Whereas smoking was once advertised as a pastime of the clued-up and debonair and holding a cigarette thought to make you look cool and sophisticated, now “cancer sticks” are smoked in huddles in soulless designated areas and roundly denigrated as horribly unhealthy, socially reprehensible and, well, just a bit bloody daft.
There a many ways to spot smokers—they have a cigarette in their hand (yes way!), they are doubled-over wheeze-coughing at the bar, or their skin looks older than what it should do.
In this article we’re looking at the latter. Because not only does smoking batter the vital organs you can’t see, it takes great joy in clouting your exterior aesthetic too. So how exactly does smoking affect that beautiful waterproof bag we all live in known as ‘skin’?
1 Premature Ageing of Facial Skin
In most cases, a smoker’s face looks markedly different to a non-smoker’s face. You won’t notice it so much in younger smokers or new smokers, but as time wears on the signs will begin to show—and a lot of the consequences are not reversible. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 toxins that damage production of collagen and elastin, causinge oxidative stress in your body and resulting in insufficient oxygen being supplied to the skin, tissue ischaemia and blood vessel occlusion. What does that mean for your face? Your skin will look paler, more grey, more discoloured, less vibrant, more uneven, saggier and generally just worse. Also, consistently pursing your lips to take a much-needed ‘drag’ and squinting your eyes to avoid up-close smokey discharge are two more ways your face takes a battering from your cigs: increased vertical lines around someone’s mouth are commonly referred to as ‘smoker’s lines’ and the heat and smoke from a dragged fag can intensify the creation of ‘crow’s feet’ around the eyes.
2 Premature Wrinkling
Aside from age, smoking is the foremost predictor of facial wrinkling in men and women: or in other words, smoking ages skin. Nicotine causes narrowing of the blood vessels in your skin’s outermost layers, impairing blood flow and depriving your skin of oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A. This all contributes to premature wrinkles on your face—and is also strongly associated with increased wrinkling and skin damage on other parts of your body, like your inner arm.
It’s not a good word in health contexts is it, ‘sagging’? And that’s especially true when it comes to skin. The long and short of it is that smoking makes your skin sag more: on your face, but most noticeably on your breasts and upper arms. “Look at that saggy smoker,” is not a phrase any of us want to hear any time soon.
A lot of people ask the question: “Does smoking give you spots?” And the answer is no, not the acne-driven kind anyway. However, it is believed to double a person’s risk of developing psoriasis: a condition that produces itchy, red, scaly skin patches most commonly found on the elbows, scalp, hands, back or feet. And it also exacerbates the production of age spots (aka liver spots), which are very similar in aesthetic to the sun spots people get when they over-expose themselves to UV rays. Neither condition are particularly easy on the eye or in demand.
5 Stained Fingers and Fingernails
There’s something uniquely grim about tobacco-stained fingers and yellow-brown fingernails. Good news is this side effect usually only happens to chronic smokers and does start to subside when you quit.
Ah yes, quitting. We’re not here to preach to anyone, but it feels important to finish this article by telling you what happens to your skin when you quit smoking? In short: it breathes a sigh of relief.
Almost immediately your blood flow improves and delivers more nutrients to the ares that need them most to help repair some of the damage you’ve caused yourself. No longer being held back by cigarette toxins, collagen and elastin production will also improve. Both of which mean that your skin will inevitably glow that little bit more and look more vibrant and snoggable.
Hell, it might even get to the point where you begin to moisturise it. One step at a time though eh…