Lifestyle 

Digital Reflections: How technology is taking a toll on our skin

by Sarah Taylor
by Sarah Taylor

Over the past few months I have been spending an increasing amount of time working at a computer, and like so many of us living in these technologically driven time, I am racking up a serious amount of screen time on a daily basis.

But, when one day recently I realised that I had been concentrating so intensely on my work that my focused expression had tipped over into full blown scowling territory, it got me wondering what effect that could potentially have on my face over time, and what other damage my technological dependency could be having on my skin – and ultimately, whether it may be time for digital detox?

It turns out that my concerns were not unfounded, as it would seem that ‘computer-face’, the catch-all term for the collection of problems attributed to excessive use of computers and other digital devices, is indeed a ‘thing’! Now, I’m very fond of expressive faces, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that I would much prefer to earn my lines and wrinkles through laughter, and a life fully lived, than from countless hours spent staring at my laptop screen, or squinting to read the tiny type on my smart phone!

computer-and-glassesAlarmingly, this is not the not the only havoc our tech habits may potentially wreak on our appearance, as in addition to the cumulative effect of scowling or squinting at one screen or another day after day, our heavy use of technology is also being blamed by some dermatologists for contributing to both the early development of jowls, and a phenomena known as ‘tech-neck’ – which is the formation of lines or wrinkles above the collarbone and on the neck caused by straining the head forward or downwards to look at a screen. It’s also worth mentioning that when you’re working in this position, or going a step further and spending hours hunched over a computer (I’m hugely guilty of this!), your breathing is likely to be shallow, particularly if you are working under pressure or in a stressful environment.

Shallow breathing has a two-fold negative impact on your skin. Firstly, it reduces the efficiency of one of the body’s natural detoxification systems, as it is estimated that the lungs expel approximately 70% of all toxins eliminated from the body, and deep breathing assists in this process. Secondly, it can contribute to a dull and lacklustre complexion as breathing air fully into the lungs helps to boost oxygen delivery to cells, giving rise to that healthy glow we all hanker after.

To counteract this try adapting the position in which you use your phone or computer, take regular breaks, try to pay attention to your breathing and frequently stretch your neck muscles. Also, ensure that you moisturise your neck daily (an area which often goes overlooked) and remember to take the product all the way down the neck towards the collarbone.

If the issues I’ve outlined so far aren’t reason enough to perhaps reconsider the way in which we use technology then read on, there’s worse still to come! As in our fast paced, hyper-connected, 24 hour ‘switched on’ society these problems don’t just affect us 9 – 5, they are creeping up on as at night too! This is largely because the blue light emitted by our phones (and other devices) disrupt our natural sleep/wake cycle, leaving us feeling tired (yet wired!) with dark under eye circles, and over time accelerated levels of collagen breakdown caused by the action of the stress hormone cortisol.

Also, those endless phone notifications pinging away at all hours can leave us feeling that we are always on alert, and are constantly operating in reactive mode, which can be interpreted by the body as a stressor. To minimise this try to implement a technology curfew as often as possible, and allow yourself a couple of hours to wind down before going to bed, ideally don’t sleep with your phone near your bed, and switch off all notifications for the night.

If you’re baffled by blemishes or skin rashes your phone or computer could be the culprit. Keyboards and phones can be full of bacteria, which can easily be transferred to the skin of the face, leading to breakouts, so just like make-up brushes, or any other beauty tools used on the face the importance of keeping your phone clean to help maintain skin health cannot be overstated. In the case of skin rashes you could possibly be sensitive to the material in your phone casing, as it may contain nickel, which many people are allergic to.

After reading all that it may be tempting to swear off technology altogether! But, for most of us it has become ingrained in most aspects of our daily lives, and has many positive benefits. It is my opinion that we should be mindful of the potentially detrimental effects that technology could have on our appearance and health, fortunately we can mitigate many of these problems, and most of them quite easily. Now I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll hang on to my digital devices, and do my best to keep my scowling computer face in check!

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