In today’s episode of “Bad News to Our Waistlines”, science has just found that our cellphones could be making us gain weight. To get specific, it’s the type of light being emitted from our cellphone screens that’s at fault and not our dependence on Postmates and GrubHub at 3am—although I suspect that could play a role.
This scientific study from the University of Strasbourg and the University of Amsterdam was presented earlier this month at a conference in the Netherlands. The study was based on the premise that blue light from LED screens found on our phones, laptops, and tablets have an impact on the areas of the brain that regulate appetite. The retinal sensitivity to these kinds of lights causes our bodies to send a message to our brain telling us to consume more sugar.
The study specifically looked at the effects of blue light exposure on diurnal rats (that are awake during the day and asleep at night, like humans—as opposed to regular rats, who are nocturnal). The rats were exposed to the blue light at night for one hour. The day after exposure, the rats were given options to choose between rodent food (standard, nutritionally balanced), water, lard, and sugar water. After the nights with exposure to blue light, the rats consumed more sugar compared to nights with no exposure. The light also seemed to alter their glucose tolerance.
There are a few things to consider. Because the rats were all males, the scientific study does not show if the outcome would be the same on female rats. The rats were also only tested on for one night, so we have a very short time period to work with. If these effects were repeated, then over time, the rats would experience weight gain and develop diabetes with exposure to blue light. Still, even given the limited scope of the results, the authors of the study recommend limiting the time spent in front of screens at night, using night mode on devices, and/or using blue light filtering goggles to lessen the impact of LED lights on our appetite.
Now while this study was conducted on rats, I do think the results send a message of the impact electronic devices have on our human bodies. The recommendation of limiting screen time and using blue light filtering apps and goggles make a lot of sense, not only in terms of appetite control, but also because previous studies have shown blue light impacts quality of sleep. There are more studies on the internet on blue light’s effects on sleep, so I did further research. I was able to discover that the shorter wavelengths in LED light affect our bodies’ ability to produce melatonin, which is the sleepy hormone. To connect the dots further, melatonin also directly effects weight gain/losses, in that it helps your body regulate leptin and adiponectin hormones. These two hormones regulate your appetite. So while the original study suggests that the appetite change is due to blue light affecting the appetite-regulating part of our brain, it could be possible that the blue light is also disrupting our bodies’ ability to create essential hormones.
Our parents and grandparents used to read a book (real, not electronic) before bed, whereas nowadays we’re scrolling through IG until we’re close to passing out. Turns out, they were on to something. Personally, I’m terrible at staying off the phone immediately before bed and immediately upon waking up. I am constantly laying down, reaching for my phone, which evidently is not the healthiest habit. With all this research on the negative impacts blue light has on our health, I will definitely be making a conscious effort to step back from the phone. Will you be lessening screen time with me? Sound off below, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Images: Giphy (2)
Murad Skincare really knows their shit when it comes to making our skin look good AF. I mean the brand was founded by a doctor who believed that betches everywhere should be able to order a visit to the dermatologist online so he, like, gets us. This brand is the real fucking deal and their products will make you look like the ageless goddess your mother is always telling you you are. Plus we already know they can sit with us because we mentioned them in our 2016 holiday gift guide.
To refresh your memory, some of our favorite products that we included in our gift guide were the Retinol Youth Renewal Serum, the Renewing Eye Cream, the Rapid Collagen Infusion for lips, and the Invisiblur Perfecting Shield. All amazing, so obsessed. Our new fav is the City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturizer, which is for the boss betch that spends her entire day in front of her work computer and struts through city pollution. Yum. It detoxifies and revitalizes your skin and neutralizes pollutants. Yay! Which brings me to my next point…
Aside from making us look really pretty, Dr. Murad is also looking out for our inner beauty. He went full on Elle Woods and did some extensive research about how much time we spend looking at screens and apparently it’s a disturbing amount. Like half-a-year-of-your-life disturbing amount. Damn that’s a lot of time online shopping and backwards stalking your ex’s new girlfriend.
