Some of us have had periods in our life where we are “casual smokers” aka I’m going out tonight and with that martini I might have a cigarette. Unfortunately for some of us smoking is a full time thing. Not only does smoking increase your risk of cancer, cause complications during pregnancy and make you more likely for stroke or heart attack it also wreaks havoc on your skin.  Also smelling like an ash tray is not one of the most attractive attributes.

Every time you puff on a cigarette you’re causing irreversible damage to your skin. Smoking causes wrinkles by narrowing blood vessels in the outer layers of skin. The narrowing of the vessels lessens blood flow and reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients your skin depends on. Smoking also damages important connective fibers like COLLAGEN and ELASTIN, causing permanent wrinkles. Also the constant act of pursing your lips around the end of cigarette is a great way to enhance the “smoker line” wrinkles seen above the upper lip. Filler anyone?


How long do I have to quit before it affects me?

Damage done to your skin happens relatively quickly. With your skin having less oxygen to your blood and affecting circulation premature aging in inevitable. Premature signs of aging can be seen under a microscope by a smoker as young as 20 years of age. Smoking also releases free radicals back into your skin which excels the aging process. Cigarette smoking also depletes many nutrients, including vitamin C, which helps protect and repair skin damage. So to answer the question when will smoking really affect my skin? Immediately.


Does it make me more susceptible to skin issues?

Psoriasis is a skin disease that can show up even if you never smoke, but if you smoke it increases your risks of dry scaly skin by 20% if you smoke for ten plus years. By nicotine depriving your skin of blood flow your wounds will take longer to heal and you’ll have scars that are bigger and redder than you would if you didn’t smoke. The smoke cigarettes expel contains carbon monoxide, which displaces the oxygen in your skin, and nicotine, which reduces blood flow, leaving skin dry and discolored. Studies have also shown that people who smoke are more susceptible for stretch marks since the skins natural elastin’s have been damaged by smoking. Also according to a 2001 study, smokers are three times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer, than nonsmokers.


Is there a way to get my skin back to a healthy glow?

There are four easy steps to help get your skin on track for that pre smoke glow you fondly remember!


  1. Quit right now!       The sooner you quit smoking the sooner your skin can get back to that beautiful glow. There are many smoking cessation options on the market these days such as nicotine patches or prescriptions. You can also search out self-help groups that can guide you along your journey to quitting.


  1. Amp up your healthy foods!        Load up on foods that are high in vitamins A and C. Foods high in vitamin A and C include carrots, green veggies and oranges. The vitamins will help your skin fight off the free radicals that the cigarette smoke was making worse! Also drinking eight glasses of water each day will help rehydrate the damage you’ve done to your largest organ. Also keep away from alcohol while your skin is in repair mode.


  1. Establish a Good Skin Care regime           After quitting something that is so harmful to your skin you’ll want to show your skin some TLC. Make sure your using products that are right for your skin type and targeted towards what your trying to accomplish. Dermatological grade products are the safest bet. Find a good cleanser and toner and also something to lightly exfoliate. A facial is always a great start to a new skin care regime as well.


  1. Make an Appointment with your Dermatologist         Once you commit to taking the steps to a healthier you by quitting smoking you should pop by your local dermatologist just to make sure the bad habit hasn’t taken more of a toll than you think. Once also at your Doc’s office ask for ideas to possibly rejuvenate your skin with products, procedures and possibly fillers that can bring back your youthful smile!
author avatar
Dr. Timothy Jochen Medical Director, Contour Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Center
Dr. Jochen specializes in Mohs Surgery for skin cancer removal, facial rejuvenation including cosmetic laser technology, Botox® and facial fillers, soft tissue augmentation, leg and facial vein treatment, tumescent liposuction and hair restoration/transplants.

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