Is your smartphone giving you wrinkles?

Technology has made facial rejuvenation a reality. Lasers, ultrasound, Botox, fillers, PDO threads, radiofrequency, Coolsculpt; numerous high-tech treatments do wonders for our faces and bodies. Advancements in medicine help us live healthier, longer lives. We have countless reasons to be grateful for technology; it’s certainly made our lives more convenient. But unfortunately, negative consequences can come with even the most favorable progress.

Today I want to talk about some of the ways technology is sabotaging our efforts to care for our appearance.

“Tech Neck”

If we kept track of how frequently we look down at our phones or tablets, we would likely be shocked. Each time we crane our neck it creases. This constant creasing of the neck leads to permanent lines and loose skin over time, and now it’s happening earlier in life thanks to smartphones. Aesthetic practitioners report patients in their twenties having legitimate concerns about their necks; concerns that never used to plague patients so young. This premature wrinkling of the neck is being called, “tech neck.”

To tackle these lines the first step is prevention. No matter how much damage is already done, it can always get worse. Pay attention to how often you’re looking down at your device and get in the habit of bringing it up to your face, rather than tilting your head to look at it. Practice good posture with your shoulders back and chin parallel to the floor. Tech neck can refer to neck wrinkles from too much texting or social media, but it also describes neck pain caused by holding one’s head at a 45-degree angle for too long or too often.

A skin care routine for your neck is just as important as the one for your face. The skin of the neck is thin, and more susceptible to environmental damage than elsewhere on the body. Be sure to apply antioxidants and sunscreen to protect the skin on your neck during the daytime. Use products that increase cell turnover and help build collagen, like Vitamin C, a retinoid, glycolic acid and something with peptides or growth factors.

If creasing of the neck is becoming bothersome, micro-needling or fractional laser resurfacing with PRP will help with textural changes and boost collagen production.  A PDO thread lift can smooth lines in the neck and help build collagen. Over time muscles in the neck begin to loosen, which can often be improved with Botox or Dysport. Relaxing key muscles in the neck with a neurotoxin causes facial muscles to tighten along the jaw to compensate; resulting in a more lifted look.

Blue light and photoaging

As if “tech neck” wasn’t enough, there’s another way technology is the enemy of our anti-aging efforts. An increasing amount of research on blue light (or “high energy visible light”) has shown it has detrimental effects on the skin. Blue light is emitted by our cellphones, televisions, tablets, computer monitors, fluorescent light bulbs, and the sun.

I’ve written a lot about the sun’s effects on the skin. In this post, I talked about UV radiation and said we should be concerned with the UVA and UVB portion of the spectrum. I’ve since learned that the blue light part of the spectrum, which ranges from 380 to 500 nanometers in length, also causes oxidative damage to the skin. Blue light penetrates deeper into the skin than UV rays, where it inflicts damage that ultimately becomes wrinkles, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and laxity.

Our devices emit a fraction of the amount of the radiation the sun does. But, we hold our tablets and phones much closer to our face than the sun ever gets. Plus, the amount of time many of us spend staring at our devices, the computer, or the television is substantial. Millennials are said to check their smartphones 157 times per day, while older adults check around 30 times a day on average. Sometimes it seems like if we’re not in front of our devices, we’re working at the computer or binge-watching some Netflix.

So, what can we do to protect our skin from all this blue light? If you currently use a broad spectrum sunscreen ( SPF 30 or higher), your skin already has some protection from blue light. You can enhance this protection by using an antioxidant product underneath. One study found that the use of vitamin B3, lutein, Q10 and an extract of green freshwater microalgae could significantly suppress blue light damage.

Your skin becomes more vulnerable in the evening after you’ve washed your sunscreen/makeup off for the day. While UVA and UVB rays are no longer a concern, there’s a good chance that blue light is still all around you.

You can install a blue light filtering screen protector onto your phone, tablet, or computer.  These are available at Amazon.com. Or check to see if your device has a setting called “night mode” or “night shift” that turns down the blue light emitted by your device in favor of harmless yellow light. This is a smart way to safeguard your skin and eyes from blue light.

That’s right; our eyes are also at risk from blue light exposure. There’s a mountain of research that confirms how bad blue light is for our eyes. You can purchase “computer glasses” that feature a yellow tint, intended for people who spend a lot of time in front of a computer. They shield the eyes just like a blue light filter on your computer would.

I previously wrote about how blue light is used to treat acne. It’s a bit confusing because while blue light is used as a treatment for skin conditions, growing evidence demonstrates that it does harm the skin. The truth is that some amount of blue light is essential. It helps to synchronize our sleep-wake cycle, can enhance mood, improves memory, and keeps us alert. So, blue light can both harm and help us. But overexposure to it (like we have now due to certain technology) causes photo-aging, just like what we’ve known for so long about sunlight.

Heat from our phones

If you spend more than a few minutes talking on a cell phone, you begin to notice the device heating up. This heat generated by your phone can trigger melasma (patches of discoloration on the face). Holding the phone near your face for extended periods of time can be avoided by using a Bluetooth headset or putting the call on speakerphone.

Squinting

If your vision isn’t ideal, you may be causing crinkling around your eyes unknowingly. Squinting to read smaller text on your phone leads to increased wrinkles around the eyes.

Check to see if you can increase the font size on your device and make sure the brightness is turned up enough. Have your eyes tested and wear proper corrective lenses if necessary.

Blue light and sleep

And lastly, the blue light on your phone or tablet can make it difficult to fall asleep and even interfere with your quality of sleep. Getting enough sleep plays a significant role in your overall health, wellness, and appearance. If you can block the blue light from your device with a screen shield or by changing the settings, you should fall asleep faster, stay asleep, and look radiant and rested come morning.

References and further reading:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21421326

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19675580

I https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22318388

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194849

https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(17)32193-0/fulltext

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15358

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