And in case that statistic doesn’t make you immediately want to throw your phone in the ocean then get this: a recent Unilever study showed that 4 days in front of a screen is the equivalent to spending 20 minutes in the midday sun. So basically our iPhones are making our skin prematurely age and other bad shit and we are so screwed.
That’s why the good doctor is launching the EyesUp Campaign, an initiative designed to educate people about the dangers of digital-only relationships and the power of real-world human connection. Basically, he wants us to get off Instagram and, like, live our lives. The campaign will be driven by an impactful video (fingers crossed it features Sarah McLaughlin and I can sob to it every time I’m on my period) that depicts all the ways our screens are sabotaging our lives. Great. Murad is also launching an educational content hub to educate people about digital dependence and to take the EyesUp pledge.
We interviewed Dr. Murad so you all have a go-to source for what this campaign means for you, wtf is up with proper skincare, and the best things you can do to get flawless Kim K skin.
In what ways does “cultural stress” affect my skin? Are there signs I can look for on my face that indicate an impact from cultural stress?
Yes, Cultural Stress directly affects our skin in the form of inflammation, dark under-eye circles, dryness, flaky skin, and even premature signs of aging, all due to stress-induced water loss.
One critical element of Cultural Stress I talk about is digital dependency. Most people don’t realize that being on your digital devices can directly affect your skin – but it does. For example, did you know that four days in front of your computer is the equivalent to 20 minutes in the mid-day sun on your skin? The truth is that digital dependency and Cultural Stress don’t just affect your happiness, but it affects your skin and overall health.
What are your thoughts on Instagram, specifically the concept of “influencers”, or just general lack of self-confidence young women may gain just from scrolling through their feed and seeing all these seemingly flawless people?
Don’t get me wrong: I think social media, influencers and technology in general can be powerful tools for enabling positive societal changes. But too much of anything is not good, right? In particular, what I’ve found in my patients who face the prevalence of social media is that too many people are now comparing themselves to an unrealistic ideal of beauty or flawlessness. As a result, they feel badly about themselves and have a lowered self-esteem. This becomes a vicious cycle because, again, how you feel about yourself and how you live your life ultimately reflects on your skin and overall health and happiness.
Any chance you could give us a peek at a couple questions on the EyesUp Diagnostic Quiz?
Of course! Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Technology has enabled us to be online 24/7 and it is changing the way business operate. Please select the statements below that best apply to you:
- I am prone to ignoring my friends and family while doing work or checking email
- I often work during lunch and/or eat lunch at my desk, or skip lunch altogether
- My emails are out of control and I struggle to keep on top of them
- I sleep with my phone next to my bed at night
- I have fewer face to face interactions at work and/or at home
- None. Technology does not impact my work life
2. Cultural Stress is created by many different aspects of modern life. Please select 3 items below that you believe cause the greatest amount of stress in your life:
- Financial concerns
- Traffic, Pollution
- Political Unrest
- Expectations from social media
- Expectations to look a certain way
- Relationships (family and/or close friends)
- None, I do not have any stress in my life
3. What would you rather do?
- Work one extra day a week
- Go one full day without checking your phone
What is your ultimate goal for your employees going through your new employee engagement program?
We definitely want to reduce screen time, but ultimately the goal is to increase human connections. To help do this, I’ve created “Human Connection Zones” throughout the office where I encourage people to meet and discuss tasks together, in-person rather than by simply sending an email. I’m also hosting EyesUp “Office Hours” for employees to get a prescription for coping with their unique source of Cultural Stress, as well as making small changes in the office to encourage more face-to-face interactions. For example, we’ve set up Digital Device Stations in each conference room to encourage device-free meetings and create a more meaningful and impactful experience.
What’s your biggest wish for our generation, regarding Cultural Stress and the way we perceive skin care and general wellness?
Being aware of how digital dependency takes a toll. It isn’t realistic to ask someone to ALWAYS be off their phone but finding a balance and making small healthy changes every day will make a big difference.
Does anti-aging stuff actually work?
