Cigarette smoke contains more than 400 toxins and other harmful substances including nicotine and carbon monoxide. Due to these harmful substances smoking seriously affects internal organs. It is associated with many health-related issues, most well known of which are lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some of the lesser-known bad effects of smoking on skin and health are equally damaging. For instance, smoking reduces fertility in both males and females; in pregnant women, it can damage the fetus, retard its growth, cause miscarriage, and premature delivery.
Some of the bad effects of smoking on skin are given below:
Aging and wrinkles:
Smoking contributes to premature aging, wrinkles, and affects the person’s appearance. Several studies have reported that cigarette smoking ages the skin of an individual more than exposure to sunlight. The nicotine contents of cigarettes are considered diuretic that lessens moisture content significantly in the dermis and leads to dry skin.
Nicotine contents in the smoking do not allow the body to utilize vitamins, especially Vitamins A and C, leading to the dry, wrinkled appearance of the skin. Smoking narrows blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to the skin that results in damage to the skin’s collagen and elastin fibers and thinning of the skin. Due to a reduced supply of oxygen to the skin, it looks dull and lusterless and leads to the development of premature lines and wrinkles.
Thinned out skin slowly begins to sag. A smoker’s skin is up to 25% thinner than a non-smoker skin and that leads to premature wrinkles formation. A smoker as on average looks five years older than a non-smoking person of his/her age.
Slow wound healing:
Nicotine also reduces Vitamin A content in the skin and affects the regeneration and healing power of the skin. Vitamin A is beneficial nutrients that can help to heal damaged connective tissues. Wounds and cuts of smokers take a longer time to heal than a non-smoker due to deficiency of Vitamin A and contraction of blood vessels. Constricted blood vessels transport less blood through the body, and therefore reduce the supply of nutrients needed to regenerate the connective tissues. This is evident in patients who have undergone surgery. A smoker who undergoes facelift surgery more likely to experience unsatisfactory wound healing. Reduced supply of oxygen to the skin due to toxic components of smoking also affects the regeneration of damaged cells.
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Changes to physical appearance:
Constant use of cigarette cause darkening of the lips and dry and patchy appearance of the lips. Nails of smokers become of darker shade and fingers take a yellowish look due to nicotine. Chronic smokers also tend to have dark circles and puffiness of the eyes. In addition to wrinkles, smoking increases the risk of boniness and facial discoloration. Dryness in the skin reduces flexibility and becomes unattractive to well-moisturized skin. It may give a red, flaky, or scaly appearance.
Smoking and skin diseases:
Smoking increases the risk of skin cancer. A Dutch study found that cigarette and pipe smokers were twice as likely as non-smokers to develop skin cancer when other risk factors (e.g. age and sun exposure) were taken into account. Studies have shown that smokers have a higher risk of formation of silvery, plaque-like scales on the arms and legs (particularly at the elbows and knees) a scaly skin condition also called psoriasis.
Smoking is associated with a greater risk of severity of certain viral infections, including genital warts. If you are suffering from the genital wart and continue smoking, you have a greater chance of developing wart-virus associated cancers.
Smoking narrows blood vessels due to exposure to nicotine present in the cigarette may develop blood clots. Blood clotting in the arteries supplying the fingers and toes may go into spasm, causing temporary cessation of blood flow. Sometimes it may cause autoimmune disorder resulting in widespread scarring and vascular disease.