Are you suffering from digital ageing? Here are the signs and how to fight it

Spoiler: you'll want to curb your screen time after reading this.

digital ageing
(Image credit: Getty Images/AleksandarNakic)

Prepare to hear a lot more about 'digital ageing' in 2021 now that 60% of us are spending more than six hours a day in front of digital devices and face-to-face meetings have been replaced by Zoom calls. 

The cumulative effects of these lifestyle choices, according to a new study by Unilever, make for shocking reading. Five working days can have the same impact on the skin as spending 25 minutes in midday sun without any protection. 

The main culprit for digital ageing? Blue high energy visible light (HEV), emitted from your laptop, phone or tablet. 

"Blue light (opens in new tab) can cause discolouration and damage collagen by creating free radicals," says Noella Gabriel (opens in new tab), co-founder of Elemis. 

While limiting screen time is the obvious answer, real life solutions also have to come into play here. And that's precisely what the beauty world is delivering.  

According to Gabriel that means wearing a suncream, or a day cream with an SPF (opens in new tab) in the formula (try Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF30 (opens in new tab)) , even when you're indoors and only washing it off after a Netflix marathon last thing at night. 

In terms of the best sunscreen to wear, ensure it contains zinc oxide, a mineral sunscreen that creates a protective barrier over the skin to shield against blue light. We recommend Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30 (opens in new tab), which is especially good for dark skin tones as it doesn't leave behind any kind of chalky residue.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF30, $128 [£87], Lookfantastic (opens in new tab)

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF30 pot

(Image credit: Lookfantastic)
Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF30, $128 [£87], Lookfantastic (opens in new tab)

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30, $34 (opens in new tab) [£29, Space NK (opens in new tab)]

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30 tube

(Image credit: Drunk Elephant)
Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30, $34 (opens in new tab)

Vitamin C (opens in new tab) is also one of the best free radical scavengers on the market and has the added benefit of helping to brighten patches of pigmentation. 'Vitamin C works to fade all types of pigmentation. I would recommend a concentration of 10% or higher," says Dr Alexis Granite (opens in new tab), consultant dermatologist at Maullucci London.

Numerous studies have also found that vitamin C is essential for collagen production and that it acts directly on our DNA. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum (opens in new tab) is a purse-friendly option based on solid science.

Finally, niacinamide (opens in new tab)became one of the buzziest ingredients last year for good reason. "Niacinamide also reduces the impact of environmental damage because of its ability to improve skin’s barrier (its first line of defense), plus it also plays a role in helping skin to repair signs of past damage," says Paula Begoun (opens in new tab), founder of Paula's Choice skincare. 

You can use her 10% Niacinamide Booster (opens in new tab) on its own or mixed into your favourite moisturiser to help protect surface cells from blue-light-infuced oxidative stress.

But with that said, don’t sub skincare for added screen time.

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum, $39 (opens in new tab) [£28.50, Lookfantastic (opens in new tab)]

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum bottle

(Image credit: Lookfantastic)
La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum, $39 (opens in new tab)

Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, $44 (opens in new tab) [£41, Cult Beauty (opens in new tab)]

Paula's Choice Niacinamide bottle

(Image credit: Cult Beauty)
Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, $44 (opens in new tab)

Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, $44 (opens in new tab) [£41, Cult Beauty (opens in new tab)]

Fiona Embleton is a beauty writer who is now Acting Beauty Editor at Stylist. She is obsessed with Isabel Marant and cats.