Does too much screen time affect the skin and hair as well?

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Jan 28, 2023 07:44 AM IST

If we use our phones, laptops, TV or tablets too much in the hours before bed, we risk losing quality sleep. Poor sleep, sadness and stress are all linked to too much time spent in front of screens but does too much screen time affect the skin and hair as well? Experts share tips to protect them

Considering the amount of time that all of us are exposed to any form of the screen (mobile phones, laptops, TV, tablets), we very well know the effect on our brains - it messes with our circadian cycle or day-night sleep cycle but the amount of scientific literature into its effect on our skin and hair isn’t that much. Recent studies show that exposure of human skin cells to light emitted from electronic devices, even for exposures as short as 1 hour, may cause reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation (the same molecules which we want to remove by consuming antioxidants) and this leads to programmed cell death.

Does too much screen time affect the skin and hair as well? (Kampus Production)
Does too much screen time affect the skin and hair as well? (Kampus Production)

Scary, right? In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Agni Kumar Bose, Dermatologist, Venereologist and Dermatosurgeon, explained, “The biological effects of either long-term or repeated exposures are not fully known, yet and yes we use ultraviolet light and blue light for acne, vitiligo and psoriasis but that’s done in a controlled scientific manner which we stop once the disease has settled. Each therapy has its effects and side effects but our mobile phone usage is only increasing day by day. The main culprit identified at present is blue light (the visible light which is closer to the ultraviolet light spectrum).”

Cutting all this jargon, Dr Agni Kumar Bose elaborated -

1. It can cause premature ageing and wrinkling of the skin

2. Breakdown of collagen which leads to sagging

3. Increased pigmentation

4. Flaring of diseases such as lupus and rosacea - I’ve had 2 patients with lupus and rosacea (both with excess screen time) who had rashes on their faces despite being confined indoors and with proper use of sunscreen during the day

5. The effect of increased screen time on the hair isn’t a direct one since it doesn’t fall on our hair. However, messing with the circadian cycle and the stress on the body, that by itself can lead to increased hair fall (stress-related, don’t worry. It’ll come back!)

Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Abhishek Pilani, MD Dermatologist and Founder of Assure Clinics, shared, “The health of your hair and skin can be affected by a wide variety of factors and because of how convoluted they are, you probably won't give any of them any consideration. Your skin and hair will suffer from the long hours you spend staring at a screen, whether it's a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The source of the problem is this type of high-energy visible light (HEV), which comes from the sun and modern gadgets.”

He highlighted, “From a scientific perspective, blue light is more likely to cause damage to our cells since it contains more energy than other colours in the visible range. HEV rays can weaken the barrier by generating free radicals and causing oxidative stress. Prolonged screen time might reduce the skin's collagen supply, resulting in wrinkles, sagging, and age spots before their time.”

Now how do we fix this?

Dr Agni Kumar Bose suggetsed:

1. Sunscreen use during the day - regardless of whether you’re indoors or outdoors

2. At night, since you’re not going to be wearing sunscreen, turn on the night mode on your phone. iPhones also have the feature where the blue end of the spectrum is reduced as well thus the entire screen appears yellowish. For optimal protection of your skin, you can turn on this feature during the day time too

3. Needless to say, reduce your screen time!

Dr Abhishek Pilani advised, “Mineral sunscreen should be worn regularly to protect the skin from the harmful effects of blue light, in addition to taking pauses from the screen. If we use our phones or tablets too much in the hours before bed, we risk losing quality sleep — exactly when our skin needs to restore itself through slumber. Poor sleep, sadness, and stress are all linked to too much time spent in front of screens, and all three can negatively impact hair. Since the link is indirect, you probably never thought of it before. Your health and well-being depend on getting a good night's sleep every night.”

He cautioned, “When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces less melatonin, which makes it harder to fall asleep later. While melatonin supplements can be helpful, your body is the best source of this hormone. It's a never-ending downward spiral that culminates in stress, insomnia and hair loss. Time spent in front of a screen causes stress, which is a major factor in hair loss. Therefore, the skin, hair and body will benefit from less stress when using screens in moderation.”

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