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Smoking And Skin - Poor Results

Aug 13, 2008
If you started smoking as a teen or young adult thinking it would make you look older, you are more right than you think - but not in the way you had hoped. Does anyone want to look ten years older - after they're an adult? Not likely.

Smoking hurts the skin, and it is hard to hid the effects. In fact, the effects of smoking on the skin are so distinctive that sometimes it is possible to identify a smoker just from looking at her, because she likely has a "smoker's face" - a specific set of characteristics that tend to be on the face of a smoker who has smoked for about ten years or longer.

The face tends to be a dull, grey color, and the wrinkles are more prominent than they should be for the person's age. Smoking ages the skin and has more negative effects than anything other than sun damage.

Why Smoking Hurts And Ages Skin

Smokers tend to get "smoker's face", a condition that was identified in 1965. The skin has a grey tint to it, and it is pale and has more wrinkles. That is because smoking causes the blood vessels near the surface of the skin to narrow. So the skin is getting less blood flow, and consequently less oxygen and important nutrients. Smoking also damages the fibers that help the skin stay elastic and strong - those are the elastin and collagen in the skin. That means the skin starts to sag and wrinkle before it otherwise would. And then there is also the issue of the facial expressions that smokers make - the pursing of the lips to hold the cigarette and the squinting of the eyes to avoid the cigarette smoke - adds up to even more wrinkling. All in all, the skin of a smoker loses its glow and healthy appearance.

Another problem with skin and smoking is the damage from the depletion of vitamins A and C. Smoking restricts the body from utilizing these vitamins as they should. Vitamin A is involved in repairing skin, and Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps the body absorb iron. Consequently, many smokers become anemic. Also the body tends to become dehydrated from smoking, and the skin becomes dry, with flaking or cracked lips. Because of the damage that smoking does to skin, and the thinner skin with diminished oxygen supply, most plastic surgeons do elective plastic surgery on smokers.

Smoking and skin cancer also have a link. Smoking more than triples the risk of developing skin cancers - primarily squamous cell carcinoma - because of the thinner skin from smoking.

Another major skin issue for smokers is that of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that is not life-threatening or contagious. The person with psoriasis has red raised patches (sometimes scaly) that are itchy and often embarrassing. It is a condition that those who have it wish they could get rid of it once and for all. Smoking hurts the skin and makes it much more prone to having psoriasis than non-smokers. Depending on the amount that the smoker smokes, and the number of "pack-years", and whether or not they are still smoking, the increase in risk ranges from 20% more likely to get psoriasis to 72% more likely. One study shows that those who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes per day are twice as likely (than those who smoked 10 cigarettes or less a day) of having severe psoriasis.
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