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This post was most recently updated on Feb 13th, 2022

Ring lights can beautifully illuminate a subject, but they are normally very bright and placed straight in front of your eyes. We know that the retina has light-sensing cells that can get triggered after staring at a bright light for too long. This may make you wonder, are ring lights bad for your eyes?

There isn’t any research that says ring lights themselves aren’t safe for the eyes. However, the majority of ring lights use LED bulbs. These flicker rapidly and produce blue light, both things that are related to eye issues.

We’ll cover why the lighting in ring lights may be bad for your eyes in this article. You’ll also find advice on protecting your eyes from damage below.

Ring Lights & Your Eyes

Ring lights emit light onto a subject to make it stand out. The majority of ring lights use LED bulbs which creates a softer light compared to fluorescent bulbs.

This light reduces shadows and harsh lines, which is ideal when using a webcam, shooting portrait photography, or even taking selfies. You can also find LED bulbs with a dimmer feature, which softens the light further.

These are all advantages of LED bulbs, but they, along with fluorescent bulbs, produce blue light and rapid flickering. Both of these things can cause side effects, like migraines, headaches, and visual issues.

LED & Blue Light Exposure

LED lights are popular as they are energy efficient. They only need one-fifth of the energy that an incandescent bulb needs, which can save money on energy bills. The lighting it emits produces different colors of light which then transforms into white light. LED light has more blue wavelengths when it is whiter in color.

Studies have looked at how LED light affects our eyes, but the research differs with each study.

For instance, a French report stated that lots of exposure to LED blue light may harm the eyes and cause sleep issues. Blue wavelengths may cause other die effects, like migraines, headaches, and eye strain.

Eye strain occurs when your eyes feel heavy and tired after concentrating on something, like a screen or book, for too long.

Despite these findings, a TheraSpecs article claimed that the data from the French study didn’t cover exposure to less bright lighting. Nevertheless, they did state that flickering from LEDs may cause headaches and visual issues.

This 2018 study found that blue light exposure can damage the retina. Newer types of low-energy lighting, such as LEDs, produce lower amounts of infrared radiation, but a lot more blue light.

This indicates that increasing exposure to blue light may be harmful.

How Bright Lights Affect Your Retina

How Bright Lights Affect Your Retina

We’ve all been told not to stare at the sun, and for good reason. Staring at a bright light source for a lengthy period can harm your eyes. The retina has cells that sense light.

When you stare at a bright light, these same cells become overactive. When this occurs, the cells produce a large number of signaling chemicals that can damage the back of your eye.

Unlike warmer light, bright light is blue light. Blue light contains shorter wavelengths which possess more energy than other colors. Exposure to flashes of shorter wavelengths with lots of energy can cause damage to the retina.

Blue light can damage your retinas gradually throughout your life. Lengthy periods of blue light exposure can increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Also known as AMD, this influences the middle of your retina, causing vision loss or warping of the retina. LED lights may also have effects on other parts of your eye, such as corneal lesions in the cornea.

Rapid Flickering Side Effects

Rapid flickering takes place in LED lights more than fluorescent ones. This happens more when LED bulbs are at a lower brightness level, as they need to flicker more to produce a dimmer effect.

LED bulbs can flicker hundreds, or even thousands, of times each second. These flickers are too quick for the human eye to spot them. This fast, unnoticed flicker in the lights may result in more headaches than slower, visible flickers.

If you’re regularly exposed to rapid flickering sources, this may cause headaches, dizziness, double vision, and other eye issues.

Ring Light Users

We’ve covered how LED light exposure can negatively affect the eyes, but there’s no current evidence that says ring lights are bad for the eyes. However, there aren’t any studies that have specifically looked into ring lights and their effect on the eyes.

That means we can only go by what ring light users have to say about their eye health.

The experience differs with each ring light user. Some say that headaches come on easily when they use one. Similarly, some users say that a ring light makes their eyes feel tired, even when the brightness is turned down.

However, some say that the belief of ring lights being bad for the eyes is false. Frequent users claim that ring lights aren’t different from other light sources around the house.

Everyone is different, so you need to note how your eyes feel after using a ring light. Nevertheless, most people agree not to look straight at the light when using a ring light, but look at the middle of the ring.

If eye strain occurs, take a break, or cease using the ring light for a while.

How To Protect Your Eyes From Light Exposure

People differ on whether they believe ring lights are bad for your eyes. While more research is needed, there are some things you can do to protect your eyes while using a ring light.

Never look straight into the light bulbs while you are using the tool. Similarly, don’t position the ring light within your vision line. Raise it higher by placing it on a stand, or try moving it to the side a little.

Lowering the brightness level will also help reduce the risk of eye strain.

A way to ensure that you’re not looking directly into the light is to purchase a second light source. Place each light source on either side of your camera. This will illuminate you or your subject fully without having to look into the light bulbs.

Wide-angle shots are going to be better for your eyes than close-up ones, so positioning yourself away from the light source is always a good idea.

If you like the look of bright light, you can try facing your ring light against a wall, then increasing the brightness level. This only works if the wall is white or light in color. If successful, the light should reflect from the wall, back onto you.

Unlike the original harsh light, the reflected light will be diffused and softer.

Lastly, try to limit the amount of time you spend using a ring light. Remember to take breaks every so often to give your eyes a break. For example, if you’re planning a two-hour photography session, take several 10-minute breaks as you go on.

In Summary

There aren’t any studies that have looked into the effect of ring lights on the eyes, so we don’t know for certain if they are safe or not. Nevertheless, research has shown that LED light exposure increases the risk of visual issues, headaches, and eyestrain.

As a result, it’s always best to limit prolonged LED exposure. Don’t stare straight into the light source while you use a ring light, as this can damage your retinas over time. Eye damage occurs gradually over time, so always follow advice on protecting your eyes to avoid this happening.