Out of the other vices of this week’s theme (caffeine and alcohol), smoking may be the topic of which the effects on the skin are most commonly known about. There are other reasons to quit smoking other than the effects on your skin and I’m sure you are aware of most of them due to the HSE and their campaigns (hard to watch but definitely effective). However, in this post, I’ll be discussing the effects that smoking has on the skin. I know that nicotine is a drug, we have possibly all had a try. It’s an addiction and I’m not attempting to lecture but remind of the skin implications as posed to health.
Why is smoking one of the skin sins?
- Smoking causes something called oxidative stress. This is what happens when the body cannot counteract free radicals with antioxidants, leaving the skin open to damage from the environment (ie. smog, fumes, weather). Oxidative stress also means that the blood flow to the skin is narrower, which, in the long term, leads to the formation of wrinkles.
- As skin is not receiving enough oxygen, it will become dull and grey. Good circulation is essential for a fresh, colourful complexion and smoking puts a stop to that possibility.
- I can feel the once-a-week smokers getting smug now, saying to themselves “this won’t happen to me, I only have the odd one”. Unfortunately, even one cigarette can constrict blood flow for up to half an hour!
- Tobacco also prompts an enzyme called metallo-proteinase MMP-1 which breaks down collagen. Your skin’s natural resource of collagen is absolutely essential as it is maintains your skin’s plumpness and prevents fine lines from forming. So not only does smoking cause lines and wrinkles through oxidative stress, but it stops your skin from fighting against them too. Smoking is like a skintruder that breaks in and throws out anything you could use as a weapon before it attacks.
- The thousands of chemicals in the traditional cigarette are incredibly harmful to the skin and can destroy both the collagen and the elastin in the skin. Elastin is what gives your skin elasticity and keeps it from becoming lax and crepey.
- Tobacco-free alternatives are not without their skin sinfulness either. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, slows down the skin’s healing processes and fast forwards the skin’s ageing.
Is all hope lost for your skin if you’ve been a smoker?
Some damage done to the skin through smoking is irreversible but the skin will begin to repair itself from the moment you quit. When the skin’s blood flow is no longer restricted, your skin will receive oxygen and nutrients once again.
I understand that quitting is a difficult and drawn out process and is a great source of stress for many. However, there is no way to undo the damage that smoking causes while you’re still smoking – there is no array of products or treatments that can battle every single one of the aforementioned issues at once.