Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Benefits, B & A, Damage Reversal

  • Smoking has a negative impact on your skin’s health and appearance
  • Nonsmokers have brighter, smoother skin that’s less prone to disease
  • Within 1 year of quitting, you can reverse much of the skin damage caused by smoking

Smoking is detrimental to every organ in your body, including your skin. The hundreds of harmful chemicals and toxins contained in cigarettes affect your skin in multiple ways, decreasing skin health and negatively affecting your appearance. However, any photo of a smokers’ face before and after quitting demonstrates that skin can visibly heal itself.

Effects of Smoking on Your Skin

Many smoking-related skin concerns are related to premature aging, which cause you to look older than your age.

Fine lines and wrinkles

Toxins in cigarette smoke reduce your skin’s production of collagen and elastin, two proteins that give skin its elasticity and firmness. Skin with less collagen is prone to wrinkling and generally ages the appearance. 

Less collagen causes wrinkles around the eyes (crow’s feet), nose and mouth. It also causes sagging skin below the eyes, around the jawline and on the chest and upper arms.

Blood vessel damage

Tobacco smoke contains free radicals, or oxidants, that limit the amount of oxygen your skin receives, and causes oxidative stress. To combat this stress, your skin relies on antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. 

When you smoke, high quantities of free radicals in your blood reduce the body’s stores of these important antioxidants. Over time, this imbalance will damage blood vessels and decrease your skin’s overall health.

One recent study found that nonsmokers have 4.3 times more vitamin C and almost 7 times more vitamin E than smokers.

Skin pigmentation

Smoking affects melanin production in the skin, causing dark spots to form on your face. This uneven pigmentation can cause your skin to appear dull, sallow and gray. You’re also at an increased risk of diseases such as psoriasis, which can cause redness.

Smoking also stains your skin; if you’re a heavy smoker, you may notice yellow-brown stains on your index and middle finger. One 2013 study found that smokers with stained fingers were more likely to have symptomatic arterial disease.

Other Effects of Smoking on the Skin

Long-term cigarette use weakens your skin’s ability to heal, exacerbates pre-existing skin conditions and can lead to more severe consequences. 

Poor wound healing

Smoking causes vascular constriction, which decreases blood flow in your skin. Any type of wound is slower to heal and has an increased risk of healing poorly or leaving a scar. 

For this reason, people undergoing surgery are asked to stop smoking before their procedure and abstain from cigarettes during the healing process.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition in which your skin develops dry, scaly, itchy patches that are red or brown in color. Smokers are more likely to develop psoriasis than nonsmokers. 

The higher incidence of this disease in smokers is partially caused by smoking’s thinning effect on the stratum corneum. 

The stratum corneum is the barrier that protects your skin from environmental pollutants and helps it retain moisture. A thinner stratum corneum results in dry, easily irritated skin that’s at increased risk for certain diseases, including psoriasis.

Additionally, the nicotine in cigarettes weakens your immune system, increasing your chances of developing other inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea.

Vasculitis

Blood vessel constriction caused by smoking can cause a type of vasculitis called thromboangiitis obliterans or Buerger’s disease. This disease occurs most commonly in young male tobacco users. 

With Buerger’s disease, blood vessels in your arms and legs become inflamed and swell, limiting blood circulation and increasing the likelihood of clotting. This lack of blood flow can cause cold sensations, pain, sores, tissue damage or gangrene in fingers and toes; in severe cases, amputation may be necessary.

Skin cancer

Although smoking is usually associated with lung cancer and various oral cancers, it also elevates your risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC), a common type of skin cancer. It’s usually treatable, but if allowed to spread, cSCC can invade other organs and become fatal.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

When you stop smoking, your skin and all your other organs start to recover immediately. Within a few weeks of having your last cigarette, you’ll start to enjoy the skin health benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle. 

Brighter, smoother skin

Without nicotine in your system, blood circulation will increase; your skin will be more oxygenated and have lower levels of carbon monoxide. All these changes increase your skin’s overall health, making it appear brighter and smoother.

One Japanese study found that within 4–12 weeks of smoking cessation, participants’ skin was significantly brighter and less red.

