Is Your Smartphone Harming Your Skin?

Smartphones have been getting some attention lately regarding their possible connection to skin aging and other unwanted side effects, including an increased risk for developing skin cancer. But because much of the research behind this phenomenon is fairly new, the truth is that the jury is still out on whether or not the smartphones themselves are emitting potentially harmful radiation. In fact, some studies suggest that it may not be your actual cell phone causing the concern, but rather its ability to reflect UV light, thus enhancing its negative effects.

The Connection between Smartphones and UV Radiation

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology tested this theory, and found that using your smartphone outdoors is likely more detrimental to your skin’s health than using it indoors. While this particular study didn’t measure any form of radiation coming from the cell phone itself, it did look at the reflectance of UV light and how that contributed to increased UV exposure. It found that smartphones can significantly increase the amount of UV radiation your skin receives, which, in turn, also puts you at an increased risk for photoaging and skin cancer.

A great way to understand this is to consider the effects if a mirror were to be used instead of a cell phone. You would see a similarly increased reflectance of radiation. Like your cell phone screen, many things can increase the reflectance of UV on the skin, including water, concrete, snow and other white or shiny surfaces. This is important for boaters, runners, skiers and other avid outdoorsmen to understand, as these environments can lead to increased risks from UV exposure because of this reflective effect.

How to Protect Your Skin Against UV Damage

It’s probably not practical to recommend never using your cell phone outside, but you can help to protect your skin from added UV damage by being diligent about your sunscreen use. The key is to use a physical blocking sunscreen such as zinc oxide to keep your skin protected from these reflected UV rays.

Additionally, keep these tips in mind for complete sun protection:

  • Wear sunscreen every day and all year-round
  • Stay away from tanning beds, and don’t deliberately tan outside
  • Cover up with sun protective clothing like sun hats, cover-ups and sunglasses
  • Reapply sunscreen after swimming or at least every two hours when out in the sun
  • Don’t forget lip protection! Use an SPF lip balm to keep the delicate skin on your lips healthy.

The Bottom Line

Sun protection should be a part of everyone’s daily skincare routine, no matter your skin type, and this research simply gives you one more reason to be diligent about practicing good sun protection habits. If you’re concerned about sun damaged skin or an irregular mole, be sure to see your dermatologist for an in-depth evaluation and treatment recommendations.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

December 12, 2016 Skincare