Can Your Smartphone Cause Acne and Damage Your Skin?

How to prevent your smartphone from worsening your acne and other skin conditions

Over the last few decades, we have all become increasingly dependent on our cell phones. Whether we use them to get our daily news updates, stay up to date on social media, or stay in touch with our loved ones, smartphones have become an essential tool to life in the 21st century. Because we all use it so frequently and often apply the screen to our faces, concerns have been raised by skin care specialists about whether or not smartphones can have a negative impact on the health of our skin. Namely, do smartphones cause or worsen acne, dermatitis, and other skin conditions of the face?

Are smartphones linked to acne?

Cell phone screens are a hotbed of dirt and bacteria. Whenever your phone touches your face, your phone will also collect a combination of your makeup, sweat, and any beauty product that you have applied to your skin. This build up on your phone combined with dirt and bacteria can work to clog up your skin pores and cause an acne breakout or worsen a pre-existing acne condition. 

A study published by the National Institute of Health in 2017 showed that mobile phones are commonly contaminated with pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, which is known to cause skin and soft tissues infections. This bA study published by the National Institute of Health in 2017 showed that mobile phones are commonly contaminated with pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, which is known to cause skin and soft tissues infections.acteria, along with dirt and other germs, may increase the risk of staph infection when you’re making a phone call.

Tips for preventing acne flare-ups when using your smartphone

  • Avoid placing the phone directly in contact with your face. Switch your phone setting to Bluetooth, or use headphones or a handless device with your phone during calls to help reduce phone contact with your face
  • Cleanse your phone regularly with rubbing alcohol. You should always carry some alcohol wipes or other cleansing pads with you. The alcohol will clear up any build-up and bacteria from the phone screen, thereby reducing the risk of clogging your pores and acne breakouts.
  • If you already have acne, or your skin gets easily irritated, use pads soaked with Benzoyl peroxide on your face.These pads, while clearing the clogged pores, also have antibiotic properties to help clear the bacteria in the acne lesions.

Your smartphone could also cause a condition called contact dermatitis

If you are a frequent smartphone user and you notice an itchy rash developing on one side of your face, you may be suffering from contact dermatitis. This condition can be due to frequent physical contact of your smartphone or smartphone case with the skin on your face. Cell phone cases are often manufactured with Nickel and Chromium, both of which can cause an allergic reaction on the skin of many people. Using a handless device or Bluetooth will also help to reduce the incidence of this skin condition for smartphone users. 

Can smartphones lead to darkened skin patches on my face?

Your smartphones emit high energy visible light called blue light. Overexposure to blue light has been linked to increase in pigment production which can lead to premature age spots, hyperpigmentation and a darkening of your skin tone, a condition known as melasma.

Furthermore, when cell phone users already suffer from melasma, the heat generated by the smartphone can further exacerbate the condition, and this can give rise to more uneven tone and other dark patches on your face. While studies are under way to determine the best corrective treatments, prevention of pigmentation defects and age spots is currently the best strategy.

How can I prevent smartphones from causing darkened skin patches on my face?

  • Cover the phone with a plastic case or other screen protectors
  • Use a Bluetooth earpiece or handless device to avoid blue light exposure on your skin
  • Use topical antioxidants to prevent premature aging and pigmentation defects. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and ferulic acid serums or creams are popular options to neutralize the free radical damage caused by blue light to your skin.
  • Your skin specialist may also prescribe hydroquinone cream to lighten darkened sections of your skin and restore it to its original skin tone
  • Use sunscreen to protect your skin from blue light damage. Sunscreen should always be an essential staple of your skin care routine.

More information on this topic is available on the Anoki Skin Clinic website. These recommendations are not meant to treat you; they are only intended to be informative and educational. If you have any skin condition or concern, please consult and follow the recommendations of a dermatologist or a licensed skin care physician.  See disclaimer.

Marie-Ange D. Tardieu, MD

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