Cell phones are so ingrained in our everyday lives, that even if you resisted at first and jumped on a decade or so later to the cell phone bandwagon, it’s hard to imagine what life was like before.
We quickly learned to use them for virtually every little task throughout our day. Not so long after that, we started to depend on them for all sorts of things we never might have dreamed possible.
I remember my first cell phone, which was a little flip top. I moved on to a Blackberry, then resisted the button-less iPhone for a while before caving in…who knew we would be using our phones for as much as we now do!
From the moment we awaken each day to the very time we climb into our beds, our cellphones are right there in our hands, or at least within the comfort of arm’s reach.
Would it surprise you to learn that the average user checks their phone 9 times per hour? That is about once every 6 or 7 minutes! (although I would argue that some 17 year olds and under probably check their phone far more often than that).
But what effect is your cell phone having on your health, your beauty, and your life?
Many people have conjectured that the EMF or Electro Magnetic Field generated by your cell phone can have serious health consequences up to, and including causing cancer, while the World Health Organization has published a fact sheet confirming that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to date to back up this claim. But most experts would contend that there are valid enough reasons to work on reducing or monitoring cell phone usage. And just because something hasn’t been proven in the science arena yet doesn’t mean that more may come out later, especially on the cumulative effects of the long-term, increased cell phone usage we are pretty much seeing all around us.
But below are some other reasons that are affecting your visible skin and can’t be ignored, whether you buy into the EMF dangers or not!
Here are just a few things to get you thinking:
1) “Tech Neck” or as I like to call it, Wrinkled Bird Neck :)
We all know how delicate the skin on our necks is below the chin. Not surprisingly, it is one of the first places that is likely to show the telltale signs of aging.
The more we incline our heads, the more this skin naturally creases and folds over itself giving your neck a slack, and untoned appearance. After all, it can only stretch and fold so many times before it starts to break down.
We probably never even realize how much more we make this simple gesture now that we are so constantly bent over our phones.
Dr. Dendy E. Engleman, Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Laser Medicine at New York Medical College says:
“The thin skin of the neck is very prone to wrinkling because the dermis—the layer that contains collagen—is thin. Because of the constitution of the skin in this area, it is at higher risk for showing age than other areas of the head and neck.”
This will happen too soon in any case; we certainly don’t want to engage in any activity that hastens this process, so Dr. Engleman wisely suggests that prevention is key: “One way to prevent it is to place your laptop or cell phone in a way that allows for your neck to be in a neutral position. Try to bring your smart phone up towards your face instead of moving your neck down to look at it.”
*TIP: If you want to see what I mean for yourself, just look down at the phone in your hand with the rear-facing camera activated – NOT pretty!
2) Direct heat exposure.
You may have noticed how your cell phone can tend to heat up the longer you talk on it, but may never have thought about it much beyond that.
Dr. Engelman has also pointed out that prolonged exposure to any source of heat can, and will cause increased melanin production in that area. Melanin is actually produced in the body, and is responsible for coloration of the skin, hair, and eyes, but in this context it means spotting and uneven skin tone.
*NOTE: Spotting and uneven skin tone are known to be responsible for making us look old before our time.
If you need to be on the phone for prolonged periods of time, consider a simple set of lightweight headphones to keep the phone away from the delicate skin of your face. (Most phones even come with a set included in the box!)
What? Yes! You wouldn’t believe how much bacteria accumulates on your cell phone! After all, this is something that not only goes with you literally everywhere (back to this in a sec), but also is super difficult to keep clean.
Phones are almost all quite vulnerable to moisture of any kind, so you are reduced to gently swabbing it with an alcohol wipe whenever you can, which is usually not that often.
The bacteria that has been collecting on your cellphone is in direct contact with the tender skin of your face when you are talking on it, which can increase your risk of infection leading to pimples and blackheads.
This is just one more great reason to invest in a wired headset or simply use the earbuds that come with most phones.
Your cell phone is actually 10 times more germ laden than most toilet seats (YUCK!), according to Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. He aptly points out that most toilets are generally cleaned on a pretty regular basis, but while many people frequently bring their phone to the bathroom with them (we can imagine what goes on in there, dirty hands and all!!), few ever take the trouble to clean it. In fact, in a study done at the University of Oregon using just 17 subjects, over 7,000 different types of bacteria were identified!
4) The “Phone Scowl.”
As long as we are on the subject of the delicate skin of the face and neck, it would be remiss of me to overlook the obvious risk of premature fine lines and wrinkles around and between the eyes. This is a particularly vulnerable area, and we should at least be conscious of protecting it, when possible.
According to a recent article in Fashion Times, constantly reading the tiny print on the small screen in your hand actually causes you to squint your eyes, and furrow your brow a bit.
