Screen time is adding years to your skin

They’ve become an indispensable part of everyday life, but smart phones are disrupting our bodies and wellbeing in ways science is only just beginning to unravel. Here’s why your ability to deal with stress, your sleep, and yes, even lines and wrinkles, are altered by your phone.

Your phone affects how you feel

Levels of dopamine in the brain influence how we feel, and how we cope. Low dopamine equals a depressed mood, while healthy levels allow us to experience pleasure. As Stanford neuroscientist Dr Andrew Huberman puts it, dopamine determines “whether we feel capable of exerting effort or like giving up”. Recent research has found that the habenula area of the brain, which can turn off or boost dopamine production, is activated by bright light, such as phone screens. Studies found that bright light of ANY color (not just blue, but more of that below) between the hours of 11pm and 4am suppresses dopamine, which sets the tone for feeling low, depressed and unable to push through obstacles – in other words it robs you of positivity.

How can you counteract it? If turning your phone off isn’t an option, looking at sunlight early in the morning or in the evening just before it sets, helps promote higher dopamine levels.

And how you sleep

Are you wearing your blue light blockers? The blue light emitted by phone screens disrupts melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy at the end of the day. Melatonin works in a biological rhythm in tune with daylight, increasing at the end of the day as the sun sets helping us fall asleep, and falling as the sun rises. Scrolling through your phone at night is the equivalent of a mini sunrise. Studies have also shown that blue light suppresses sleep-inducing delta brainwaves, and triggers alpha waves associated with alertness. If you have problems sleeping switch off all your screens at least an hour before bed.

Switches on the fight or flight reflex

We’ve evolved to be aware of danger, and our brain likes it when that danger is at a very safe distance. When a predator's far off on the savannah we can relax. Changes in the eye lens and depth of focus are connected to the parasympathetic nervous system. The shorter the focus the more your brain gears up for action. What you’re looking at on your phone is reality for your brain. It turns on the fight or flight reflex, flooding the bloodstream with cortisol and adrenaline, leaving you anxious and wired.

Creates anxiety

Checking emails just before your head hits the pillow or before you’ve even had breakfast? Over 50% of us do both, and it can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. An overflowing inbox, or just one message that gives you a feeling of dread can set off a cascade of stress responses in the body. Won’t be able to resist the urge to peek? Leave your phone in another room at night, or switch it off completely. 

Causes lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation

We know that blue light, or HEV (High Energy Visible) impacts sleep and mood, but what we’re only just getting to grips with is the damage it’s doing to our skin. Just like sunlight, HEV breaks down the collagen and elastin that keeps skin plump, firm and youthful, leading to lines, wrinkles and sagging. It also penetrates into the deepest layer of the dermis just like UV, triggering hyperpigmentation and age spots. To help protect skin apply antioxidants and an SPF designed to shield against blue light every morning.