It’s well-known that smoking causes destruction to the body’s internal systems, but you may not have considered what it’s doing to your external structures, such as your skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and is the first line of defense against bacteria and foreign invaders. It also plays a large role in our body aesthetics, with drooping skin and wrinkles occurring as we age.
Smoking can speed up this aging process, causing you to look older than you are. Here, we’ll cover five ways your smoking habit is affecting your skin. You might be surprised to learn just how damaging this habit can be!
Collagen and elastin are two proteins that help give skin its unique elasticity. Normal skin is firm yet elastic, allowing for minimal stretching while retaining its shape and elasticity. This amazing quality is what makes the skin such a unique organ, but it’s also something that can be damaged by excessive smoking.
A single cigarette is home to about 7,000-ish chemicals. Many of these are toxic to skin cells and proteins, especially collagen and elastin. Once you’ve been smoking for a number of years, these break down, causing the skin to sag and droop, especially around the eyes and mouth. You’ve probably noticed the “bags” under a smoker’s eyes. This is from destruction of collagen and elastin.
Skin drooping can make you look years older than you actually are. The cigarette’s chemicals are wreaking havoc on your skin cells from the outside and on your body’s internal structures and systems simultaneously.
Have you ever noticed the tell-tale wrinkles around a smoker’s mouth? This is usually a sign of a heavy smoker, as smokers develop these wrinkles by contracting specific muscles when they take a drag on a cigarette. This can cause deep wrinkles to develop around the lips and mouth that non-smokers probably won’t have.
The loss of elasticity and firmness are what cause this aesthetic problem. You can develop these lines at just about any age if you’re a heavy smoker, which can give you the appearance of a much older person. If you’re 25, you could look like you’re in your early 40s with enough skin sag from smoking. It’s a safe bet that no one wants to look 15 years older than they actually are.
Some smokers have chosen to move away from cigarettes to keep their looks intact. Luckily, there are products available that still deliver a nicotine punch without smoking. Companies like Black Buffalo create tobacco-free alternatives that can help you ditch the habit and preserve your skin.
If you’re a heavy smoker, you probably noticed that the tips of your fingers are a dingy yellowish-brown color. The tar from cigarettes can stain your skin permanently given enough time; not to mention the thousands of other chemicals your fingers will come in contact with each time you take a drag.
Smoking deprives the skin of precious oxygen and other nutrients, which can cause discoloration or uneven coloring. You might notice a certain paleness in smokers or patches of darker or lighter coloring on their skin (or on yours).
This discoloration can give you sickly appearance, and in fact, your body is sick if you’re a smoker. Your systems are struggling to filter the thousands of chemicals you’re throwing at them on a daily basis, and your immune system is also compromised.
Frequent skin contact with the chemicals found in cigarettes can increase your risk of developing skin cancer (not to mention the other cancers inside the body that you’re at risk for). Chemicals such as formaldehyde in cigarettes are toxic to humans and can cause abnormal cell growth.
Skin cancer is usually treatable, but it certainly has the potential to be life-threatening. Why would you want to risk cancer at all? Aside from the obvious health risks, cancer can be a financially devastating condition, even if you have insurance coverage. It’s also incredibly unpleasant and treatments can be painful.
Your skin’s ability to heal minor abrasions or bruises can be compromised when you’re a heavy smoker. Since smoking constricts the blood vessels, wounds won’t be getting an adequate blood supply rich with white and red blood cells; which can also mean wounds are at a higher risk for infection. Doctors recommend that you quit smoking before any major procedures, as a compromised immune system can lengthen the healing process and put you at risk for further complications.
Smoking is one of the most destructive habits you can adopt, and it wreaks havoc on the body both inside and out. Protect your skin, immune system, and internal functions by giving up the habit once and for all. With thousands of on and offline resources available at your disposal, you can find the help you need to finally quit smoking.