In addition to causing widely varied and deeply devastating health problems, smoking also causes many unpleasant physical changes. Chronic, long term smoking does damage to sensitive skin, effectively aging a person before their time.
One of the more noticeable areas of damage is the face. Wrinkles are more pronounced in people who are smokers or former smokers. There is no single reason for smoking to cause deeper wrinkles, it is a combination of multiple things.
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.
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.