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[6 min read] Are smartphones bad for your patients’ skin?

Are smartphones bad for your patients’ skin? There has been past discussion on the negative effect of mobile phones’ blue light on the epidermis, but now there may be further evidence that mobile phones contribute to common skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, wrinkles and pigmentation. So what can you do to help your patients with these concerns?

A study by the University of Arizona found that mobile phone have around seven to 10 times the amount of bacteria as a public toilet. Multiple other studies have found that phones are severely contaminated. Bacteria clog pores, suggesting that smartphones could be worsening symptoms of acne in some people.

Wrinkles on the neck
Mobile phones may also be partially responsible for the development of neck wrinkles or creases. ‘Tech neck’ is a colloquial term describing the constant downward craning of the neck to look at screens. Increased neck movement reinforces the way the horizontal lines in the neck are formed. Although neck wrinkles are typically a fact of getting older, ‘tech neck’ is developing in increasingly younger patients.

Age spots and pigmentation
A 2013 study claimed that high-energy visible light (blue light or HEV) can contribute to the appearance of age spots and pigmentation in the same way as UV radiation from the sun. This can act as a trigger for premature signs of ageing such as age spots and pigmentation. However, HEV light is also emitted by fluorescent lights, televisions and computers – making it hard to ascertain that smartphones are the sole contributors – and there isn’t enough concrete evidence that HEV light is damaging to the skin.

Contact dermatitis
Mobile phone cases are mostly comprised of chromium and nickel – two clinically determined  contributors to skin allergies. If your patients often develop a rash along one side of their face, they could be experiencing an allergic reaction to their phone case.

How you can help your patients
People are increasingly reliant on their phones, with an estimated 5 billion people now using mobile devices worldwide. For patients with skin concerns that may be related to phone use, the following advice may help:

  • Use earphones rather than holding the phone to the cheek.
  • Bring the device up to eye level instead of looking down at it.
  • Think about posture and try not to hunch.
  • Use a plastic phone case or glass screen protector.
  • Use topical products on the face like antioxidants to help neutralise free radical damage.
  • Maintain a regular skin routine, including gentle exfoliation of the neck and decolletage once a week, finishing with a moisturiser, retinol serum and neck-specific cream. Start at the upper chest and work up to the jawline in a firm upward motion, including the back of the neck.

Read more recent research.

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