Is Your Cell Phone Causing Your Breakouts?

By Stephanie Stahl

BRYN MAWR, Pa. (CBS) — Your cell phone could be causing major skin issues. Health reporter Stephanie Stahl tells you how to stop your cell phone from wrecking your skin.

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You can’t live without them. Cell phones have become lifelines for most of us, but staying in touch gave Brian Tomlinson a nasty case of acne.

“I don’t really know how many hours per day, but I would say I am constantly on my phone talking to people,” Brian said. “I was actually pretty surprised, you know, as much as you use your phone, you never really think about it doing something like that to your face, but absolutely, it definitely makes sense that it would.”

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Most phones are covered with all sorts of stuff: sweat, makeup, anything on your hands, and germs from all the places where you put your phone. One study found they’re contaminated with more bacteria than a toilet.

Bryn Mawr dermatologist Christine Stanko says germs on cell phones are linked to a number of skin problems.

“They’re more dangerous than you think,” Dr. Stanko said. “When someone talks on their cellphones, it’s occluding their face. All that bacteria is getting onto their skin surface. Staph and strep are the two most common. So those bacteria, you know, maybe people have heard of MRSA and they get scared about that.”

It’s the kind of disgusting bacteria that’s the primary cause of acne that can strike at any age, but can be especially difficult for younger people like Brian, who is 20.

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“You know, the other people see the acne all over your face, and even though nobody’s calling you out, you know it’s there, so absolutely, I would say it’s a self-esteem thing,” Brian said.

Another skin issue related to cell phones: they can trigger allergic reactions. Some people are allergic to nickel used to make cell phones. That causes something called cell phone rash. And there’s more.

“The bacteria can also get into the pores and the follicles and cause something we call folliculitis, that creates things like whiteheads,” Dr. Stanko said.

Most of the skin issues related to cell phones can be resolved with topical treatments. You need to keep you phone clean with something like an antibacterial wipe at least once a day.

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