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.
How Smoking Steals Youthful Skin
The nicotine content in a cigarette causes tiny blood vessels at the surface of the skin to tighten. With the tightening of the vessels comes a lowering in the blood supply to the area. Nicotine also already reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and with the oxygen further lowered, the skin becomes damaged. Other nutrients also get forced away from the skin during this time. If the blood supply cannot effectively deliver what the skin needs to remain healthy, damage is expedited. Skin becomes not only vulnerable to what smoking does, it also leaves the skin unprotected from other common sources of irritation and destruction, like environmental pollution and natural aging.
In addition, many of the chemicals in modern cigarettes can do damage to cells that help to retain a youthful appearance. Collagen and elastin are there to promote healthy skin with plenty of stretch to it. When those are damaged, the skin can start to sag or wrinkle instead of holding it’s shape and bouncing back from being stretched or folded. Nicotine also works as a diuretic in the body, often leading to dehydration. This dehydration extends to the skin, where dryness makes skin easier to damage.
Actually going through the motions of smoking a cigarette promotes wrinkles. The pursing of the lips to smoke a cigarette eventually leaves deep lines around the mouth. Delicate facial skin is exposed constantly to flame and smoke from cigarettes, increasing the damage and distributing it equally across the face. Skin can even take on a leathered appearance and may become yellowed by smoke over time. Deep “crows-feet” wrinkles are also very common, because many smokers squint while they smoke in order to keep the smoke from working its way into the eyes.
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.
What Can Be Done?
Depending on the severity of the damage that smoking has done to the skin, it is possible to get back on track and work towards younger-looking skin. The first step is, obviously, to quit smoking. Within days of quitting, circulation starts to normalize, allowing fresh, oxygen rich blood to again provide essential nutrients to the delicate skin of the face. Without the chemicals from cigarettes destroying the cells needed to keep skin supple, they can start producing again, and begin working to combat other damage that occurs, such as sun damage. Exfoliation helps to slough off top layers of skin that may still be suffering from cigarette use, and moisturizing keeps the skin more resistant to damage while improving general appearance. Many experts recommend using products that were designed for sun damage or those that work as an anti-aging compound. Cigarette damage mimics solar damage, and anti-aging serums can boost collagen and vitamins that are particularly needed to create resilient skin.
Serious damage cannot truly be undone without surgical options, but rapid improvement in many problems can be seen relatively quickly once smoking has been ceased. Proper skincare techniques and supplements boost the natural healing power of the skin, leading to an overall revitalized complexion that is simply a visible expression of the renewed health that quitting brings.