The One Thing Everyone Does That Might Be Wreaking Havoc On Your Skin

Photo by Marko Milovanović

It's our skin's job to acclimate to new environments, temperatures (ahem, humidity), and stressors. As the hardworking organ it is, the skin will do its best to communicate when it needs extra support. The only problem? Communication can often show up in the form of a breakout or sudden shift in sensitivity—which can throw people for a loop.

The good news is, as a holistic esthetician and facial reflexologist, one of the biggest lessons I've learned is that the skin is self-healing. Many times, all you need to do is learn how to understand what, exactly, it’s communicating in order to find balance again.

One of the most common culprits of skin issues for my clients is their cellphones. Between checking social media, emailing, FaceTiming, playing games, and using other apps, people are spending an average of five hours per day on their phones. The world has already caught up on the overall health hazards cellphones present, but unfortunately skin science doesn’t advance as quickly as IOS updates, so it’s taken the personal care industry a moment to recognize the potential damage that our daily screen usage has on our largest organ.

These are the top ways your phone may be a culprit for skin imbalance and some quick solutions on how to navigate—and hopefully course-correct—them:

1. Circadian rhythm disruption

Photo: Jovo Jovanovic

Unless you've downloaded a blue-light blocker or set your phone to "night mode," phone screens emit blue light most of the time. Blue light is a range of the visible light spectrum, defined as having a wavelength between 450 and 495 nm, which is very close to violet on the spectrum and quite short. The potential damage that long-term use of the light can have starts with the retina sensitivity it can trigger. This starts to affect our ability to release the proper amount of melatonin hormone in order for our bodies to naturally relax into our rhythm of sleep. In turn, this can disrupt our circadian rhythms by tricking us into thinking we are still up and running rather than winding down and readying for sleep, and lack of rest can do a number on your skin, making it look dull, tired, and affecting how quickly it can heal.

Solution: There are many things you can do to protect yourself from blue light. This includes investing in protective wear, such as blue-light glasses (like the ones Felix Gray sells) and adjusting the settings on your devices to shift into "night mode," protecting your retinas from the excess blue light. You can also download a blue-light blocker like f.lux if you're working late on your computer.

It’s also really important to maintain an immunity-boosting diet rich in antioxidants to reduce the potential triggers of oxidative stress. Regardless of your work schedule, it’s important to set boundaries by actively making the mindful decision to put the phones and other devices away as much as we can, but especially around bedtime and upon waking.

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2. Bacteria crossover

Since our hands are constantly typing away on our phones in between many other daily tasks (not to mention, many people have started taking their phones to the bathroom), invisible microbial buildup can start to accumulate on your phone screen. While many have made it a regular habit to clean their phone screens, sometimes they leave out the case. Over time, dirt, liquids, bacteria, and many other substances can creep into the little crevices of your phone case, so it’s important to clean them, too. If you’re not careful, this bacteria crossover can cause contact dermatitis, which feels like a sensitive rash or an excess of comedone congestion, also known as pore-clogging, which can lead to breakouts.

Solution: Start by considering the materials your phone and phone case are made out of. This will help you determine the best solution for daily cleaning. If you have a rubber phone case, you can take it off to wash it with a gentle dish soap and a warmed, wet, soft cloth. If you have a case with fabric, consider using the bristles of a toothbrush to gently clean any fragile surfaces. Another safe and quick method is to use an isopropyl alcohol wipe or spray. So many of us move our phones from the bathroom counter to our kitchen counter to our carports without washing our hands in between or taking a moment to clean it. Cleaning your case and surfaces daily or weekly will help cut down on the likelihood of a massive bacteria buildup over time.

3. Distraction from self-care

Photo: Tommaso Tuzj

When taking a holistic approach, emotional well-being plays a role in the skin’s health. Skin care is an opportunity for self-care—you can calm the nervous system and encourage optimal circulation with your daily routine. If we are constantly on our phones and skimping on self-care, we can get distracted from how much more present we feel when we finally set it down and focus.

Solution: Again, making the conscious choice to not reach for your phone immediately when you wake up, as well as avoiding it as you fall asleep, can make an enormous difference. The accessibility of information on our phones can often trigger us to compare our lives to others', which can start to make us feel a little less thankful for the great things we have going on. If you find yourself acting compulsively toward your skin, or neglecting parts of your health in general because you’re comparing yourself to others—do yourself a favor and put the phone away. Follow these steps for becoming more present, and your skin will thank you.

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Related Class

4. Text neck

Text neck is exactly what it sounds like: an ache that comes from craning our necks over our phones all the time. In my holistic esthetician training, we were taught that the neck is the funnel connecting your face’s lymphatic passageways to the rest of your body. In my experience with clients, working with the neck can be quite helpful in alleviating neck pain and headaches but also dull skin. Why? Because the neck is like a highway to the face—if it's consistently tense or blocked, it can be harder for lymph and blood flow to reach the skin the way it should.

Solution: You can easily reverse the potential long-term damage text neck can have on not only your neck but your skin as well. Posture is probably the most obvious way you and your skin can suffer from excessive phone use. If you’ve got a serious case of text neck along with possible jaw tension, that could be the reason you are experiencing a breakout. Practices like gua sha, jaw release exercises, and yoga-inspired stretches can often make a world of difference for any tension in the neck and help you release the blocks keeping you from achieving your best skin.

Feeling inspired? Here's a checklist of six good-skin habits to form at any age.

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