by Dr. Jon Gindhart

phone looking down

I recently came across an article that referenced a study commissioned by Yves St. Laurent, a cosmetics company, that stated that prolonged smartphone use can cause wrinkles.  I know what you’re thinking…of course a cosmetics company funded this research so it can sell more face and neck cream.  I would think the same thing, but there’s usually a kernel of truth in these studies, even if done for less than pure scientific reasons.  The article also references a condition called “tech neck” which is real and does have scientific merit.  So, that being said, can your smartphone really give you wrinkles?

Let’s talk about “tech neck” first.  This refers to placing the head and neck in a constant flexed (looking down) position while using technology like smartphones and tablets.  This has been shown to cause changes in the cervical and thoracic spine from the increased stress placed on those areas.  I have seen this myself in my practice and it results in rounded shoulders, a forward head position, a hump at the base of the neck, and…a skin crease just above the collar bone.  Try it for yourself.  Use a mirror to see the extra fold lines that are created by putting your head in that position.  Now imagine doing this for hours every day and you can see where these lines or “wrinkles” can become permanent.

So can you get wrinkles?  Yes.  However, the most dangerous changes are going on beneath the skin. The extra stress on the spine and muscles can cause chronic neck and back pain, headaches, and deterioration of the back and neck muscles.  This can lead to an early onset of degeneration in the spine, causing injury to the spinal discs and ultimately creating chronic pain conditions.  Moreover, having the head and neck in that position decreases the ability of the ribs and lungs to expand, meaning you get less oxygen into your body because you can’t breathe properly.  If that isn’t enough, research has shown that people who have this chronic head forward and bent spine position (hyper-kyphosis) have higher mortality rates than those who don’t.

So next time you’re using your phone, look up, not down.  It will not only make you look younger, but it could also help you to live longer.