The short answer is: it depends. As a dermatologist and trained pharmacist, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of efficacious topical products. But I also know from my research that that’s only one piece of the puzzle. I believe in a whole-person approach to skincare. When it comes to anti-aging, ingredients like retinol remain the gold standard but you also need to eat water-rich fruits and vegetables to boost cellular hydration levels, do plenty of physical activity to boost water-rich muscle, and be kind to your mind be reducing stress
Do you really have to wear sunscreen every day?
Yes! Sunscreen is vital to preventing sun damage. People don’t realize the amount of sun, UVA and UVB exposure that they’re getting daily, so sunscreen application and reapplication (no matter your skin tone) is essential.
How does drinking alcohol often affect your skin?
When you drink alcohol, it dehydrates your skin.
What I have found through my many decades of research is that regardless of what causes aging or disease the final common pathway is the reduction of water in our tissues. Yes, we can say that life is simply a slow process of continual dehydration. We wilt and wither over time, just like that plant you forgot to water until it was too late.
As our cells lose their integrity, we become more vulnerable to all the aspects of aging, such as oxidative stress (free radicals), inflammation, psychological and cultural stress, and disease. It’s a vicious cycle: our cells and connective tissues hold less and less water as we age, and we age as a result of that inability to hold onto water.
The best way to sustain and increase your intracellular water is by eating your water. On average, fruits and vegetables have very high water content. But unlike water you may drink from the tap or bottle, fruits and vegetables also contain essential antioxidants, phytochemicals, and macro- and micronutrients. Further, the water is in the structure of the food, meaning it breaks down slowly over time providing your body with optimal hydration levels.
What do celebrities actually do to their skin to make it look flawless? (ex: Kim K, JLo)
I can’t speak to specific celebrity skin regimens but in my experience flawless skin is part genetics, part make-up and just good luck!
What exactly happens to my skin when I’m staring at my phone at night? Is this the kind of thing that could lead to skin cancer?
Did you know four days in front of your computer is the same as 20 minutes in the mid-day sun? A daily dose of pollution and blue light from electronic devices can accelerate visible signs of aging. We are constantly checking our devices, whether it be our cell phone, tablet or computer; and as a result, we are exposing ourselves to blue light, a wavelength of visible light that more deeply penetrates skin that even UVA. Particularly at night, staring at your phone can wreak havoc on your natural circadian rhythm and impacts the way your body produces melatonin, the chemical in your body that makes you feel sleepy. That’s why I recommend putting your phone away – preferably in another room – at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. That way, your body has time to adjust, prepare itself for sleep and its natural repair cycle.
We live in NYC so the air is obviously gross, how do your products specifically work to get all that shit out of our skin?
Don’t worry! Our Environmental Shield Collection does just this. For example, our City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturizer is specifically formulated to detox your skin overnight from environmental aggressors that have accumulated during the day. Washing your face each night isn’t enough to rid your pores of these toxins. City Skin’s formula is infused with super-charged antioxidants from Marrubium Plant Stem-Cells that neutralize pollutants and strengthen skin’s barrier while you sleep. Marrubium Plant Stem-Cells, after being stressed with environmental aggressors such as smog and smoke in a laboratory in France, produce very potent antioxidants. These super-charged antioxidants detoxify and neutralize pollutants and help boost skin’s own natural defense system.
We also have a City Skin SPF 50 mineral sunscreen product launching next month so stay tuned!
What are three easy things I can do every day to keep my skin healthy & prevent obvious signs of aging?
Three easy things you can do to keep your skin healthy: reduce cultural stress, wear a moisturizing SPF, and smile daily.
What advice do you have for an office full of young adults whose lifeblood is social media?
Our new initiative, EyesUp, is all about educating people about the danger of digital-only relationships and the power of real-world human connection. So, let me be clear, going “EyesUp” doesn’t mean you need to get rid of your phones, but rather make little adjustments to your day that will make a long-term difference in your health and well-being.
You don’t have to move to a deserted island and give up all connection to social media. But at dinner with your friends, leave your phone in your purse. On the commute into work on the train, don’t just stare down at your iPad – say hello to a stranger. Just five minutes of real-life, eyes-up human connection can make all the difference.