Yesterday, I woke up to a text from my mom. Was it an emergency? Of course not. Instead, she was sending me a story she heard about on the radio about how selfies are apparently “as damaging to skin as sunbathing.” Naturally, she heard this story and automatically thought of me. How sweet! I really don’t think I take a lot more selfies than the average millennial, but nonetheless, I don’t want my skin to be ruined just because it takes me 50 pictures to find the right angle. I wear sunscreen every day, so should I be wearing selfie-screen too? I need answers!
First, let’s go through what this new report actually says, because I’m a little skeptical. According to “nurse and beauty therapist” (idk what that means) Sara Cheeney, the electromagnetic rays emitted from our phones can accelerate aging at an “alarming” rate. Cheeney says that she “has noticed a sharp rise in the number of patients suffering from selfie-induced skin damage and claims ‘the results are quite alarming. I get a lot of bloggers and patients who take selfies every day coming to me and complaining about the issue, and it’s an issue which seems to be getting worse'”.
First of all, I love the phrase “bloggers and patients,” as if bloggers are some different form of humans who don’t count as regular patients. Sounds about right. The original article also quotes dermatologist Zein Obagi, who says that he can tell which hand patients use to take selfies based on their skin damage. “You start to see dull, dirty looking texture that you cannot identify on one side of the face.”
Excuse me? Are they trying to say that even with a seven-step skincare regimen, the selfies that you can take are making your skin look dirty? This just doesn’t seem fair. Also, what makes taking selfies specifically so bad when we’re all looking at our phone screens all day long anyway? Needless to say, I was left with some important questions.
In order to get a little more context, I reached out to Deanne Mraz Robinson, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital. She broke things down for us:
“Electromagnetic radiation extends across a spectrum from high energy to low energy. High frequency (energy) radiation can penetrate our skin deeper than low frequency energy. Cell phones emit blue light, which is also known as high energy visible (HEV) light. This is a form of high frequency and high energy light. There is evidence that excessive HEV can damage our skin, break down collagen in addition to causing issues such as hyperpigmentation.”
Essentially, she’s saying that the initial report was more or less correct. The blue light emitted from your phone can damage your skin. But I think the most important thing to note, both from the original story and from Dr. Robinson, is that none of this is specific to taking selfies. Sure, it’s more attention-grabbing to say that selfies are going to kill us all, but your phone is emitting blue light the entire time you’re using it. Basically…we’re fucked?
Dr. Robinson does recommend using protection against the blue light from your phone, and her recommended product for this is the ISDIN Mineral Brush 50, a facial sunscreen powder that “contains iron oxides that protect skin from photoaging and blue light.” It’s new product that’s not available in the US yet, but once it is, I’ll definitely be giving it a try. We could probably all benefit from using our phones a little bit less, but products like this are a more realistic way to protect our skin.
So, should you stop taking selfies? Perhaps. But you’re probably not going to, and it’s okay, neither am I. But it’s good to understand what potential side effects technology has on our bodies, and to make choices with these side effects in mind. That being said, don’t ever let anyone tell you your skin looks dirty, because you are not the one.
Images: Vinicius Amano / Unsplash; ISDIN