Are Phones Bad For Your Skin? Dermatologists Say Screens Can Cause Acne & Here's Why

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Got breakouts? Let’s talk about where. If your acne gets a little, well, cheeky, to say the least, your pimples might be a cellular issue, if you know what I mean. Some skin types are oily by default, and that’s for you and your dermatologist to determine, but since I’m clearly the bearer of bad news when it comes to the cons of technology, it’s my duty to relay the latest: Your phone can be bad for your skin, so you might want to switch to speaker the next time there’s an incoming call.

Millennials are practically glued to their smartphones 24/7, so it’s a little concerning that the majority of us (myself included) probably don’t think about the dirt and grime our screens are infested with as much as we should. Remember the day you bought your shiny new toy? Before nicks and cracks formed from dropping it on the floor, and fingerprints stained the screen, your device was spotless. Look at it now: a foundation smudge here, dust microbes there — and don’t even get me started on everywhere it’s been (a public bathroom floor, the subway, your office desk).

Though, personally, I try my best to text, not call, if I can help it (because I’m awkward AF, if you couldn’t tell), your cell phone is dirty, and you’re touching it nonstop. If your fingers tap-tap-tap on a mucky screen all day, and you have an itch on your forehead, or you rub your entire face when 2 p.m. makes you tired, you can only imagine the bacteria nestling into your pores and wreaking havoc over your complexion. To be frank, our phones are kind of like a Freddy Krueger horror film: No one is safe.

Hard as it may be to disconnect from phones entirely, dermatologists will be the first to tell you these devices are doing a number on your skin.

I’m not trying to be a hypocrite, by the way; I’m just as attached to my phone as the next millennial. Unfortunately, though, your primary source of communication and entertainment is also the root of a whole lot of evil, including all sorts of skin complications. What’s worse, this type of skin-to-screen contact has developed its own unique strain of acne, and anyone with a phone is susceptible.

In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Seattle-based dermatologist and founder of RESTORE Healing Balm, Dr. Heather Rogers, explains that your phone may be responsible for a cluster of skin traumas, but the most pressing are acne mechanica and staph infections. The former, Dr. Rogers tells Elite Daily, is a type of acne that comes from “skin friction, heat, and pressure to the skin” that results in blocked pores and, you guessed it, pimples. The latter is “the most common cause of skin infections,” and “can survive up to nine days on a cell phone,” potentially leading to boil developments on the skin’s surface. Please excuse me while I try my very hardest not to gag.

But phone calls aren’t the only feature on these devices putting your skin at risk.

In previous articles, I’ve discussed the issue with blue light messing with your sleep cycle and damaging your eyes, and now, it's time to address how that same blue light is damaging your skin, because that’s a thing experts are looking into, as well.

According to Julie Russak, M.D., a dermatologist and founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City, skin experts have been noticing dullness and pigmentation in people who use their phone regularly, and while this could be due to a number of factors, your obsession with taking selfies may have something to do with it. She told Shape,

Often you're standing outside and intentionally trying to position your face in the light so that it looks best. The phone is picking up the light and reflecting the [sun's] UV rays off your face, like those old-school aluminum panels that people would use.

In other words, selfies are a double-negative when you're posing under natural sunlight, because harmful UVA and UVB rays are meshing with the high-energy visible light rays emitting from your phone, worsening the effects of both light sources on your face.

Bottom line: Your skin is at risk any time you use your phone. But there are things you can do to keep your complexion relatively healthy.

As much as I loathe to admit this, it’s kind of hard to stay relevant in this world without at least glancing at your smartphone from time to time. Plus, landlines are slowly becoming a thing of the past, so how else are you going to call and check in with mom and dad? So, no, I’m not about to suggest you swear off your cellular devices for the sake of clean skin, but I am going to encourage you to cut down on your usage a little — and that means less texting, calling, scrolling, all that good stuff.

You may even want to think about purchasing a phone that’s not so clunky (don’t you dare @ me, Apple). Dr. Rogers tells Elite Daily that phone size plays a role in skin health, too, which totally makes sense, considering the bigger the phone, the more face-to-screen contact you’re going to get. However, if you’re not about downsizing, Dr. Rogers says the best thing you can do is simply “keep your phone away from your face” as much as possible, by taking advantage of bluetooth, headphones, or dropping calls as much as you can and opting for texting instead.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and sterilize the crap out of your phone (pun sort of intended). Dr. Rogers says you should thoroughly clean your phone every day “with a UV cell phone sanitizer or Purell wipe.” Add this into your nighttime routine before logging off at bedtime so that, by the next morning, you’ll literally be starting off on a clean slate.