It doesn’t really matter who you ask: most people are definitely aware that smoking can damage the body. Advanced medical knowledge now means that we know smokers are more likely to develop lung and other cancers, and suffer from heart attacks and high blood pressure. The thing is we take this information at face value, even though we can’t actually see the harm that is being done to our insides. The bizarre thing is smoking can also ravage the skin, yet even though we can see the damage, we choose to ignore it. The evidence is there to see: just look at the face and skin of a committed tobacco smoker and you’ll see evidence of the damage done. So what harm does cigarette smoke do to the skin?
Smoking ages you
Tobacco smoke is as harmful for the skin as sun damage or ‘hard living’, and can add years to your appearance, according to Dr Nicholas Perricone, a dermatologist, and author of the Perricone Prescription. He argues that the long-term effects of smoking are significant in terms of premature ageing. One single inhalation of tobacco smoke is enough to release more than a million free radicals, which then gather in the lungs and can trigger inflammatory responses which will circulate throughout the body. In 1985 the term ‘smoker’s face’ was added to the medical dictionary and is now part of the popular vernacular. If you can’t picture it immediately think of the face of an old rocker, and the image should become a little clearer. Having a smoker’s face makes you much look much older than your years: lines and wrinkles appear on the face, particularly around the upper and lower lips and corners of the eyes. Deep lines can also form on the cheeks, as well as numerous shallower lines on the cheeks and lower jaw. The general demeanour of a smoker is a grey and gaunt. The features take on a distinct sallow appearance and underlying bone structures appear to be more prominent.
Smoking depletes the collagen in the skin
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 toxins and harmful chemicals, many of which are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and are then transmitted by the blood into the skin’s tissues and structures. Smoking also causes the blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to constrict, thus thickening and reducing the oxygen levels in the blood. This also reduces the levels of collagen in the skin, and the levels of elasticity.
Smoking thins the skin
A smoker’s skin is generally thinner due to poor circulation, and this can result in visible signs of premature ageing. Lines and wrinkles become more prominent and established. A recent study of twins at St Thomas’ Hospital looked at 25 pairs of identical twins, where 1 twin was a lifelong smoker and the other twin was a non smoker. Using an ultrasound technology to gauge the thickness of the skin, the study revealed that the smoker’s skin was 25 percent thinner than that of the non-smoker. In certain areas of the body this differential increased to around 40 percent.
You are what you smoke
In spite of all the information about how tobacco smoking ages the skin and can make us look older than we actually are, it has to be acknowledged that not everybody wants to give up their habit. Some people enjoy smoking, even if they don’t appreciate the price they might have to pay in terms of appearance. For those people there is now a product available that might just be the answer they have been looking for – the electronic cigarette. These products only contain nicotine and water vapour. They are absolutely free from all the other harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. So if you want to continue to smoke, but have no desire to look an ageing rocker in the years to come, then maybe now’s the time to give up tobacco and make the switch to a safer alternative.
This article was submitted by Freshcig