You don’t need me to tell you how bad smoking is for your health; we have all heard that lecture time and time again. But you might be surprised to know how damaging it is to your looks as well. In fact, smoking is rated one of very top worst things you can do for your skin. Even if you don’t consider yourself a smoker, a cigarette every now at then when out with friends (you know who you are!) can do real damage to your complexion, not to mention your overall well-being. If the high risk of cancer and other fatal diseases isn’t going to put you on the straight and narrow, maybe these vanity-based smoking wrinkles will.
Why is smoking bad for you? Simply put, smoking accelerates the look of those two words we cringe to hear: the aging process. On average, smokers appear at least 1.4 years older than non-smokers. As we age, the skin begins to lose elasticity and droops more readily, effects that are amplified exponentially in smokers. This leads to probably the largest visible negative effect of smoking -- wrinkles. Since the 1970's studies have shown that smoking results in more premature facial wrinkling than sun exposure. Those vertical lines that develop around the mouth area are called “smoker’s pucker” for a reason and are anything but attractive. These wrinkles from smoking also create deep creases in lipstick, giving you the opposite effect of beautifying. Additionally, eye area wrinkles develop earlier in smokers due to both loss of elasticity and squinting around smoke. These often show up in the form of crow’s feet and a permanently furrowed brow. Smokers, look forward to spending a fortune on anti-aging creams!
Along with deeper and denser fine lines, smoking accentuates other undesirable skin effects, including bags under the eyes, uneven skin tone, and broken blood vessels. Smokers can appear gaunt and develop an orange or grey complexion. Studies of twins show chilling evidence of the visible difference smoking made in the twin who smoked versus the one who didn’t. Obvious changes in the skin, teeth and hair added years to the appearance of the smoking twin. Why? Smoking deprives the skin of vital oxygen and nutrients, namely vitamin C and vitamin A, which are needed for sun protection and hydration (and glowing skin!) One cigarette constricts the blood flow for an hour and an half, starving your skin of oxygen. This inhibits circulation and the break down of collagen and elastin for a full ninety minutes. Since the blood is not flowing properly, smokers are more prone to broken capillaries and veins and the mottled pigmentation we refer to as age spots sooner and with greater frequency than non-smokers. This uneven skin tone is a telltale sign of smokers, as is loose skin under the eyes. Under eye bags are particularly more common in smokers due to them not sleeping as soundly as non-smokers. A Johns Hopkin’s study revealed smokers are four times more likely to feel less rested after a night’s sleep than a non-smoker. This is the result of nightly nicotine withdrawal causing restlessness. We already know how important good quality rest is to beauty!
Science shows that smoking also greatly lowers the immune system, something most people don’t realize effects much more than just getting a cold now and then. A strong, healthy immune system is crucial for maintaining outward gorgeousness. It is responsible for the body healing itself, and smoking decreases the body’s ability to do this through a lack of oxygen reaching skin cells, lessened collagen production and delayed growth of new blood vessels. This increases the likelihood of getting acne from smoking, since the skin cannot clear up as quickly with lowered immune functioning. Additionally, it also heightens the risk of scarring from acne. Along with a compromised immune system bringing on breakouts that stick around, breathing out smoke directly affects the top layer of skin on your face. Think of it this way- when you exhale smoke, you are essentially creating a “toxic cloud” of tobacco, nicotine and the nearly 4,000 chemicals contained in tobacco smoke that is just floating around your face and head. This surplus of toxins so close to your facial skin leads to more congestion, particularly around your mouth and cheeks, which in turn brings on more acne and blackheads. It is nearly impossible for a smoker to remove this gunk, they would need to wash their face and exfoliate deeply after every single cigarette, which is too harsh on skin in general and even more so if you smoke numerous times a day. No miracle skin product is going to remedy this bind!
