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Smokers Skin Damage: 10 Ways Smoking Harms Your Skin Health

Smoking harms your general health, including your skin’s health. Cigarettes have toxins that cause smokers’ skin to early aging and various other skin problems such as skin cancer. Smoking can exacerbate any existing skin problems you may have.

If you’re a smoker and your skin has been adversely affected, talk to your doctor about ways to control the symptoms as well as resources on quitting. In some cases, once you quit smoking your skin can improve.

Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing oxygen flow and nutrients to skin cells
Smoking can adversely affect the skin, leading to premature skin aging, skin cancer, and other conditions

What are the Effects of Smoking on Your Skin?

Cigarettes contain toxins that create free radicals when smoked, leading to oxidative stress which restricts oxygen intake of the skin, resulting in temporary and permanent harm.

Smoking increases the chances of hair loss, oral cancer, and gum disease due to the presence of these toxins. Here are some of the most common ailments and damaging effects of smoking:

1. Early Aging and Premature Wrinkles

Smoking damages the building blocks of the skin causing it to sag, not only on the face but also on the arms and breasts
Wrinkles caused by smoking tend to appear in your eyebrows, lips, around your eyes, and your mouth

The toxins in cigarette smoke harm collagen and elastin, the fibrous components of the skin which reserve its firmness and elasticity. When damaged, these components can lead to deep wrinkles and faster aging of the skin.

Wrinkles caused by smoking tend to appear in visible areas of your face like eyebrows, lips, around your eyes, and your mouth. Smoking can cause premature wrinkling, compared to those who do not smoke.

The effects of smoking on your skin include premature aging, due to the narrowing of blood vessels (which reduces oxygen in the skin), increased production of free radicals, and decreased levels of vitamin A. You may also develop vertical wrinkles around the mouth that come from pursing your lips around a cigarette.

2. Skin Pigmentation

Smoking boosts melanin in the skin, potentially resulting in dark patches, especially on facial areas. Additionally, frequently putting cigarettes between particular fingers could cause some skin tones to change to yellow from nicotine and additional toxins located in cigarettes (frequently referred to as TAR).

Studies reveal that smokers with smoke-stained fingertips are more prone to smoking-related diseases.

The effects of smoking are not only limited to the skin darkening on your face but also the pigmentation of your lips
Smoking increases melanin in the skin, which could lead to dark spots, especially on the face

3. Wound Healing

Smoking leads to the narrowing of blood vessels, making it more difficult for your body to circulate blood, and thus hindering its ability to heal itself. Smokers’ skin tends to take longer to heal from even minor cuts and scrapes, potentially leaving scarring as well.

Most physicians recommend that their patients avoid smoking before surgery since it impairs the healing of incision wounds.

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin inflammation disorder characterized by patches of scaly, itchy skin. Light skin tones may be red, pink, or silvery in color when affected, while dark skin tones might present as gray scales with dark brown or violet hues.

Cigarette use has been linked to an increased risk of psoriasis – the more someone smokes, the more likely they are to develop the condition.

Nicotine, which is present in cigarettes, could be responsible for the connection between psoriasis and smoking. It may have an impact on the skin’s inflammation, immune system, and cell growth. This could be beneficial or detrimental to psoriasis.

Smokers’ skin may be more likely to experience palmoplantar pustulosis, an inflammatory condition involving painful blisters on the hands and feet similar to psoriasis that may come back over time.

5. Acne Inversa

Acne inversa (also known as Hidradenitis suppurativa) is a relatively common inflammatory skin condition that usually causes sores to develop in areas where skin rubs against the skin such as the armpits, groin, and under the breasts.

According to one study, cigarette smoking increases the odds of developing Acne Inversa significantly more than other environmental factors.

6. Vasculitis

Vasculitis is a group of autoimmune diseases where blood vessels become narrowed and inflamed, making it harder for the body to deliver blood to the heart and other organs. Studies found that smoking greatly increases your risk of developing Buerger’s disease

Buerger’s disease symptoms may include:

  • Pale, red, or bluish fingers or toes
  • Tissue damage or gangrene (tissue decay)
  • Painful sores on the fingers or toes

In addition, you may feel coldness in your hands or feet and/or experience pain in any of those body parts.

7. Eczema

Smoking increases your chances of getting atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema) and hand eczema, which shows up as dry, itchy patches of inflamed skin that are red on light skin tones and brown on dark skin tones.

Not only do people exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of getting hand eczema, but a study also found that children exposed to secondhand smoke as children had higher instances of developing atopic skin conditions such as eczema during their teenage years.

8. Palmar Telangiectasia (Spider Veins)

Vein damage from smoking cigarettes often makes itself apparent in the form of unattractive varicose veins and spider veins
Smoking damages the blood vessels and prevents them from working properly, which can lead to varicose veins

Telangiectasia, informally known as “spider veins,” occurs when the walls of small blood vessels become significantly widened or dilated. This is most visible close to the surface of the skin, where permanent purple blotches and traces of veins may be seen.

Palmar telangiectasia, which happens on the palms of the hands, can be caused by smoking due to the nicotine in tobacco which reduces blood vessel size. According to research, half of the 30 current smokers and 31.2% of 16 former smokers have palmar telangiectasia.

