Smoking is generally not good for your health, you already knew that, right? Additionally, amongst all other addictions, smoking seems to be the most difficult for people to quit. What makes it worse is that the harmful effects of smoking go way beyond than what is generally known. Just for context: tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 harmful chemicals and is made up of particles and gases which are known to adversely affect your skin and health.
Smoking adversely affects the health of your skin and this is one of the first places where the signs of ageing start to show. Here are some of the more harmful effects of smoking on the skin - and how to reverse them.
- 01. Premature Ageing
- 02. Acne inversa
- 03. Uneven skin tone
- 04. Damaged skin barrier
- 05. Skin cancer
- 06. Psoriasis
- 07. Sagging skin
- Here’s what happens after you smoke your last cigarette...
- How to reverse the harmful effects of smoking on your skin
- Did you know?
- FAQs about the harmful effects of smoking
01. Premature Ageing
Nicotine is diuretic in nature and dehydrates your body from within. It also lowers your body’s capacity to absorb vitamins A and C, leading to signs of premature ageing developing on your skin. When you smoke, the constant crinkling of the eyes and pouting of the mouth can cause the skin to lose elasticity. All of these repeated acts show up as fine lines on your forehead, visible crow’s feet around the eyes and wrinkles around the mouth.
02. Acne inversa
Besides damaging your skin with respect to the usual breakouts, smoking has been associated with an issue known as acne inversa. Caused by clogging of the hair follicles, they are seen as pus-filled boils or abscesses, acne inversa can be a painful condition that lasts for a long time. They also tend to pop up in different regions of the body and tend to leave deep scar tissue behind when they heal.
03. Uneven skin tone
One of the major side effects of smoking is the reduced blood circulation capacity of your body. This leads to a lack of blood flow to your skin’s epidermis, leading to uneven skin tone with pale and yellow patches. The lack of blood can also lead to spider veins visible as blue capillaries on the surface of your skin.
Uneven skin tone is responsible for making your skin appear dull, especially if you've been a smoker for a long time. From blackened lips to pathy skin near the mouth, a smoker's skin is easy to spot and pointed out from the rest. It also causes uneven skin tone in the fingers and yellow nails from holding the cigarette's butt.
04. Damaged skin barrier
A smoker’s skin is almost always unable to handle external aggressors because of the damaged skin barrier. The damaged skin barrier has a far lowered capacity to fight sun damage, pollution or even humidity in the rain.
It is also difficult for a smoker's skin to heal from wounds easily - due to constricted blood vessels from the chemicals in cigarettes. This also applies to skin regeneration and scar healing from acne, rashes or infections.
05. Skin cancer
Smoking is associated with a number of cancers in the human body. Most evidently, oral cancer and squamous cell carcinoma - a form of skin cancer - have been few of the major harmful effects of smoking.
Other types of cancers caused by smoking are lung, oesophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum. Smokin as also known to cause acute myeloid leukaemia, which is a very serious type of cancer.
Psoriasis is a form of hereditary autoimmune skin disease, which manifests as dry, red and raised patches of skin covered with white scales. They most commonly occur on the elbows, knees, scalp, palms, soles, nails, buttocks and back regions. If you already suffer from this issue and are a smoker, chances are your condition may get worse. Nicotine is a known trigger of psoriasis and can hinder the growth of new skin cells.
07. Sagging skin
The toxins present in cigarettes directly affect the collagen and elastin production in your skin. This results in loss of elasticity in the skin, leaving it sagging and dull. Droopy skin can seriously affect the appearance of your skin. Sagging can also occur in your upper arms and breast area as well.
It is pretty evident that smoking is bad for you. But, there are ways of reversing the harmful effects smoking has on your body. Quitting smoking is one of the first steps you can take towards improving your damaged skin.
Here’s what happens after you smoke your last cigarette...
- 20 minutes: Heart rate starts to drop to normal levels
- 8-12 hours: Carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop and oxygen levels start to rise
- 48 hours: Nerve ending damage from smoking starts to reverse, improving smell and taste
- 2 weeks-3 months: Better circulation, lower blood pressure and improved lung function
- 9 months: Rise in energy levels, reduced shortness of breath and reduced coughing
- 1 year: Risk of heart disease is significantly lowered
- 5 years: Risk of a stroke is significantly reduced
- 10 years: Risk of lung cancer drops to that of someone who’s never smoked before
- 15 years: Risk of heart disease is the same as someone who’s never smoked before
How to reverse the harmful effects of smoking on your skin
After you stop smoking, there are a number of ways you can gradually reverse the harmful effects smoking has had on your skin:
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants to reverse the damage free radicals have had on your skin. Food like carrots, mackerel, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, citrus fruits, kiwis, mangoes - sources of vitamins A, B, B5, K, C and folic acid - are recommended.
- Drinking carrot juice is known to flush out toxins from your lungs and fruits like tomatoes and apples can help reverse the damage caused to your lungs by smoking.
- Increase your water intake to fix the dehydrating effects nicotine has had on your system. Hydrating your system will also prepare it to take on the challenge of quitting this nasty habit.
- Invest in skincare products with glycolic acid in them. A rich dose of AHAs in your nighttime routine can also help repair your skin while you sleep.
- Some smokers use the trick of drinking a glass of milk before smoking as it ruins the palate of their mouth. This makes them associate the foul taste of milk+nicotine to smoking and thus, helps in quitting.
Did you know?
Passive smoking, or second-hand smoke, is equally harmful, especially for non-smokers. Tobacco smoke tends to hang mid-air instead of dispersing, making it even more harmful if inhaled indoors. Second-hand smoke can have adverse effects on your skin, health... even causing lung cancer. Pregnant women and children are especially affected by second-hand smoke, given their reduced state to metabolize the harmful effects of smoking.
FAQs about the harmful effects of smoking
1) Is even one cigarette a day bad for you?
A. Unless you are in the middle of quitting, smoking even one cigarette a day can be as bad as smoking five. According to studies, even one cigarette a day carries about half the risk of heart disease you might get from smoking a pack of twenty.
2) What can I replace smoking with?
A. There are many ways to distract your attention when you feel like reaching for a cigarette. Drink a glass of water, chew on nicotine gums, suck on some sour candy, or grab an ice cream! You can also floss or brush your teeth to keep your hands busy.
3) How to quit smoking fast?
A. Some of the most effective ways of quitting smoking have proven to be exercising, meditating and eating healthy. Keeping your hands busy to replace the action of taking the cigarette drags also subconsciously stops you from reaching for one.