Smoking and Skin Health
It is clear that smoking leads to lung and other types of cancer and contributes to one’s risk of suffering a heart attack. In the United States alone it causes more than 1 in 5 deaths each year. This is greater than the combined number of deaths caused by illegal drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and firearm incidents. Along with the dangerous effects of smoking, there is a negative impact on the skin as well.
Reduced Strength and Elasticity of Skin
We often think of skin damage occurring on the faces of smokers, but it occurs throughout the body. The chemicals in tobacco smoke cause collagen and elastin to be destroyed. Since these are responsible for keeping skin strong and elastic, this destruction leads to a deepening of wrinkles and the overall sagging of skin. The inner arms and breasts are an area where this is particularly evident. Damage on the face does tend to be more visible, however, with the skin under the eyes being most susceptible. This area of the face is made up of highly delicate tissue that can bag and become wrinkled from repeated exposure to smoke.
Encouragement of Expressions that Lead to Wrinkles
The actual act of smoking contributes to wrinkles. Burning cigarettes create a great deal of heat that can negatively impact the texture and smoothness of skin, eliminating its natural glow. Additionally, the expressions that are involved in the act can cause new lines or deepen existing ones. As they inhale, smokers purse their lips, and many get premature wrinkles in this area. They also tend to squint to avoid getting smoke in their eyes, which can cause crow’s feet that become quite deep over time.
Reduced Oxygen and Nutrients to Skin Cells
Due to the nicotine in tobacco, smokers experience a narrowing of their blood vessels, which results in decreased blood flow to the skin. The reduction in oxygen and other nutrients that are able to reach skin cells leads to premature skin aging. Signs of poor skin tone from smoking can include a pale or grayish appearance or uneven coloring.
Staining Effect on Fingers and Fingernails
When it comes to the color of skin, smoking also has a staining effect. The yellowed teeth that are commonly associated with smokers aren’t the only area this is evident. Once they have been smoking for several months to years, people also develop yellow stains on their fingernails and the skin surrounding the nail bed on their fingers. The tar and nicotine in cigarettes is responsible for the combination of physical staining and oxygen deprivation that leads to this yellow staining.
While the major health effects of smoking include increased risk of stroke, heart disease, respiratory ailments, bone health, eye conditions, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others, there also is a negative impact on the health and appearance of the skin. The combination of internal damage to cells and blood vessels, increased inflammation throughout the body, and external damage to the skin is a major factor in premature aging.