Should you wear sunscreen indoors or are we becoming paranoid?

The answer may surprise you.

woman applying sunscreen lotion to cheek - stock photo
(Image credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

Wearing sunscreen indoors probably isn't something you'd ever considered until recently. But with 60% of us now spending more than six hours a day in front of a digital device, some skin experts warn that blue light can cause a cascade of complexion woes.

Right now it's impossible to side step the fact that our skin is bathed for hours at a time in an eerie haze of blue light emitted by our phones, tablets and laptops. Health experts have known about digital eye strain for a while, and the potential for blue light from digital devices to damage eyes. But can screens damage your skin, too? 

Research on how blue light affects your skin is ongoing, but what dermatologists know so far doesn't look good. Experts like Noella Gabriel, co-founder of Elemis, points to evidence that blue light (High Energy Visible Light or HEV) from our devices acts like UVA and UVB rays, penetrating deep into the skin where it degrades collagen, increases hyper pigmentation and generally stresses out skin. 

Gabriel explains: "Blue light even reduces the amount of hydrating hyaluronic acid in your skin by creating free radicals and oxidative stress. So, yes, you should definitely be wearing either sunscreen or a moisturiser containing SPF indoors." 

Others like dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, however, believe the blue light from the sun is a greater threat to your skin than the blue light emitted from your screens. 

She says: "Visible light rays emitted by screens and phones is a fraction of that emitted by the sun  - in fact, it’s between 100-1000th of the strength. As much as 44% of the sun’s rays are visible light. Skin cells are sensitive to both visible light and UV creating a double whammy assault, especially when it comes to pigmentation."

You might also want to consider that standard glass windows will only block UVB but not UVA or HEV rays, which are the main contributing factor to accelerated ageing in the form of wrinkles and leathery textured skin.

So unless you are working in a windowless room, slathering on SPF every couple of hours remains the general rule of thumb whether you're indoors or outside, and especially if you're sitting by a window or in a room with lots of sunlight.

And in the case of blue light, not just any sunscreen will do; you want one containing iron oxides, as science shows these are the only effective way of blocking HEV rays.

But here is the other thing—that sunscreen you are imagining with its chalky, oily congealing texture —simply doesn't exist any more. Instead the latest formulas mesh seamlessly with your skin and up the ante of your daily routine as well as save your life.

Here are three of the best to layer over your best vitamin C serum...

3 of the best iron oxide sunscreens to wear indoors