Smoking has long been linked to various health problems, from lung cancer to heart disease. But many people don’t realize that smoking can also prematurely age your skin, causing fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging to develop faster. Here’s an in-depth look at how smoking affects your skin and accelerates the aging process.
How Cigarette Smoke Damages Skin
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which are known carcinogens and toxins. When you inhale cigarette smoke, these chemicals enter your bloodstream and cause oxidative stress and inflammation throughout your body, including your skin.
Specifically, chemicals like nicotine narrow blood vessels in the outer layers of your skin. This restricts blood flow and depletes the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients. Smoke also damages collagen and elastin which are important proteins that keep skin firm and elastic. The deprivation of nutrients combined with lower levels of collagen and elastin cause the skin to become dry, saggy and prone to fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition, many of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are free radicals that break down healthy skin cells. Free radical damage contributes to accelerated aging of the skin. The chemicals also inhibit your body’s natural production of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin cell turnover.
How Smoking Causes Facial Wrinkles
When you smoke, the repetitive puckering and pursing of your lips to inhale and exhale from cigarettes leads to fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth. Squinting to keep smoke out of your eyes can also lead to crow’s feet and lines around the eyes. Even facial expressions made while smoking can contribute to wrinkles over time.
The toxins in cigarette smoke attack collagen and elastin fibers throughout the body, including in the skin on your face. As these fibers break down more quickly, skin loses its firmness and elasticity, leading to sagging skin and pronounced wrinkles and creases. The blood vessel constricting effects of smoking also deprive your facial skin of nutrients and oxygen, accelerating wrinkling.
Studies on Smoking and Skin Aging
Multiple scientific studies have confirmed the link between smoking and premature skin aging:
- A 2002 study in SKINmed Journal revealed that smokers in their 40s often have as many facial wrinkles and fine lines as nonsmokers in their 60s.
- Research shows smokers in their 60s have skin aging comparable to nonsmokers over age 80.
For both men and women, smoking has been scientifically proven to accelerate facial wrinkling and aging.
Other Effects of Smoking on Skin
In addition to fine lines and sagging skin, smoking can damage your appearance in other ways:
- Pale, dull skin tone from depletion of oxygen and nutrients.
- Puffy eyes and dark circles due to dilation of blood vessels and fluid retention.
- Yellow teeth, fingernails and skin from nicotine staining.
- Thin lips from the puckering and pursing while smoking.
- Sallow skin tone and uneven complexion from reduced blood flow.
- Delayed wound healing after surgeries or injuries.
Protect Your Skin by Quitting Smoking
The single best thing you can do for your skin health and to avoid premature aging is to quit smoking. Just one year after you quit, your risk of heart disease and stroke drops sharply. Within 2 to 5 years, your risk of cancers related to smoking decreases. For your skin, quitting smoking can help restore blood flow and allow nutrients, vitamins and oxygen to return to healthy levels. Some beneficial effects include:
- Smoother, more supple skin within just a few months
- Improved skin hydration and tone
- Reduced facial wrinkles over time
- Decreased free radical damage
- A more even complexion and skin color
While quitting can’t fully repair damage already done, it can help your skin start rejuvenating itself from the inside out. Avoiding secondhand smoke is also important to limit skin cell damage.
Additionally, incorporating skincare products with antioxidants like vitamin C can help reverse some effects of smoking. Using broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily protects against further sun damage. Non-invasive treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion and retinol creams can also improve the texture and help diminish wrinkles.
The Bottom Line
It’s clear that smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products promotes facial wrinkling and premature aging of the skin by harming its structure and function. This results from the toxins that damage skin cell DNA, deplete nutrients, restrict blood flow and generate free radicals. By quitting smoking, you can help slow the aging process and achieve noticeable improvements in the health and appearance of your skin. And if you’re worried about your wrinkles, book a Tox treatment with us today!