Smoking women are prone to even more serious skin conditions than just a less attractive general appearance, including a higher susceptibility to psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, and cutaneous lupus erthematosus, amongst others. Psoriasis is an autoimmune-related skin condition that can show up even if you don’t ever smoke, but since smoking lowers immune function your risk greatly increases. According to a 2007 study, if you puff a pack a day for 10 or less years, psoriasis risk goes up 20%; 11–20 years and your risk becomes 60% higher; and for those folks who pass the 20 year mark, the psoriasis risk more than doubles. This skin condition manifests in scaly skin and yellow or brown painful pus-containing lesions. Ouch! Hidradenitis suppurativa, another condition amplified by smoking, is often referred to as “reverse acne” and acts much like regular acne in that a hair follicle becomes blocked. The difference here is that the nicotine in cigarettes increases the production of a chemical called acetylcholine around the follicle, which promotes the overgrowth of the upper portion of the follicle, thus causing further blockage. As if anyone needed their acne exasperated. Still need another reason not to smoke? Studies over the last few years have shown smoking to increase the likelihood of contracting cutaneous lupus erthematosus tenfold. In this skin condition, exposed areas such as the face develop red, scaly lesions that can leave gnarly scars. Smoking triggers the white blood cells called B-cells and T-cells, which aggravate cutaneous lupus erthematosus, and smoking also makes the medication for this condition less effective. No thank you!
Not only does smoking do serious damage to your skin, it has negative effects on the rest of your body as well. Want pearly white teeth and sweet smelling breath? Not an option as long as you’re smoking! The nicotine in cigarettes deeply stains your chompers and unfortunately this is very difficult to reverse, unless you’re willing to spend a fortune on professional teeth whitening, which doesn’t even always do the trick. Plus, no amount of breath mints and gum can get rid of that smoky smell and taste, as anyone who has dated a smoker is sure to confirm. Kiss kissing goodbye! Smoking also puts you at greater risk of all sorts of dental issues, including being six times more likely that nonsmokers to develop gum disease, which leads to tooth loss and decay.
If you’re a smoker you can also expect thinning hair, yellow fingers and fingernails and sagging body skin. Experts agree that the toxic chemicals in smoke promote free radical generation (which is a big reason why smoking causes cancer) and damage the DNA in hair follicles. This shows up as thin hair and premature greying and balding. In fact, studies show that after taking into account genetic and aging factors, men who smoke are twice as likely to lose their hair as non-smokers. If you have any hair left, look forward to running yellow fingers through it. The tar in cigarette smoke collects on your fingers, staining them a yellow-brown color, and your nails too. No amount of nail polish can cover that up forever. Due to the nearly 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, the production of collagen and elastin, the building blocks of smooth and healthy skin, dramatically plummets. The result is sagging skin on the entire body, causing it to loose resilience and droop, including arms, breasts and stomach. Not exactly sexy.
What’s the scariest part of all these negative effects? You don’t even have to inhale to experience them! Secondhand smoke contributes to almost all of these accelerated signs of aging, and is extremely internally damaging as well. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year. That statistic alone should be enough to keep you far away from smokers, but in relation to your skin, it turns out secondhand smoke is actually worse for your skin than firsthand. This is because there is no filter on the end of a cigarette, so secondhand smoke is more concentrated than firsthand, with levels of nicotine, tar, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide that are twice as high. So, don’t even hang around those who do smoke, and perhaps your absence will inspire them to quit!
Despite all the frightening facts around what smoking does to your skin and overall health, there is light at the end of the tunnel -- you CAN quit. Choosing to quit smoking is no easy feat, and as any smoker knows, is an incredibly difficult commitment to make and even more so to keep. But, as anyone who used to be a smoker knows, it is totally worth it. Quitting smoking will not only greatly improve your health - within just 12 hours your blood oxygen and carbon monoxide levels will return to normal - but it will improve your appearance as well, along with countless other things in your life. While you may not be able to undo all the damage from smoking, especially if you’ve been at it for years, there are steps you can take to improve your health and looks. Just by not smoking and avoiding those who do, your skin will be able to receive more oxygen and nutrients as blood supply improves, making an immediate difference in your complexion and restoring a natural, healthy glow.
For the long-term signs of damage from smoking such as wrinkles, poor skin tone and hyperpigmentation, a skincare regimen that includes antioxidants and retinol are among the most effective steps you can take. OZNaturals Vitamin C and Retinol Serums are a great place to start. It’s also important to wear sunscreen every day and use an effective moisturizer as well to allow your skin to heal itself. An antioxidant-rich diet that includes lots of leafy greens, nutritious vegetables, and Omega 3’s can give your skin an extra boost, along with drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly to allow the body to healthfully detox.
It may be challenging but by cutting down on smoking and trying different treatment options you’re setting yourself up for a better future. Whether your motivation is to save your health or just improve your looks, stay as far away from cigarette smoke as possible. That’s a breath of fresh air we can all benefit from.