Smoking is obviously a damaging habit that affects the most vital organs such as the lungs, heart, and brain. Most smokers know that tobacco cigarettes have adverse effects on human health but continue smoking nonetheless. One thing many smokers are not aware of is the slow deterioration of their skin, which suffers from the inhalation of more than 7000 chemicals produced by burning tobacco cigarettes.
Smoking’s immediate effects on the skin are usually not lethal. Nonetheless, it is something that alters the appearance of the smoker in ways big and small, obvious and unnoticeable. It may also lead to chronic skin conditions like cancer.
One of the most reasonable explanations as to how smoking affects the skin is through decreasing the oxygen in the blood and constricting the blood vessels. Also, studies find that the damaging effects of smoking on the skin are increased when combined with UV rays that you get from direct sunlight exposure.
Smoking is More Likely to Cause Ageing than Sun Exposure Alone
Smoking causes changes in the composition of the skin, causing premature ageing. Based on scientific studies, the skin loses its elasticity and acquires small red lines due to the dilation of blood vessels. The more you smoke, the more your skin ages rapidly.
Skin discoloration is one of the most apparent consequences of smoking. It either turns grayish or orange, losing its youthful glow.
More than sun exposure, smoking also causes wrinkles at an early stage for smokers compared to non-smokers. One study found that moderate smokers were found to have skin wrinkles that were double in the count, while heavy smokers were thrice as likely to develop premature wrinkles. Another study saw that results that indicated a smoker who uses more than 30 cigarettes per day would look like an 84-year old at the age of 70.
On the other hand, results of other studies showed that sun or UV exposure did not cause significant wrinkling as smoking.
Wrinkles most often appear around the eyes and mouth. Apart from the loss of elasticity and moisture, it is believed that the squinting of the eyes and tightening of the mouth as a smoker puffs on a cigarette contributes to the formation of wrinkles surrounding both areas.
Slow Healing from Wounds, Higher Risk of Infections and Cancer
Smoking prolongs the required period for wound healing. Some of the reasons that are believed to cause such fact are the slow growth and regeneration of blood vessels in and surrounding the wound. Likewise, the constriction of blood vessels and the subsequent decrease of oxygen that reaches the skin delays the healing of wounds.
As a further effect, smokers have higher risks of wound infections, surgical failures, blood clots, and dead tissues. It also increases the risk of foot ulcers and arterial ulcers that diabetes brings. Smokers are more prone to viral infections like genital warts, cervical cancer, intraepithelial penile cancer, and other wart-virus related cancers.
Of course, the possibility of developing skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma is twice compared to non-smokers
Risk of Psoriasis and Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
By weakening the immune system, smoking also increases the risk for psoriasis and discoid lupus erythematosus. Both immune-mediated conditions are characterized by more severe and obvious skin alterations, such as scaly skin lesions, possibly with pus or may leave scars.
It all begins with dry skin, but the effects of smoking can reach a damaging extent in terms of mortality and physical appearance. If smokers are not fazed by long-proven smoking-related diseases, then the risk of losing their well-cherished looks should make them stop. There are plenty of nicotine replacement aids such as nicotine patches, gums, and free counseling sessions that help with smoking cessation.