Most smokers know that smoking has adverse effects on their health but continue smoking nonetheless. Many people think that the smoking habit affects only the lungs and heart. But apart from these known links to lung cancer and heart disorders, smoking also causes skin damage. Changes to the skin are not life-threatening; however, they can change the physical appearance of the smoker. For example, smoking is linked to premature aging and wrinkles. Moreover, it can also lead to chronic skin disorders such as skin cancer.
How smoking affects the skin?
Studies suggest, that one of the possible ways that tobacco smoke exposure damages skin, is by constricting the blood vessels and decreasing the oxygen in the blood, possibly damaging connective tissues that help maintain healthy skin. Skin fibroblasts, the cells in connective tissue that form collagen and elastin, are damaged by tobacco smoke. Moreover, smoke becomes more toxic in the presence of ultraviolet light (UV), such as found in sunlight, and causes more damage to skin cells than either smoke or UV would cause on their own.
Here are the things that smoking does to your skin:
Several environmental factors influence the aging process. Sun exposure is the most well-known risk factor for premature aging. Cigarette smoking causes an individual’s skin to age even more than exposure to sunlight does. Skin ageing can be measured by a number of features. Most obviously, skin becomes wrinkled and discolored. Smoking can cause facial wrinkles and furrows, baggy eyelids, and dry, coarse skin. Most smokers develop an uneven skin tone, age spots and muted orange or grey tinge to their complexions, losing their youthful glow. The more you smoke, the more your skin ages quickly.
Studies suggests that smoking may be a more important factor in the development of wrinkles than sun exposure. Nicotine in smoke causes narrowing of blood vessels (vasoconstriction), which reduces blood supply to the skin and can cause changes in skin elastic fibers and loss of collagen. This causes the skin to grow visible fine lines and wrinkles at a faster rate. Smokers will therefore experience more premature wrinkles than non-smokers.
Studies have found that smokers do not heal as well after surgeries such as face-lifts and tooth extractions. Smoking tobacco decreases the ability of skin to regenerate and repair. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and other toxic components delay wound healing, including skin injuries and surgical wounds. This increases the risk of wound infection, death of tissue and blood clot formation.
Nicotine, one of the toxic components of tobacco smoke, is a vasoconstrictor (causes the blood vessels to contract). When blood vessels are constricted they transport less oxygen-rich blood, to the tiny vessels in the face or other parts of the body, upon which the skin depends to regenerate. This means your wounds will take longer to heal and you’ll have scars that are bigger and redder than if you were a non-smoker.
By weakening the immune system, smoking increases the risk of getting psoriasis, a rare skin disorder, characterized by the formation of thick, scaly skin patches that are most commonly seen on the elbows, knees, scalp, back, hands, or feet. Smokers tend to have more extensive and severe psoriasis than non-smokers.
Smoking is a leading cause of cancer, including lung, throat, mouth, and esophageal cancer, and also increases the risk of skin cancer. Cigarette smokers have double the risk of developing skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, compared to non-smokers.
Quit smoking and stay healthy!