We've all heard the warnings: Blue light is bad for you. It emanates from the sun, computer and phone screens, TVs and fluorescent and LED lights. It accelerates vision loss through macular degradation; there's reason to believe it contributes to the development of skin cancers. Considering how much we collectively use our phones and computers, and how closely we hold them to our faces, there's sensible concern surrounding blue light exposure. (Google searches for "blue light" have fluctuated over time, but remain largely steady.)
About Blue Light
According to Ohio State University's Wexner Medical School, "The fear is that it's causing cumulative damage over a long period of time, as it passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina... Damage to the retina can cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss. Up to 9-percent of people will experience macular degeneration, which is the most common reason for blindness in adults in the western world."
But it obviously isn't just our eyes doctors are worried about. We've, meaning us non-medical professionals, long known how prolonged exposure to the sun can impact the skin. But does close-up blue light exposure guarantee the same cancer growth and hyperpigmentation?
"Concerns about the negative effects of blue light on the skin have rapidly increased over the past 15 years, and consequently, the urge to learn more about this topic is increasing as well," a periodical in the J Cosmet Journal of Dermatology reports. But "blue light can be both harmful and beneficial to the skin, depending on intensity and wavelength," the authors ultimately determined.
Blue Light's Benefits
Beneficial, huh? How so? Well, it can be in the form of blue light therapy — also known as photodynamic therapy — a common treatment for acne, skin cancer and pre-cancerous skin damage. These routines almost always require the professional opinion of a dermatologist — and technology typically only accessible to them. (Don't rub your phone across your face.)
However, blue light therapy tools have become more accessible as of late. Omnilux makes a mask called CLEAR — it's a little terrifying, to be honest — that alternates red and blue light. It's designed to benefit your overall tone and reduce inflammation. But it's $400 dollars.
About SolaWave's Blue Light Therapy Wand
SolaWave's Blue Light Wand, on the other hand, is only $109, and it more easily incorporates into your existing skincare routine, especially if you use other serums and moisturizers or struggle with acne. The wand is shaped and sized like a disposable razor, although it's certainly heavier, and you can use it for as little as five minutes at a time, three days a week. Once your skin adjusts to it, and you prove you don't experience any adverse reactions, SolaWave says you can use it for 30 minutes at a time, every single day.
Using it is easy, too. It employs blue light therapy, as I mentioned, but also microcurrents, a subtle facial massaging tool and therapeutic warmth. Microcurrents, as SolaWave's in-depth science page reveals, are "low-voltage electrical waves used to ‘work out’ the muscles of the face by stimulating the muscles and deeper layers of the dermis of the skin." They counteract signs of aging and reduce the visibility of wrinkles. To be honest, they don't feel like much, a slight tingle at the most. The massaging element is subtle, too, but it is super soothing. The head vibrates, which actively helps in "decreasing the appearance of puffiness" and "draining toxicity from the face's lymphatic system." Cosmetically, it tones and refreshes the face's natural shape, making it appear slimmer and perhaps even more toned. Don't expect the changes to be as immediate as botox or plastic surgery, but with consistent use you'll surely notice a difference. For me, inflammation I usually faced dissipated and the blue light lent my skin a healthier shine, which made my jawline more noticeable.
The warming element doesn't get hot, so there's no sense in worrying about burning yourself like you could with a curling iron or a hot blade. It reaches a noticeably warm but totally safe 100 degrees Fahrenheit — just a few degrees above your body's natural temperature. This feature promotes vasodilation, a bodily reaction to warm sensations on the skin. When triggered, the blood vessels widen, improving localized blood circulation and kickstarting regrowth where the skin is damaged. It can also reduce the prevalence of dark circles and the puffiness that people primarily cite comes along with them.
How To Use It
Although the wand harkens a typical razor, you don't use it like one. Instead of going with the grain, you pull the wand up toward the top of your face. They called it "upward and outward." Here's how, if you're considering getting your own, to use it:
You can use the wand on your forehead, under your eyes and across your cheeks, jaw, neck and upper lip. It's best to avoid getting too close to your eyes, though. It comes with a rotating head that can be positioned in an "I" or "T" setting, which plainly describes whether the head is in line with its body or intersecting it.
It's also suggested, since the wand can enhance the efficacy of your usual moisturizers and serums, that you apply one or the other before using the wand — but clean your face before you do that, too. Bear in mind that whichever you choose should serve as a smooth, conductive barrier between the head itself and your skin.
The SolaWave surely isn't for everyone. The brand makes it clear on its own FAQ page that if you've been diagnosed with skin cancer, typically prove sensitive to skin therapies, recently received botox, have a pacemaker, are under 18 or actively use retinol as a part of your morning routine (meaning directly before or after your SolaWave session).
It's also a significant addition to most men's existing routine — not all men, of course, but I know plenty who'd scoff at the concept. It isn't as drastic of an addition as the aforementioned mask, in terms of cost or aesthetics, but it's still a step beyond simply applying the moisturizers and serums and going about your day.
I will say, though, after two months of testing the SolaWave Blue Light wand... I was impressed. I'd be the first to tell you my skin is excessively oily — all the time. Products intended to slow my skin's oil production work, but without fail, I'm oily by the day's end. That typically causes problems in the pimple department. I was prone to at least one or two once a week: a stray one perched above my eyebrow or a stubborn one stamped on my chin. But the SolaWave has all but eliminated these, evened my overall tone and, I'd argue, brightened the spots where I thought I looked a little dull. I scour, too, and kind of squint (poor eyesight), and the wrinkles that formed across my brow have surprisingly receded to an all-time low visibility wise.
I also firmly believe the SolaWave served as an accelerant for the other skincare products I was using simultaneously. I'd been two or three months into a few serums — ones specifically for smoothing my skin's surface and evening my skin tone — and the results seemed much more noticeable after sessions with the wand. And that's no coincidence. The studies that back SolaWave's claims say the warmth produce by the wand's head can help "increase the absorption of skin care products."
Is it a cure-all for major skin issues? No, I wouldn't say so, but it's a surprisingly effective supplemental addition to an existing skincare routine of someone who cares enough to carve out the time (again, up to 30 minutes) to use a device like this. They'll notice the benefits, for sure, and others will ask how they do it.