Last month, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, made headlines when he unveiled the company’s newest generation of iPhones. The most celebrated phone of the new line, the iPhone XS, boasts a new processor for faster performance, a dual-camera system with true tone flash and an improved front-facing camera, which is used for the facial recognition security system. There is no denying that mobile phones have come a long way in the past decade. In addition to allowing you to connect with friends, surf the web and capture your favorite memories, they can also be a fantastic tool to help you maintain healthy skin.
The best part? You don’t have to run out and buy Apple’s fancy (and expensive!) new phone to get a high-tech boost for your skin surveillance. In fact, a basic phone with a camera is all you need.
Here are five simple ways you can dial up your efforts to keep your skin healthy:
- Schedule Reminders: Using your phone’s calendar, set a recurring monthly reminder to perform your skin self-exams. We recommend setting these to go off first thing in the morning or later in the evening, so you’re more likely to be home and able to tackle the task. Also, set an annual reminder to schedule your skin exam with your dermatologist. If your physician has recommended more frequent appointments, your phone can help you keep track of it all.
- Set Alarms: Your phone’s alarm clock isn’t just good for getting you out of bed in the morning; it can also be a great tool to remind you to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Fire up Your Flashlight: Many phones come equipped with a flashlight, an important tool to have on hand during a self-examination. This light can be used to illuminate body parts where it can be hard to see (like in your hair or beard) or where a shadow is somewhat inevitable, like your underarms or between your toes.
Get Camera Ready: Most mobile phones are equipped with high-quality cameras, allowing you to capture memories on-the-go. These cameras can also help you keep track of moles and other spots on your skin. During your monthly self-exams, take photos of your spots (these may include freckles, moles or beauty marks). If you have a lot of them, you can ask your dermatologist which you should be closely tracking with photography.
Since it can be difficult to ensure you always get the same angle and distance for each photo month to month, consider positioning an object, like a dime or a pencil eraser, next to the moles as you shoot them to help provide perspective. For each mole, take one photo with and without the flash (this can help with color identification). If possible, ask a friend or loved one to scan your back. If someone isn’t available, a selfie stick can come in handy.
During your monthly self-exam, compare your photos from the previous months and take note of any changes to your spots. Our downloadable body map can help to make sure you don’t miss any areas. If anything looks different or if you have a spot that wasn’t there last month, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist right away. (Your phone’s Notes app can help you document your findings from your monthly skin checks, so they can easily be shared with your doctor.)
*A note about organization: Many phones allow you to create folders or albums where you can store these photos. This removes them from your main camera roll and helps to ensure you don’t delete them by accident (or mistakenly show them to your colleagues as you scroll through photos from your recent vacation). Also, whenever possible, rename the files so they are descriptive in nature. For example, “right ankle freckle.” If your phone doesn’t allow you to rename the file, you can simply add text to the image by using a free photo editing tool.
- Spread the Word: With mobile phones, we are more connected to our friends and loved ones than ever before. We can call, text, email or share a post on social media and reach hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. As you take time to protect your skin, encourage those around you to do the same. Send a text to your parents and siblings reminding them to check their skin or share a post on Facebook highlighting the importance of annual skin exams with a dermatologist.
Life can get busy, and we know that skin health can sometimes be an afterthought. By taking full advantage of the technology at your fingertips, you can be sure you don’t forget to show your largest organ some love.