5 Ways Smoking Can Impact Your Skin

Smoking causes harm to your heart and your lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. But there’s more. Turns out, smoking impacts your skin as well.

“Smoking causes constriction of blood flow to your skin, depriving your skin of the necessary oxygen and nutrients, and also leads to harmful free radicals and pollutants that cause further damage to your skin, said Dr. Michael Kassardjian, a dermatologist in California.

What’s more, tobacco smoke reduces immune responses and induces metalloproteinase (MMP-1), an enzyme that specifically degrades collagen. “This leads to damage of skin fibers of collagen and elastin that causes the loss of integrity and elasticity of the skin,” Kassardjian said.

Read on to find out how smoking affects your skin!

Smoking can cause premature aging because of the breakdown of collagen

Smoking accelerates the aging process, said Dr. Papri Sarkar, a Massachusetts-based dermatologist. “Cigarette smoke causes the formation of oxidative stress or free radicals,” she said. “These processes cause less collagen to be made and more of it to be broken down.”

Sarkar added that smoking also makes your skin more sensitive to UV light, decreases blood flow, and decreases elastin. Decreases in collagen and elastin cause your skin to look looser since they help skin keep its structure and bounciness.

Cigarette smoking can lead to wrinkles and fine lines

“The nicotine from smoke leads to constriction of blood vessels and therefore leads to a deficiency of oxygen and nutrients to the skin,” Kassardjian said. “This causes the appearance of visible fine lines and wrinkles to develop more quickly.”

Kassardjian added that smokers are especially susceptible to developing wrinkles around their mouths, which are aptly called “smokers lines.” “Smokers tend to use the muscles around their mouths when they pucker to inhale,” he said. “This repetitive motion can lead to a quicker development of fine lines and wrinkles in this area.”

Smoking compromises blood flow, causing scarring and hyperpigmentation

If you’re a smoker, it’s difficult to get clear smooth skin, Kassardjian said. “Since blood is not flowing properly due to vascular constriction, the skin is more susceptible to broken capillaries and veins – leading to discoloration, hyperpigmentation, and scarring,” he said.

Exposure to heat while smoking darkens your lips

Sucking in and puffing out consistently can also change the color of your lips, Kassardjian said. “Constant exposure to heat from smoking can lead to darkening and pigmentation of the lips, which also can become dry and coarse,” he said.

Skin grafts, wounds, and flaps take longer to heal

Normally, skin is good at healing. But Kassardjian said smoking changes things.

“The deficiency of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients cause skin to take much longer to recover or heal following trauma, surgery, or other medical procedures,” he said. “Smoking can delay healing in general. Ulcers can persist longer, and the risk of wound infection and scarring increases significantly.”

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