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GOOD SKIN Blog

How Screen Time Actually Affects Your Skin

Considering how much our world relies on technology, especially as of late, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn more and more of our lives are now being spent online. The typical adult picks up their phone 150 times or more in a single day, some staring at a screen for up to 19 hours. Over 300 million meetings occurred over Zoom in 2020, compared to only 10 million the year prior. At this point, most of us have felt that guilt-ridden feeling after receiving a particularly high screen time report at the end of the week (as if Sundays weren’t scary enough as it is). 

Of course, there are major positives to this increase in technology—such as staying connected during a global pandemic. But the impact excess screen time has on our mental and physical health shouldn’t be forgotten. Unplugging has the power to improve sleep, decrease stress and anxiety, boost our ability to focus, and yes—even benefit our skin health. Here’s how our phones, computers, and other screens are affecting our complexion and what to do about it. 

Blue Light Damage

If you’ve ever used Night mode on your phone, tablet, or computer, you likely understand blue light. Also referred to as High Energy Visible (HEV) light, this type of ray is emitted from the sun as well as our electronic devices. From a scientific standpoint, blue light has more energy than other colors in the visible spectrum and therefore, is more likely to cause damage to our cells. As a result, many experience eye strain and dryness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and more when staring at a screen for extended periods of time. While more research needs to be done on exactly how blue light affects our skin, there is growing evidence that HEV rays can impair the barrier by releasing free radicals and triggering oxidative stress. And if that’s the case, staring at screens for hours at a time can break down skin’s collagen supply, leading to premature signs of aging like wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. 

Besides taking breaks from the screen, protect your complexion against blue light damage by wearing mineral sunscreen daily. Unlike chemical sunscreen, a physical SPF (formulated with ingredients like zinc oxide) reflects away visible light rays, including HEV. For additional protection, load up on antioxidants such as ferulic acid. Found in our Advanced Restoring Serum, ferulic acid neutralizes free radicals, preventing them from oxidating and causing lasting damage to our skin cells. 

Blue light has an indirect impact on our skin health, too. All kinds of artificial light suppress the production of melatonin in our body, vital for a restful sleep. Spending too much time tapping and scrolling before bed can cause us to lose precious zzz’s, which is the precise time skin needs to repair itself. While some find wearing blue light glasses or changing the lighting on their screens to be helpful, your best bet is to simply power down your devices (may we suggest masking with a paperback?) at least an hour before bedtime. 

Acne

If you’re experiencing an uptick in breakouts, consider the last time you cleaned your electronic devices, especially your smartphone. According to research, cell phones are 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Knowing how often we touch our screens, it’s not surprising our devices can cause acne flareups.

“When I have a patient whose acne is worse on one side of the face, the first thing I ask about is phone use (the second I ask about is changing their pillowcase)”, says physician and skin health expert Dr. Anne Beal, M.D. and M.P.H. We should all be cleaning our devices on a regular basis (just make sure you use a cleaner that’s tech-friendly), but besides that, avoid putting your phone against your skin as much as possible by using headphones or speakerphone, advises Dr. Beal. 

Still, breakouts do happen. “The good news is that treating breakouts due to phone use is straightforward. Depending on the severity of your breakouts, they can generally be managed with a good cleansing regimen, [using] products that include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.” If you’re particularly acne-prone, try washing your skin with Keep the Peace. Its 1.5% salicylic acid clears up breakouts without stripping the skin. 

Tech Neck

It was just a few years ago that the term “tech neck” became quite the buzzword, referring to the discomfort that comes from continuously staring down at your phone. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’re looking down at your screen to read this very article. While not a serious repercussion for your health, it can cause neck strain, back pain, and impact your posture. The head does weigh about 5-10 lbs, after all, and the gravitational pull that comes with looking downwards only increases this physical strain. In fact, tilting your head just 15 degrees causes a force of 27 lbs. 

Considering how many hours of the day we spend staring down at our laptops, phones, and tablets, “tech neck” wrinkles may prematurely appear. These fine lines are categorized as dynamic—a type of wrinkle that appears due to repeated muscle movement—such as smile lines and crow’s feet. When our muscles contract, the skin stretches out. As we lose collagen and elastin over time, however, skin isn’t able to bounce back to its original shape as easily and fine lines will remain. 

The most obvious resolution is to scale back on the amount of time staring down at a screen. Invest in a standing desk (or simply prop your laptop up on some books), take breaks during the day to get up and walk around, and limit the number of hours spent texting and scrolling. Staring down at your screen once in a while, however, is unavoidable. Make sure you’re including your neck and chest during your daily skincare routine, especially when it comes to moisturization and applying SPF. Our night cream, Recovery Mode, works at the cellular level to protect against the degradation of collagen and elastin while softening existing fine lines over time. 

Curious how long it’ll take to repair wrinkles, acne, and more? Read our guide to results.