Sun protection: high energy visible light

What is high-energy visible light and why do we need to protect skin from it?

High-energy visible (HEVISIS) light is all around us. It’s part of the light we can see. It’s been around for as long as UV rays, but while much has been written about their effect on skin, the molecular and visible effect of HEVISIS light on skin is a more recent discovery.  Research proves that HEVISIS light influences skin condition and can cause skin to photoage (age prematurely as a result of sun exposure). In this article we examine the effects HEVISIS light has on skin, put it into context alongside UVA and UVB rays and consider how best to protect skin from photoaging. 

Introducing high-energy visible light

What is HEVIS Light?

The sunlight spectrum consists of UV, visible and infrared light. Visible light accounts for 50% of the sunlight spectrum and, as the name suggests, it’s the only part of light that can be detected by the human eye (UV and Infrared light are both invisible).


The blue/violet band of this visible spectrum has a particularly high energy level and is known as high-energy visible light. This is often abbreviated to HEVISIS light, HEVIS Light or HEVISL.

Sun spectrum visible light
50% of the sun’s rays are visible

How does HEVISIS light compare to UV rays?

Light is measured in wavelengths, the units of which are nanometers (nm) and millimetres (mm). Visible light has a wavelength range in the region of 400 to 760nm, with HEVIS light falling somewhere between the 400-500nm mark. UV light has a shorter wavelength (of between 290 and 400nm) though UVA has longer wavelengths than UVB.

The vast majority of skin damage caused by the sun comes from UV rays and protecting skin from UV should remain the priority when caring for skin in the sun.

sun spectrum: HEVIS light
HEVISIS light falls into the violet/blue band of the visible spectrum

How does high-energy visible light affect skin?

Good in moderation

Sunlight can be good for us – it’s an important source of Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones and it boosts our levels of serotonin, lifting our mood. But too much sun can damage skin.

HEVISIS light and UV rays effect skin differently

While UVB rays penetrate the outermost layers of skin (the epidermis), HEVISIS light, like UVA rays, penetrates into the lower layers of skin (the dermis):

  • UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. HEVISIS light has not been associated with sunburn.
  • UVB rays have been linked to DNA damage which can cause skin cancer.
  • Both UVA rays and HEVISIS light can cause skin to age prematurely (photoage)
  • UVA rays are the primary cause of sun allergies. UVB rays can also cause sun allergies, but to a lesser extent.
  • UVA, UVB and HEVISIS light can induce hyperpigmentation and contribute to conditions such as sun spots (also known as age spots), melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

You can read more about the difference between UVA and UVB rays in ‘How do the sun’s UVA, UVB and HEVISIS light rays affect skin?

Sunlight spectrum: HEVL

HEVISIS light and premature skin aging

Like UVA rays, HEVISIS light generates free radicals (also known as ROS – Reactive Oxygen Species). These free radicals cause skin cells to produce enzymes that break down the collagen and elastin that give skin its plump, youthful appearance. This process is often called oxidative stress and it’s what causes skin to photoage (age prematurely as a result of sun exposure). Aging is, of course, an entirely natural process, but when skin ages prematurely it may start to sag and develop deep wrinkles before its time.

HEVISIS light and hyperpigmentation

Alongside UVA and UVB, HEVISIS light can induce uneven skin pigmentation (often referred to as hyperpigmentation) and conditions such as sun spots (also known as age spots), melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation
UVA, UVB and HEVISIS light rays all contribute to sun spots

How can I protect skin from the oxidative stress caused by HEVISIS light?

It’s important to remember that the sun’s rays affect your skin even when the weather is cloudy and overcast. Sun care should not be restricted to those days when the sun is at its hottest but should form part of your daily skincare routine.

When choosing appropriate suncare products, the priority is still to give your skin the very best protection against UVA and UVB rays but choosing products that also combat the oxidative stress caused also by HEVISIS light will help to prevent photoaging and reduce instances of hyperpigmentation

Many modern sunscreens offer effective protection against UVA and UVB rays, but the chemicals and pigments used to filter UVA and UVB do not filter HEVISIS light. For this reason, we recommend that you look out for products that contain antioxidants that work against oxidative stress. Antioxidants Licochalcone A and Glycyrrhetinic Acid have been proven to work together to protect skin cells in the deeper epidermal layers from sun-induced damage .

Eucerin Sun products offer comprehensive protection against sun-induced skin damage. The innovative Advanced Spectral Technology combines broadband and photostable UVA/UVB filters1 for outstanding UV protection with antioxidant Licochalcone A for high-energy visible (HEVISIS) light defense. Most of the products also contain Glycyrrhetinic Acid for additional DNA protection.

If aging is your primary skin concern try Eucerin Sun Fluid Photoaging Control SPF 50  and Eucerin Sun Creme Tinted Photoaging Control SPF 50+ Medium for your face. These products combine Advanced Spectral Technology with Licochalcone A, Glycyrrhetinic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid which visibly reduces signs of aging. The tinted products also contain color pigments that instantly unify the complexion.

If hyperpigmentation on your face is your primary skin concern try Eucerin  Even Pigment Perfector Sun Fluid SPF 50+  In addition to Eucerin’s Advanced Spectral Technology it contains Glycyrrhetinic Acid (to support skin’s own DNA repair mechanism) and Thiamidol.

While prevention is best, once you have pigment spots Thiamidol is clinically and dermatologically proven to reduce dark spots and prevent their re-appearance.

1 Meeting the highest standards for UVA and UVB protection as defined by Cosmetics Europe. The levels of UVA protection are higher than the EU requirement.

Sun protection from Eucerin