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Taking Selfies May Contribute to Premature Skin Aging

ast week, The Daily Mail featured a story about a 26-year-old blogger who takes 50 selfies a day for her blog and saw a dermatologist to find out whether the high-energy visible (HEV) light from her cellphone screen was causing her skin to age prematurely. The doctor, cosmetic dermatologist Simon Zokaie, believed that this was, in fact, the case. He said that the light from her phone was causing her skin to develop dark spots, and that a lot of the damage on her skin from the light was still lying dormant under her skin. Gasp! Could it really be true that selfies cause skin to age more rapidly? I asked a few dermatologists to weigh in.

According to Joshua Zeichner, an assistant professor in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Medical Center, there’s evidence that visible light plays a role in aging skin. “Visible light has been shown to rev up pigment production, leading to dark spots, and promote breakdown of collagen, which leads to wrinkles. It can also create reactive oxygen species that damage the skin and cause premature skin aging and perhaps skin cancers,” says Zeichner. “There’s no way to avoid visible light totally, but limiting time in front of your computers and cell phones can certainly help.” Yikes. (This idea was extremely concerning to me, as I spend my entire life in front of a computer screen for my job.)

But some doctors are calling BS on the whole concept. Scott Dunbar, a dermatologist in New York City with Schweiger Dermatology Group, says, “While it’s been conclusively shown that visible light can cause some skin diseases like lupus to flare, there’s no evidence that visible light, even at high intensity, contributes much to premature skin aging.” In terms of the data that’s available now, UV light (sunlight) is much more harmful to skin than the light from computers and mobile devices. “Even if there was some data regarding visible light aging the skin, its effect would be minuscule in comparison to ultraviolet light, which has been scientifically and convincingly proven to cause skin aging and skin cancer,” he says. “I’d say that you could take over a million selfies or use a computer for 100 years, and that still would not be as impactful as spending a single day in the sun unprotected.”

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