LED face masks are popular on social media for glowing skin – but they could disrupt your sleep
LED face masks are the latest device featured on social media as a marriage of technology and beauty.
A slew of celebrities have endorsed wearable versions of the product that were previously offered in beauty salons. Actress Olivia Munn wears hers with her at all times. Julia Roberts, Victoria Beckham and Chrissy Tiegen are also reportedly fans. The trend has even reached the holy grail of social media – an Instagram post from Kardashian.
But whether or not they help make your skin glow, our understanding of circadian rhythms suggests they have the potential to disrupt users’ sleep-wake cycles.
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The human body has its own internal clock which, among other things, helps control our sleep-wake rhythms. This internal clock is influenced by several factors, the most powerful being exposure to light directly in the eyes. Specifically, short wavelength “blue light” influences this system the most.
Exposure to this type of light at night has been shown to interrupt the production of melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone”. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and released within 2 hours of your usual bedtime, which prepares the body for sleep. But exposure to bright blue light can interrupt this process.
There are a range of sources of blue light – including our beloved phones, electronics, and also room lighting in our homes. Although it has become common to avoid using electronic devices near bedtime, against the background of blue light exposure, our phones and tablets don’t seem bright enough to have an impact on the sleep. In fact, home lighting seems to have a bigger influence – probably due to the shift to energy-efficient LEDs, light of the “blue light” wavelength.
Last year, researchers at Monash University looked at the sleep and light exposure of 57 participants, and found that almost half of them had LED lighting that suppressed by 50% melatonin. The study also found that people most exposed to evening light were more awake after bedtime.
Insufficient sleep has been shown to increase the likelihood of poor health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease.
Read more: Poor sleep is really bad for your health. But we’ve found that exercise can compensate for some of this damage.
How face masks compare to other LED sources
The makers of LED masks say they are “the future of skin care,” with masks emitting light at different wavelengths to target particular skin-related results.
Several devices are FDA approved in the United States and claim to target acne with “blue light” modes – the precise wavelength range that can impact melatonin production.
To date, no experimental research study has examined the impact of these devices and their blue light settings on sleep or the human body clock. But given the device’s proximity to users’ eyes and the intensity of LED bulbs, it’s reasonable to report concerns about their possible impact on our body clock.
Sean Cain, a leading scientist on the impact of light exposure on human health, coined an analogy to give perspective to artificial light sources. The light we receive from electronic devices can be thought of as a glass of water poured over your head, while home LED lighting is more like a bucket of water. Following this analogy, could LED masks be the size of a tub or a swimming pool? Further research could quantify their effect.
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You can still act like a Kardashian … during the day
These concerns, based on well-established circadian principles, do not completely exclude the use of these devices. However, it is important for people who use them to avoid doing so at night, especially on blue light settings.
Ideally, the use of masks should be done during daylight hours, in order to avoid possible sleep disturbances and / or changes in the human biological clock. Future research could clarify any negative results associated with these devices and potentially prompt manufacturers to provide recommendations on when to use them.