There are multiple health risks associated with smoking, and the addictive habit can also cause skin damage.
Smoking speeds the aging process and causes premature wrinkles. Studies have shown smokers develop wrinkles much sooner than their non-smoking peers. From crow’s feet – the lines the form at the outer corner of the eyes – to the telltale smokers lines surrounding the mouth, wrinkles in smokers form at an accelerated pace.
Several factors contribute to the rapid aging process associated with smoking, including the following:
- Smoking causes the tiny capillaries in the skin to narrow, resulting in a decreased flow of blood and oxygen to the skin
- Habitual smoking leads to a breakdown of collagen and elastin causing skin to weaken, sag and lose elasticity
- Smoking depletes the body and skin of important vitamins and nutrients
In addition to accelerated aging, smoking damages the skin in other ways, too. The reduced blood flow and poor oxygenation caused by smoking can delay wound healing and increase the risk of wound infection. Smoking also dramatically raises the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma – a non-melanoma type of skin cancer – and contributes to the severity of chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
Quitting doesn’t reverse all the skin damage that comes from smoking, but your complexion does benefit from the improved blood and oxygen flow to skin. Quitting also slows the aging process.
Once you kick the habit, your dermatologist can suggest ways to reduce the skin effects caused by smoking. Retinoid creams and antioxidant products work to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. If skin damage is severe, other cosmetic skin treatments including laser resurfacing or chemical peels may be recommended.
Smoking is a tough habit to break, but quitting comes with big health benefits. Talk to a healthcare professional about ways to quit. If you currently smoke, see your dermatologist for an annual skin examination or for evaluation of any new skin lesions.