9. Skin Cancer

Cigarettes contain carcinogenic substances that can cause cancer. If you’re a smoker, you are more likely to get squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Signs of squamous cell carcinoma could include scaly patches, bumps, sores, or wart-like formations on the skin. These lesions may be brown in dark-skinned individuals and red in light-skinned individuals. If you discover these or any other unusual textures on your skin, inform your doctor right away.

Oral squamous cell carcinoma, a type of oral cancer, is most often caused by smoking. Speak to a doctor if you experience any of the following indications of oral cancer:

  • A lump or mass in the neck or throat
  • Numbness of the mouth
  • Loose teeth or pain around the teeth
  • Pain in the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Ear pain
  • White or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble chewing
  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  • Voice changes
Carcinogenic substances found in cigarettes can increase the risk of skin cancer
Smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, compared to non-smokers

10. Mental Health Considerations

Those with skin disorders may feel embarrassed, anxious, and depressed when their symptoms become more noticeable, which can affect their self-esteem.

Your doctor can point you to a mental health specialist who can assist you in dealing with the situation.

Research has indicated that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may bring positive changes to those suffering from skin conditions such as psoriasis. By tackling the emotional side of the condition and learning to look on the bright side, CBT may help improve a person’s quality of life.

How can we reduce the damage of smoking on the skin?

The best way to reduce the damage caused by smoking on the skin is to stop completely. Reversing the effects after smoking can be possible if you are able to cut down or quit smoking, including by doing the following:

  • Eating a diet high in antioxidants is necessary to fight off free radicals. Consume Vitamins A, B, B5, K, C, and folic acids. These can be found in carrots, mackerel, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, citrus fruits, kiwis and mangoes is beneficial.
  • According to certain studies, increasing your intake of tomatoes and fruits (particularly apples) by incorporating them into a healthy diet can help undo the damage that smoking has caused to the lungs.
  • Carrot juice is an excellent option to remove nicotine from the body.
  • Eating berries helps in removing tobacco toxins from the body.
  • The consumption of pomegranate helps improve blood circulation, which in turn stimulates the creation of collagen and elastin.
  • In order to rehydrate and undo the drying effects of nicotine, drinking lots of water is recommended.
  • Consumption of a glass of milk prior to smoking has been found to help smokers quit, as the taste of cigarettes became unpleasant after consuming it.
  • If you’re looking for aesthetic help, pick skincare products containing glycolic acid or alpha-hydroxy acid.

Smokers’ Skin Damage Vs Non-Smokers’ Skin

Smokers had more sagging bags under the upper eyelids, more smile lines, sagging jowls, and upper and lower lip wrinkles than non-smokers
Smoking chronically deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients, making a person look pale, and with uneven coloring
Smokers SkinNon-smokers Skin
More wrinkles around the lipsSlight aging due to the sun
The skin appears youngerThe skin appears older
Facial wrinkles were moreFewer wrinkles in general
More prominent skin saggingMinimal sagging of the skin due to age
There was uneven skin tone in many areas of the faceUneven skin tone in fewer parts of the face
More age spotsFewer age spots
Deeper wrinkles and lines around the nose and foreheadFiner lines around the nose and forehead
Bags on the lower lids of the eyesLesser damage in the eye area

What are the skin benefits of quitting smoking?

When you quit smoking, blood and nutrient flow to the outer layers of your skin improves almost immediately
When you quit smoking, your body’s collagen production returns to normal levels, so your skin looks healthier

The more you smoke, the greater the damage to your skin. When quitting, the nicotine in tobacco no longer restricts blood flow to the face, allowing vital nutrients to nourish it once more.

By ceasing to breathe in the toxins from smoke, your body will begin producing elastin and collagen again, aiding in making your skin’s texture and appearance look healthier.

As you become healthier, the pale and dry skin should become less visible, and the nicotine stains on your fingers will vanish permanently. Additionally, this improved health has a beneficial effect on your skin.

When can you start to see the effects of smoking on your skin?

Experts disagree on the effect smoking has on the skin. Some say that any amount of smoking causes damage, while others argue that it takes several years and high levels of consumption to make the harm visible. The quantity of cigarettes is also a factor to take into consideration.

Smoking is known to cause wrinkles, sagging, paleness, and dryness of the skin due to its toxic contents. Any harm brought on by smoking is unchangeable but staying away from cigarettes can mitigate any future damage.

Facelift Treatment For Smokers’ Skin

If the damage from smoking persists, a facelift is one of the treatments available. This involves tightening and rebuilding muscles to reduce wrinkles and sagging skin. The results can usually be seen two weeks post-surgery. However, the maintenance afterward requires regular visits to the doctor for further treatments and exercises targeted at skin firming. It’s important to note that undergoing a facelift doesn’t guarantee flawless skin when you resume smoking.

Treatments are tailored specifically to each facelift Cincinnati patient, so be sure to discuss your skin damage with a board-certified facial plastic surgeon when considering this option. It’s important that you give the surgeon an accurate picture of your past and present smoking habits in order to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.

Looking for help

Even though quitting smoking is going to be tough, it’ll all be worth it in the end with the health and mental benefits you gain. Choosing one of the best doctors who perform facelift in Cincinnati should be your first step, call our office at (513) 891-5438 to set up a consultation appointment with the team at Donath Facial Plastic Surgery in Cincinnati, OH. We are ready to improve the look of your skin by using traditional and alternative procedures.