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Are Selfies Bad for Your Skin?

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When snapping a selfie, your biggest worry may be if the lighting is just right or what filter to use, but it turns out there could be greater cause for concern. You know about the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays from the sun, but the light that comes off of your cell phone may also be detrimental to your skin.

Known as high-energy visible light (HEV), this is a different spectrum of light than what's emitted by the sun, and it includes the light from the screens of technological devices, explains Julie Russak, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City. In theory, exposure to the light could damage the skin cell's DNA, though Russak notes that there haven't yet been studies showing a direct correlation between HEV and skin damage. Still, there is a connection between cell phones and your complexion. "We see dullness and pigmentation in people who use their phones a lot, but the reasons are likely multifactorial," she says.

First, think about how you take selfies: "Often you're standing outside and intentionally trying to position your face in the light so that it looks best," points out Russak. "The phone is picking up the light and reflecting the UV rays off your face, like those old-school aluminum panels that people would use," she adds. Essentially, your phone ends up magnifying the damaging effects of the sun. There's also the issue of infrared energy (IR); this is the heat that's emitted by devices, and it's been shown to cause flares of melasma, adds Russak. (Not to be confused with other therapeutic types of light that can actually have skin perks.) Finally, there are theories that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones can cause breaks in the skin's DNA and inhibit DNA repair. Not to mention that repeatedly squinting at the screen can lead to crow's feet, and constantly looking down at your phone can cause what's become known as tech neck.

The bottom line: Even if we don't know exactly how our devices affect our skin, they most definitely do. And since ceasing all selfies is probably not completely realistic (and neither is giving up your electronics), Russak suggests safeguarding your skin with a product power couple: an antioxidant serum coupled with sunscreen (of course). "The antioxidants strengthen your skin's natural repair mechanism, and this can help counteract the effects of any DNA damage," she says. Try SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($163; skinceuticals.com), a derm favorite. Then, OBVIOUSLY, sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays—yes, even if you're indoors or it's wintertime. While they're still few and far between in the U.S., Russak notes that many of the new formulas coming out of Europe now shield skin from IR, too. One option currently available stateside: SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 34 ($68; skinmedica.com for physicians' offices).

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