Slower aging process

Smoking accelerates the aging process. While quitting smoking doesn’t necessarily reverse lines and wrinkles caused by tobacco use, it prevents the damage from continuing at that rapid pace. 

A few weeks after smoking cessation, your body will be producing normal levels of collagen and elastin, gradually building firmer, healthier skin. 

Healthy pigmentation

Due to higher oxygen levels and improved blood flow, the unflattering complexion associated with smoking will begin to improve. Your skin’s production of melanin will stabilize, restoring healthy color to your face. 

Prevents further damage

When you stop smoking, your body is no longer subject to the harmful effects of skin-damaging chemicals. The sooner you have your last cigarette, the faster you can restore your skin’s healthy appearance. 

Other Benefits

The benefits of smoking cessation extend far beyond the skin. By quitting smoking you can:

  • Decrease your risk of lung, oral and other cancers
  • Lower your risk of gum disease and prevent existing disease from progressing
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Improve lung function
  • Significantly reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Skin Recovery Timeline 

  • Two to three days after quitting your skin tone and color will visibly improve
  • One week after oxygen levels will make your skin look healthier and brighter
  • One month after blood circulation will significantly improve and the skin will repair itself more quickly
  • Six months after shallow fine lines and hyperpigmentation will diminish
  • One year after your skin will be about as healthy as a nonsmoker’s, although some damage may be permanent

Takeaway

In addition to harming the internal organs, smoking damages your skin. Smokers typically have skin with premature lines and wrinkles, poor blood flow, a sallow complexion and lower production of collagen and elastin. They’re also more likely to experience inflammatory skin conditions and slow wound healing.

Many of these concerns are reversible if you quit smoking. About one year after quitting smoking, your skin will be similar to a nonsmoker’s, although some lines and wrinkles may remain.

Sources

  • Sandby-Møller J, Poulsen T, Wulf HC. Epidermal thickness at different body sites: relationship to age, gender, pigmentation, blood content, skin type and smoking habits. Acta Derm Venereol. 2003;83(6):410-3. doi:10.1080/00015550310015419
  • Karademirci M, Kutlu R, Kilinc I. Relationship between smoking and total antioxidant status, total oxidant status, oxidative stress index, vit C, vit E. Clin Respir J. 2018 Jun;12(6):2006-2012. doi:10.1111/crj.12757
  • John G, Pasche S, Rothen N, Charmoy A, Delhumeau-Cartier C, Genné D. Tobacco-stained fingers: a clue for smoking-related disease or harmful alcohol use? A case-control study. BMJ Open. 2013;3(11):e003304. Published 2013 Nov 7. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003304
  • McDaniel JC, Browning KK. Smoking, chronic wound healing, and implications for evidence-based practice. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2014 Sep-Oct;41(5):415-23; quiz E1-2. doi:10.1097/WON.0000000000000057
  • Sahle FF, Gebre-Mariam T, Dobner B, Wohlrab J, Neubert RH. Skin diseases associated with the depletion of stratum corneum lipids and stratum corneum lipid substitution therapy. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2015;28(1):42-55. doi:10.1159/000360009
  • Naldi L. Psoriasis and smoking: links and risks. Psoriasis (Auckl). 2016 May 27;6:65-71. doi:10.2147/PTT.S85189
  • Sandby-Møller J, Poulsen T, Wulf HC. Epidermal thickness at different body sites: relationship to age, gender, pigmentation, blood content, skin type and smoking habits. Acta Derm Venereol. 2003;83(6):410-3. doi:10.1080/00015550310015419
  • Dargon PT, Landry GJ. Buerger’s disease. Ann Vasc Surg. 2012 Aug;26(6):871-80. doi:10.1016/j.avsg.2011.11.005
  • Leonardi-Bee J, Ellison T, Bath-Hextall F. Smoking and the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Dermatol. 2012 Aug;148(8):939-46. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2012.1374
  • Ishiwata T, Seyama K, Hirao T, Shimada K, Morio Y, Miura K, Kume A, Takagi H, Takahashi K. Improvement in skin color achieved by smoking cessation. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Apr;35(2):191-5. doi:10.1111/ics.12025

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