You may want to step away from your smartphone after reading this. Some dermatologists warn that frequently exposing your face to the electromagnetic radiation from smartphones, including when taking all of those selfies, may damage your skin’s DNA, speeding up the aging process and causing premature wrinkles, according to theTelegraph.
“Your cell phone will damage your skin,” dermatologist Zein Obagi, who founded the Obagi Skin Health Institute in Beverley Hills, told the Telegraph. “It’s not documented, but in my clinical observation, I can tell whether someone uses their right hand or left hand to hold their phone. You start to see dull, dirty looking texture that you cannot identify on one side of the face.”
Simon Zokaei, medical director of the Linia Skin Clinic in London, added: “Those who take a lot of selfies and bloggers should worry. Even the blue light we get from our screens can damage our skin.”
But Justin Ko, MD, the director of medical dermatology and a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Stanford Health Care, says there isn’t enough evidence to link cell phones with premature aging or even more serious problems, such as skin cancer. “Cell phones emit radio-frequency energy (radio waves), a form of non-ionizing radiation, from their antennas,” he tells Yahoo Beauty. “Tissues nearest to the antenna can absorb this energy. This is a different wavelength than the ultraviolet rays from sun and tanning bed exposure, which we associate with skin aging and wrinkles and contribute to skin cancer risk. Studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation, and there is currently no consistent or conclusive evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases [skin] cancer risk.”
That said, smartphones aren’t necessarily in the clear. Anyone who has ever been on a mobile phone for a marathon phone session knows how hot they can get, which can cause skin issues. “One biologic effect of radio-frequency energy, however, is heating,” explains Ko. “Prolonged use of cellphones may cause local tissue heating which, if persistent and prolonged, can cause a type of skin rash called erythema ab igne, which I’ve seen with patients who chronically work with their laptops on their laps. At present, there doesn’t exist any compelling evidence or studies suggesting the effect of cell phone use on wrinkles or skin aging. That doesn’t mean, however, that none exists.”
Ko points out that there are other skin issues brought on by smartphone use. “They can make you more prone to acne on the side that a person holds their phone to their face,” he says. “This ‘acne mechanica’ is often seen in athletes who wear helmets and comes from the occlusion of follicular openings by the phone screen. Phones also often harbor high concentrations of harmful bacteria that could contribute to skin infections. I’ve seen a few patients with contact allergies to components of their phone (metal allergies) or phone cases (rubber allergies).”
Pressing the phone against your face for long periods of time could also conceivably predispose you to wrinkles “from the repeated compression, as can happen with pillows that cause ‘sleep lines,’” explains Ko.
To play it safe, Ko recommends an easy solution: Use a hands-free unit, which significantly increases the distance between the antenna, which is the radio frequency emitting source, and your precious face.