Prolonged and/or frequent sessions of frowning down at your constant companion will hasten the aging process of the skin on your face by encouraging the development and deepening of those crow’s feet and “eleven lines.”
*TIP: To help make looking at that top priority text message (lol) a little less damaging to your looks, why not go into your device settings and simply increase the font size? Yes, you will find yourself scrolling a little more frequently, but you will take some of the strain off of your beautiful eyes :-)
5) Stress and reduced attention span.
Because most of us are trapped in a reactive mindset, we tend to splinter our attention in an effort to absorb a bit of information from everything that comes our way, like we are juggling thoughts.
The majority of us are torn between obsessively checking email, Facebook updates, scrolling Instagram, calls, tweets, and text messages; each one demanding our immediate, ‘real time’ responses and reactions. In fact, it is all largely reactive, none of it fostering or encouraging our own creativity or proactivity.
Would it surprise you to learn that the average human attention span is currently shorter than that of a goldfish?
According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the attention span of the average American has been steadily decreasing over the past decade, and is now being reported as 8 seconds, or 1 second less than that of a typical goldfish.
The stress of accomplishing all we need to in a day is definitely not mitigated by the added demands the smallest screen is placing on our time and our mental resources.
When stress goes unchecked, it can have a host of unwelcome effects on our bodies, causing an elevation in cortisol levels and encouraging the accumulation of belly fat, among other things.
6) Blue light toxicity.
Most people would not initially think it, but the blue light that comes from your small and medium screens is actually on the UV spectrum of light.
We are protected from UVC rays, which are mostly germicidal, by our lovely ozone layer. UVB rays are the ones that cause skin cancers, and can largely be screened out with sun blocks, sunglasses, etc. But blue light is a different story.
A part of the UV spectrum of light that we are mostly unaware of, blue light is known to have multiple effects on our health, and is emitted in spades from our cell phones.
As human beings, we are naturally diurnal creatures, which means that we are most active during the day and that our internal biological clocks are set up so that we get the majority of our rest at night. Our bodies naturally develop a complex circadian rhythm to support this.
While everyone has slight differences in their circadian rhythms, the patterns of daylight are what keep our natural sleep cycles aligned with the environment.
Exposure to light suppresses the production of melatonin in our bodies, a hormone our bodies produce to keep our sleep cycles on track. While any kind of light can do this, it turns out that blue light has the greatest effect of all on the delicate, yet essential patterns of our sleep.
Our sleep cycle plays an integral role in our overall health and beauty.
This is the time for the body to repair itself, for tissues to rebuild and heal, for our metabolic processes to regulate themselves, and for the brain to clear away toxins that accumulate during our waking hours, so it is critically important to make sure that we are doing everything possible to avoid interfering with it.
(Sigh). What are we supposed to do then?
Yes, our cell phones have become very important and valuable tools in our everyday lives. When you think about it, this little device has really given us unprecedented access to each other, made it ultra convenient to find the best food options in the area, and helped us keep in touch with loved ones when we might otherwise find that those connections get lost in the everyday business of living.
It is great to feel like you can reach out to anyone you want to with just a couple of clicks, but we really have to make sure that we are not overdoing it.
I feel very strongly that we need to take firm control over the amount of interaction we want to have with our electronic devices, because it can get out of control very, very easily.
For instance, would it surprise you to learn that in 2011, 23% of all car crashes involved a cell phone? That is over 1.3 million accidents that were caused by people who were unnecessarily distracted from driving. The fact that 9 people are killed daily in accidents that involve distracted driving just breaks my heart, and this is so preventable!
Of course, we should never be using our phones when behind the wheel of a car. In fact, most states have laws against texting while driving, but the level of restrictions against cell phone use while driving varies from state to state.
*NOTE: Even with laws to try to curb the use of cell phones while driving, many people still feel safe with just a quick glance… JUST SAY NO!
Some of the major service providers actually have created useful apps that will help you avoid the temptation to read or send text messages when you are driving.
The app can be set up so that it automatically kicks in when you are in a moving vehicle, and it will automatically silence incoming text message alerts. “But I don’t want the person to think I am ignoring their texts.” Not to worry, it can be set up to automatically send out a pre-set reply like, “I am driving right now, but I will respond to your text as soon as I park my car.”
Please make sure that you share this information with anyone you know who is tempted to use their phone while behind the wheel!
Furthermore, regulate your cell phone time. Don’t let it get in the way of life! If you are at dinner with family or friends, resist the urge to take it out of your purse until dinner is over. Try not to check it first thing in the morning until you get a little settled and possibly meditate. Go on walks, hikes or workouts without checking your cell phone at all. It’s an amazing tool, but it needs to be monitored!
How about you? Do you feel like your cell phone is taking over your life? How have you tried to cut back or balance your “in person” life with your “cell phone” life?
Have a great day and see you soon! And until then…take good care of yourself :).
With love and gratitude,