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How Smoking Impacts Your Skin

How Smoking Impacts Your Skin

It’s pretty clear that smoking has a host of negative effects on your health, so it’s no shock to most that these negative impacts would carry over to your skin. Besides the common and quite noticeable yellow staining of fingers and nails, cigarette smoke can also have some nasty effects on skin health on a cellular level. The good news: depending on how long you’ve been smoking, you may be able to reverse the damage done to your skin.

The Negative Effects of Smoking on Skin Health

To understand just how to support skin’s recovery, it’s important to understand how skin has been affected. Each cigarette contains 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known carcinogens. Aside from the obvious risk of cancer as a result of the carcinogens, the toxins and nicotine in cigarettes constrict blood vessels, restrict blood flow, increase the presence of free radicals, and deprive the body of the oxygen, nutrients, and vitamins it needs to heal. All of these factors have the following effects on skin health:

  • Lack of collagen and elastin: Smoking may be worse for your skin than air pollution. Like air pollution, cigarettes increase the levels of free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are unstable molecules that lack a charge and have an unpaired electron, which makes them reactive and volatile. To gain stability, free radicals steal from stable molecules, destroying healthy collagen and elastin molecules in the process. The end result is lax skin, fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and broken blood vessels. (Not sure how collagen contributes to healthy skin? Read this article to find out.)
  • Depletion of antioxidants: While antioxidants like vitamin C and E can help to deactivate harmful free radicals, the delivery of these antioxidants to the skin is slowed down by the decline in blood flow from smoking. In other words, while smoking is increasing the presence of harmful free radicals, it’s also decreasing the levels of helpful antioxidants to the skin to counter the effects of free radicals, resulting in twice the damage to skin cells.
  • Increased risk of scarring: Scars form as a result of skin being unable to properly mend collagen and elastin structures. When deprived of nutrients and proper blood flow due to smoking, skin can’t properly heal in the time it needs to, leading to delayed wound healing and an increased potential for infection and scarring.
  • Increased risk of sun damage: While some experts argue that smoking can cause up to two times the amount of skin damage as sun exposure, a recent study found that smokers were more likely to see more intense sun damage, with men who smoked more often developing spider veins. Age also played a role in how noticeable the aging effects were of sun exposure and tobacco smoke. If nothing else, it’s just another reason you should be wearing sunscreen all year round.
  • Acne breakouts (“smoker’s face”): Smoking can increase non-inflammatory acne breakouts, particularly in women who smoke. Nicotine effects skin by stimulating the cell receptors responsible for collagen production (keratinocytes) and wound healing (fibroblasts). Upon contact with nicotine, the receptors go into overdrive, creating more collagen that tightens pores and causes buildup of excess sebum inside, resulting in increased whiteheads and blackheads. However, because smoking constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow, inflammation-causing chemicals aren’t able to affect the skin, leading to further build-up, impaired healing, further breakouts, and scarring. Like smoking, nicotine patches were also found to be a cause of adult acne breakouts.

If you’re wondering about the effects of secondhand smoke on skin health, consider that the other end of the cigarette has no filter. Those exposed to secondhand smoke may be inhaling even more toxins than those inhaling through the filter, while the skin continues to absorb nicotine and toxins in the air that destroy healthy collagen and elastin levels.

How to Restore Skin Health for a Smoker

So we know that smoking damages the skin, but unlike sun damage that only affects areas of the skin that have been exposed to UV light, smoking affects skin all over the body, from your head down to your toes. Loose, wrinkled skin may develop on the hands, chest, abdomen, and anywhere else, but the good news is that there are ways to reverse the damage. 

Quitting smoking is the first step toward improved skin health. Topicals and treatments won’t have any effect at all on unhealthy skin cells that can’t even support their own healing processes. After quitting, you’ll notice that skin gradually restores itself via skin cell renewal for a brighter, clearer complexion and healthier-looking skin. However, your skin is going to need a helping hand to recoup lost collagen and elastin, smoothen out wrinkles, and restore skin elasticity.

Radio frequency-based anti-aging wrinkle reduction and skin tightening treatments can offer the boost your skin needs to support improved collagen and elastin production levels. Utilizing advanced radio frequency (RF) technology, these treatments, targeting wrinkles on the face or loose skin on the body, deliver energy deep below the skin’s surface to stimulate the natural production of collagen and elastic fibers, the two fundamental building blocks to firmer, smoother, healthier-looking skin. Treatment sessions are quick and RF energy is known to be safe for all skin tones. It’s the ideal complementary treatment to a quality anti-aging skin care routine to rejuvenate skin that has been damaged by smoking.

Ready to get started on your RF wrinkle reduction or skin tightening treatment plan? Locate a certified treatment provider near you using the search field below.

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