skin care product no one needed.
The blue light that comes from your phone is different than the blue light emitted by the sun. The sun is a massive ball of hot, nuclear fusing plasma 1,300,000 times bigger than the planet earth. The light from the sun can damage your skin because of its intensity. The blue light from your phone simply is not intense enough to damage your skin. If it was, your skin would get burned from exposure like it does from sun exposure.
Blue light from your phone can cause eye strain, and affect your sleep, but this is different than skin damage. And although there is scientific evidence that shows that blue light can permanently strain the eyes, there is no credible scientific evidence that blue light from your phone can damage your skin.
No true protector
The other criticism of Valkyrae's line was that, if we were to assume that blue light from screens does harm the skin, there is nothing in the RFLCT line to protect against it.
The RFCLT line has been pulled from the shelves in stores and online, but I was able to find an ingredient list for the following:
Screen Shield Defense Face Moisturizer
A daily moisturizer that defends skin from blue light pollution and promises to reduce skin redness while keeping it hydrated.
Water/Aqua/Eau, Propanediol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Neopentyl Glycol Dipelargonate, Dipropylene Glycol, Triheptanoin, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Artemisia Capillaris Flower Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Lecithin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Steareth-20, Ceteth-20, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, PEG-75 Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Aloe Leaf Extract
There are a lot of problems with the ingredient list. First is that there is nothing in this product that will defend against blue light, or any kind of light. As far as the scientific community has discovered, these are the only ingredients that have been shown to safely and effectively block light from the skin:
So unless Valkyrae's RFCLT line has some groundbreaking team of scientific researchers that knows something about radiation blocking that no one else seems to, this product has no ingredient that has been approved by the FDA to block light from the skin.
Furthermore, there are ingredients in this moisturizer that will sensitize your skin to light and promote damage. Specifically the Artemisia Capillaris Flower Extract and Sodium Hyaluronate which will cause inflammation, plasma membrane deterioration, and skin brittleness.
Also if you google the top ingredients (which make up 80-99% of the formula), many other skin care products show up from other brands, indicating this was just a private label product. Meaning they just took a stock formula from a mass manufacturer, added their choice of fragrance, and slapped their label on it and claimed it was their proprietary creation.
This blue light-damaging claim did not start with Valkyrae, and apparently there is a niche of skin care brands created around this claim. When I researched these brands I found the same issue as I did with RFLCT: there are no actual ingredients that protect against blue light. So regardless if blue light from phones is harmless or not, there is nothing in these products, which are really just moisturizers, to protect your skin.
The only thing that can effectively protect your skin against blue light, which when coming from the sun has the ability to do harm, is sunscreen.
All these brand are doing is creating a fear out of nothing to sell you one more thing you don’t need, so if you are wearing sunscreen every day with an effective SPF, you are already doing what you need to do to protect yourself. And you don’t need these useless skin care products.
Stay in your lane
I am not going around posting videos of me doing open heart surgery, or fixing a steam engine because I don't know how to do those things. I know what I know and I know what I don't know and I am not trying to achieve fortune and fame by conning people into believing I am an expert in matters I know nothing about.
So someone whose expertise is online gaming should stick to that. Valkyrae found her niche and apparently has a fanbase, so why go from playing video games to selling (pseudo)scientific skin care? Because there was a lot of money to be made and people are easily conned by skin care gimmicks.
I read the statements by Valkyrae when her skin care hit the fan. She basically stated that she didn't know the blue light damage claim wasn't real, she didn't know she wasn't given all of the science (or lack thereof) by the company, she didn't know, she didn't know.
Well, what she did know was that she wasn't a scientist. So when she was approached by this marketing company to create a brand, shouldn't she have said that she wasn't a scientist and therefore had no ability to:
- Read scientific literature
- Determine scientific credibility from a scientific study
- Understand the biological mechanisms behind blue light radiation damage and the chemical requirements for skin protection
She didn't take that responsibility just like other skin care brand founders don't take responsibility and admit or realize that they do not have the qualifications to make safe effective skin care. To make safe skin care you need to be able to read and understand biological research, because this is how you can determine which research supports certain skin care claims and which ones are bogus. Illiteracy is how we get vitamin C serums and essential oils in our skin care, critical thinking and biological expertise is how we get them out,
My biological background took 10 years, I do not believe there are many or any influencers with skin care companies have that background, which is why they just do private label. And when you have "trusted" celebrities selling bogus products, you get skin disease.
So when it comes to watching someone playing a video game on Youtube, Valkyrae seems to have something to offer, but when it comes to preventing skin disease, it is best to look elsewhere.