How Smoking's Ruining Your Skin
By Chelsea Campbell
By now, we’ve all heard about the internal health risks that smoking poses, including respiratory problems, lung cancer, and heart disease, to name just a few. But the negative effects of smoking are also more obvious on the outside as well, and can take years off of your appearance by the impact that it has on the skin. Most of us go to great lengths to preserve our youthful looks, but is it all undone at the flick of that lighter?
The High Cost of Free Radical Damage
We’ve likely all experienced being in a smoke-filled environment before, and even for smokers themselves, it isn’t exactly an enjoyable experience for the senses. Your lungs, throat, and eyes aren’t the only ones being accosted every time you light up - the thousands of chemicals in smoke also lead to an onslaught of free radicals; unstable molecules that attack the molecules around them and disrupt the living cells in your skin. In turn, these free radicals destroy both collagen and elastin, two proteins responsible for skin elasticity and strength, which leads to wrinkles, sagging, gauntness, stretch marks, and a rough texture.
What’s more, the repeated pursing of the lips and squinting of the eyes while smoking also means you are more likely to develop crow’s feet and wrinkles around the mouth. While we are all exposed to a certain number of free radicals through daily air pollution, whenever you smoke, you pollute your body with a concentrated dose of free radicals that rapidly increase cell damage and therefore, aging.
No Glow Without Blood Flow
Not only does smoking impact the oxygen that is delivered to your lungs, it also constricts oxygen to the skin via blood flow. Blood is responsible for delivering oxygen to the skin and keeping tissue healthy and soft, but the carbon monoxide and nicotine in cigarettes reduce the flow of blood to the epidermis. Without optimal blood flow, your skin is at risk of getting cancer, more pronounced wrinkles, broken capillaries, and healing from both acne and wounds more slowly.
Think you can simply reverse the aging effects with cosmetic procedures? Think again. This decreased ability for the skin to heal and repair itself means that you are also at an increased risk of scarring, and numerous studies have shown that smokers do not heal well after cosmetic surgeries, nor do they respond well to collagen-stimulating procedures or skin care products. And finally, forget about that coveted “healthy glow” we’re all after - smokers also tend to have dry, dull, and even grayish or yellowed skin due to the lack of blood flow. In fact, on average, smokers look at least between 1 and 2 years older than non-smokers.
Surprise! Smoking Leads to Skin Cancer
Smoking accelerates the aging process and bodily damage in more ways than one, and possibly the most dangerous effect on the skin is the increased threat of cancer. The rate of skin cancer in smokers is much higher than in non-smokers, and people who smoke are three times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma. This is partially due to the fact that the effects of UV sunlight are magnified by cigarette smoke, and frighteningly, this includes second-hand smoke too. If you smoke, not only are you harming your own skin, but you are also putting others at risk for damage as well.
The sun is just another factor in a list of many, though - doctors have found that the chemicals in cigarettes, free radical damage, and constricted oxygen contribute to almost twice as much wrinkling and aging of the skin than sun damage itself does. In that case, having both a smoking and a sunbathing habit can seriously age you.
The Quick Fix
Good news: there is a surefire way that you can immediately halt the aging effects of smoking and repair your skin from the inside out, but unfortunately it’s not with a magic cream or miracle pill. Your best option? Kick the habit. Quitting smoking will result in instantly improved skin due to the return of oxygen and nutrients with normal blood flow. Not only will your skin texture improve and your glow return, but you will be a healthier, happier, more beautiful you from the inside out.
Keywords: smoking, wrinkles, skin damage, skin care, free radicals, free radical damage, aging, skin cancer
This original article appears exclusively on ZALEA.com.