As if our culture wasn’t already obsessed enough about aging, now comes “computer face,” a new term to describe the premature aging effects of sitting for hours at the computer.
What is computer face, and do you need to worry about it destroying your looks before your time?
What Is “Computer Face?”
In September 2010, the Daily Mail published an interesting report. According to a leading cosmetic surgeon, professionals who sit for hours in front of the computer—and who tend to squint, frown, or remain in one position for a long period of time—are at a greater risk for the appearance of premature aging.
That means accelerated fine lines, wrinkles, frown lines, turkey neck, deep wrinkles, and jowls. In fact, office workers were the most likely to show signs of premature aging.
Here are some of the potential problems:
- If you frown or squint when concentrating—you may end up with premature frown lines.
- Sitting in one position too long can increase risk of jowls.
- If you look down a lot, neck muscles can shorten and sag—turkey neck.
- Younger men and women are aging more quickly because of the heavy use of information technology.
So far, this is a phenomenon touted only by cosmetic surgeons, who claim to be seeing more and more younger patients with these types of effects. We have yet to see any real scientific study on the matter, but these early warnings may be worth heeding, considering how badly the muscles in the rest of our body react to endless sitting.
Do Computers Expose You to UV Radiation?
Might your computer expose you to UV radiation?
Older CRT monitors did emit very low levels of UV light, which may have lead to skin damage over time. They could also be problematic for photosensitive individuals, such as those with lupus or severe cases of xeroderma pigmentosum.
Newer flat-panel LCD screens, however, have not been found to emit UV light.
Allergic Reactions that Lead to Aging
Recent research suggests, though, that prolonged exposure to a computer screen may lead to discoloration, blotches, rashes, and skin allergies. Those with pre-existing skin problems, like rosacea and sun sensitivity, could be even more at risk.
According to some scientists, monitors create an electrostatic field that attracts floating dust that can then settle on the skin and cause dryness, irritation, and allergic reactions—particularly in poorly ventilated areas. Swedish associate professor at the Experimental Dermatology Unit, Karolinska Institute, Olle Johansson, agrees that in some sensitive individuals, excessive screen exposure can lead to “screen dermatitis,” in which skin cells suffer as a result of consistent exposure to light and electromagnetic fields.
What to Do to Protect Your Face and Eyes
Research into the potential effects of computers on skin is still in its infancy. These are preliminary findings that have yet to be duplicated. What we do know is that even though LCD screens don’t emit UV radiation, they do emit LED light, which has been connected to eye damage.
A 2013 study linked LED lights in bulbs, computers, cell phones, and TVs to increased risk of irreparable harm to the retina in the eye. Researchers stated the damage came from high levels of radiation in the “blue band” of light. They estimated the problem is likely to grow as more computers, mobile phones and TV screens use LED lights. Experts have called for built-in filters to cut down on the blue glare.
Of course, fluorescent light bulbs also emit UV radiation, further exposing your skin to potential damage and premature aging while at the office.
To protect your skin, eyes, and overall appearance, try these tips:
- Take frequent breaks. Look away from the screen to a distant sight.
- Get up and take a short walk.
- Stretch your neck by looking up at the ceiling and holding for at least 20 seconds.
- Adjust your working space so you’re not always looking down at the screen.
- Look left and right to stretch your neck.
- Place a mirror by your computer screen so you can see if you’re frowning or squinting. (Ignore comments about your vanity.)
- Purchase an anti-glare screen that fits over the computer monitor to cut down on radiation exposure and the glare of blue light.
- Wear sunscreen every day.
- Use skin care products with antioxidants in them—they provide natural protection from UV radiation.
- Maintain a good distance from the monitor and clean it regularly (to remove dust).
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
- Consider applying moisturizer or a hydrating mist periodically through a long day. At the very least, wear a long-lasting moisturizer.
Do you take steps to protect your skin and eyes while working on the computer? Please share any tips you have.
Matusiak M, et al.,. “[Ultraviolet radiation in selected computer monitoring],” Med Pr., 1994; 45(4):292-5, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7968496.