October 19th, RFLCT, co-founded by the famous internet personality Rachell Hofstetter aka Valkyrae, has launched quite the contemporary concept. A skincare line that combats ‘blue light damage.’ When she announced the launch on Instagram and Twitter, fans congratulated her achievement…but also defended her against ‘critics’ who some called a “scam”. Criticisms dropped like a bomb, yet it defused really fast; as it’s been a week, the conversation has already died down. And as of today, RFLCT does not exist anymore.

A little bit about Valkyrae

She started to catch attention online in 2014 for sharing her love for gaming. Supported by fans and other influencers, she showcased her impressive skills on Twitch and Youtube. January 2020, she moved to only creating content and streams on Youtube. She struggled initially but pushed through; her channel, along with other gamers like Disguised Toast, Sykkuno, and Pokimanes, skyrocketed when they collaborated and played the multi-player game Among Us.

Valkyrae as Corpse Husband on DAYWALKER! music video by Machine Gun Kelly

So, where is this ‘scam’ idea coming from?

Many have accused Valkyrae and RFLCT of starting a brand upon a philosophy that has no credibility. People on Twitter and even influencers have also joined in the debate. To name a few,

39daph on Twitter: “im acquaintances with rae at most lmao. playing one or two games together doesn’t make us good friends. I’m also not obligated to support or promote a product i disagree with. anyways.” 39daph talks about valkyrae’s skincare product | clips – Clipony

HasanAbi: “it’s just soap.” HasanAbi RESPONDS To The Valkaraye RFLCT Drama (and her calling Hasan Out) – HasanAbi Reacts

@xoxojules on Twitter highlights the hypocrisy of different reactions between Florence’s (Millie Bobby Brown) blue light protection skincare products vs RFCLT’s

Overall, it is majorly agreed that citing a paper that ‘proves’ blue light damages is not enough.

What is blue light?

In the 1Source blog, we have touched on blue light before. Can Blue Light Glasses Prevent Eye Damage? We defined blue light as a visible light with a relatively short wavelength that contains more energy than many other light types…(click to read more)

Does blue light damage our skin?

In short, we do not know. So far, some research has shown the damaging effects of blue light. However, the experiments have been flawed or just exaggerated/fear-mongering.

*It is to note that the content from RFLCT no longer exists. Photos below are from before the taking down of RFLCT. They no longer represent Valkyrae and other contributors of the RFLCT company. The purpose is only for analytical purposes*

From the Learn tab of RFLCT

Retrieved and Redacted from Wiley Online Library
K. Dong, E. C. Goyarts, E. Pelle, J. Trivero, N. Pernodet. (2019) Blue light disrupts the circadian rhythm and create damage in skin cells.

Definition: “In scientific experiments, a scientific control is one in which the subject or a group would not be tested for the dependent variable(s).”

The flaw: ‘No light exposure (darkness)…’

The purpose of this paper was to determine whether blue light disrupts the circadian rhythm of the skin. The circadian rhythm of the skin, as explained by the paper, is the “time mechanism” of the different day and night functions of the skin. The day is for protection against environmental hazards, and the night is for damage repair. The claim is that blue light could disrupt the circadian rhythm as its light intensity tricks the skin to function like daytime. If this claim is valid, this would cause our skin to not be rejuvenated. 

The experiment setup is already incorrect: The control should be ordinary white light. In the darkness, no form of radiation is emitted whatsoever. A flaw in the experiment caused the study to prove that it is better to live in complete darkness than in blue light, rather than prove what is significant about ordinary light versus ordinary light (without blue light).

From the FAQ tab of RFLCT

The cited article referenced two pieces of research

  1. International Journal of Cosmetic Science: the paper is the same paper from above (the Learn tab)
  2. Journal of Investigative Dermatology – Bassel H. Mahmoud, Eduardo Ruvolo, Camile L. Hexsel, Yang Liu, Michael R. Owen, Nikiforos Kollias, Henry W. Lim, Iltefat H. Hamzavi. (2010) Impact of Long-Wavelength UVA and Visible Light on Melanocompetent Skin

In this paper, experiments were conducted to review the effect of blue light on the pigmentation of the skin. Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition where the skin produces excess melanin. Hyperpigmentation usually occurs by sun damage.

  • First flaw: Plain unrealistic

Definition: The energy is measured in joules (j), the area in cm2 and consequently = J/cm2

Retrieved from Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Science Direct)

followed by

Retrieved and redacted from Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Science Direct)

The simple flaw here is that this conclusion does not apply to real life. Even for Valkyrae, who spends hours and hours in front of a screen because of her career, the possibility of a person being in a setting under light intensity that high is relatively low.

  • Second flaw: An attempt at exaggeration?
Retrieved and redacted from Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Science Direct)

the dose of 5 J/cm2 is also the same dose for Low-Level Laser Therapy (Low-level laser therapy (AlGaInP) applied at 5J/cm2 reduces the proliferation of Staphylococcus aureus MRSA in infected wounds and intact skin of rats – Pubmed)

So essentially, pigmentation can only occur when light intensity is as strong as a red laser. The light emitting from our screens are not red lasers.

RFLCT as a brand

As we mentioned, some research shows blue light can be damaging. However, everything is considered damaging/dangerous, including spending long hours sitting in front of a screen. This could harm our eyes, affect sleep and cause skin problems too. However, most people are upset about the ‘fear-mongering tactic’ RFLCT seemed to market to consumers.

Personally, I don’t see why Valkyrae and the RFLCT company would spend two years making a scam product; even without the philosophy, RFLCT generally is safe and has skin-nurturing ingredients. For example, Glyceryl Caprylate and Aloe Vera.

According to the 1Source database, RFLCT ranks as “Acceptable 4.”

Perhaps, if RFLCT was less ambitious, it could still work.

Our advice

Looking at the situation of blue light glasses and skincare, some accessory and beauty companies are trying to tie their products to blue light damages. Blue light glasses are appearing in fast fashion markets too, like in Shein and Yesstyle. If Florence’s blue light skincare has gone under the rug, we should be expecting more blue light protection skincare products as well. 

This article intends not to refute the existence of blue light that damages the skin but to raise awareness of marketing tactics that pinpoints fear in blue light. And of course, this does not mean the product would be bad, apart from scanning products with 1Source. You should also wear sunscreen! As most of blue light is from the sun, sunscreen should be your go-to for skin protection.