Spotlight on: The whole light theory

·4-min read

Everybody is familiar with ultraviolet (UV) light and the harm it does to the skin.

UV gets a lot of attention and SPF products focus on that because it causes the most damage, however, UV only makes up seven per cent of the whole light spectrum - 54 per cent of it consists of infrared while 39 per cent is made up of visible.

While visible light and infrared don't have much effect on their own, they enhance and exaggerate skin damage when partnered up with UV as whole light.

"We found it that actually visible light on its own and infrared on its own don't really do a lot of damage if you just use them within the doses that you get in a normal day," explained Professor Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University, discussing his research. "On their own, they don't do a lot, but when they're combined with UV, it almost gives UV light a pep in its potency. So, you need all three together to get this effect on the lower skin cells."

UV light is high energy so it doesn't penetrate the layers of skin very well, whereas visible light and infrared can penetrate a long way and seem to escort the effects of UV lower down.

"Visible light must be almost having a chaperone effect, a partnering effect, escorting the effects of UV lower down in the skin as visible light and infrared can penetrate more deeply into the lower layers of the skin, allowing the effect of UV to almost replicate further down in the skin than it would normally do on its own," he explained. "UV is really harmful but it's even more harmful when you've got visible and infrared there."

Birch-Machin's studies didn't find a significant difference in damage in the upper layer of the skin cells between UV and whole light, but the research showed a huge impact between them when it came to the dermis, the lower layer related to ageing.

"When you shine UV on these skin cells, on average, you find a 44 per cent increase in damage, however, when you compare that to whole light, there's an enormous, whopping 158 per cent increase in damage, which tells you that clearly the cells in that layer of the skin behave differently when you shine UV or whole light. Whole light causes a lot more damage in your ageing layer than just UV alone."

UV is always partnered up with the rest of the whole light spectrum during the day, and the only time you'd get UV on its own is on a sunbed.

It is proven that SPF does not fully block UV rays. No sunscreen will and so theoretically, even if you apply sunscreen, when excessively exposed, you cannot stop UV light causing damage to the skin, and in practice, most people don't apply the correct amount of SPF, making the skin even more vulnerable.

"According to studies, we only put on 30 to 50 per cent of the right thickness of sunscreen, nobody ever puts it on at two milligrams per centimetre squared," the expert added. "If your sunscreen is only taking out 75 per cent of your UV, the amount of UV still coming through is enough to piggyback with the IR and mainly visible (into the lower layers of the skin cells)."

Now, this research also relates to the blue light we are exposed to from sunlight. Artificial light mimics the blue light from solar light but with a much lesser dosage. Science tells us that healthy skin has somewhat of a generic support system to artificial light but science is moving in the direction of blue light protection, particularly for people with skin that's either sensitive, very pale or compromised from overzealous exfoliation or clinical treatments. To truly protect your skin, we need to look at protection from not only solar blue light but artificial light too.

Digital Defence by Higher Nature is a skincare range that was created from the urgent need to address the issue of skin damage from natural and artificial blue light. Not only is it clinically proven to block blue light rays 100 per cent, but it also helps to reduce the signs of damage for a more youthful appearance. Use the products, which contain natural, plant-based and organic ingredients, in conjunction with your SPF for total light protection and a full 360-degree approach from UV, visible light and infrared.

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