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Stick to Your Resolutions and Quit Smoking For Healthier Skin

When I first decided to write this blog, I wasn’t if it would interest my readers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I don’t think this is an important subject; it absolutely is! I was concerned smokers would dismiss it as another lecture and non-smokers would skip it because it doesn’t affect them.

But smoking, second-hand smoking, and of course the toxins and free radicals released in the atmosphere from tobacco smoke affect us ALL. And all men and women who consult with me daily, whether or not they smoke, are definitely interested in ways to help their skin age better. Specifically outlining smoking’s effect on skin seemed worthwhile to me, after all. So here goes!

First, let’s revisit some of the most common known impacts of smoking on our general health; the ones that are NOT specifically related to skin, that is. Smoking:

  • Increases the risks oral cancer, pharynx, larynx, lung, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, liver, colorectal, cervical, uterine and bladder cancers;
  • Causes chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema;
  • Increases one’s risk of angina, heart attacks, and strokes;
  • Makes your bones more brittle and increases your risk of fractures;
  • Negatively impacts fertility in both men and women;
  • Is the leading cause of erectile dysfunction;
  • Increases the incidence of miscarriages, premature labor, and small newborns;
  • Increases the incidence of ear and lung infections in children of smokers;
  • Diminishes one’s athletic ability and endurance;
  • Stains one’s teeth and is associated with an increased incidence of gum disease and bad breath;
  • Yellows fingers and nails;
  • Thinning hair in both men and women; and
  • Is associated with a higher incidence of cataracts.

There are other health impacts of course, but these are the ones that come to mind quickly from my years as a family physician. Part of the reason why smoking affects so many organ systems is that the toxins and chemicals inhaled from tobacco are absorbed into the bloodstream and subsequently filtered through all organs

Skin is no exception to this. In fact, facial skin ranks high on the list of the most immediate targets to the ravages of smoking. This is because facial skin is not only exposed to all of the absorbed toxins into the bloodstream but also because it is repeatedly in direct physical contact with the 4,000 toxic chemicals released from tobacco smoke in the environment, every single time a smoker exhales.

As a result, we observe the following skin changes in smokers:

  • The appearance of ‘’smokers’ lines’’ around the mouth. Repetitive pursing movement of one’s lips around cigarettes eventually creates permanent wrinkles around the upper and lower lips.
  • The worsening of crow’s feet wrinkles. Although not exclusive to smokers, smokers tend to develop crow’s feet earlier and deeper ones than non-smokers. This may be related to the direct exposure to free radicals released from the tobacco smoke as well as from years of repetitive squinting from trying to protect the eyes from the smoke itself.
  • The weakening of the structural elements of the skin. The thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the collagen and elastin resulting in decreased skin elasticity. This leads to saggy skin, loose jawlines, baggy eyelids, loss of cheek volume, and overall increased number and deeper wrinkles in smokers than their non- smoking peers of similar age.
  • Dullness, greyish hue, and general uneven skin tone. Smokers skin tends to be dryer and depleted of its natural hyaluronic acid content.
  • Increased susceptibility to the appearance of brown age spots.
  • Increased susceptibility to the development of broken facial capillaries.
  • Impaired skin healing capability. Carbon monoxide inhaled from smoking displaces oxygen, nicotine reduces blood flow, toxins absorbed in the bloodstream depletes the body of many nutrients such as vitamin C, all of which are necessary to help repair skin trauma.
  • And most critically, a threefold increase in the risk of developing skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).

Are there solutions? Of course! We can help protect, nourish and repair the skin with the following:

  • Topical creams containing antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid to protect.
  • Sunscreen remains essential as the effects of the sun are compounded to the ones of tobacco smoke in smokers. I recommend the Superscreen Total Defense and Repair from SkinMedica.
  • Potent topical serums such as the TNS Essentials Serum (SkinMedica) and products rich in Hyaluronic Acid such as H.A. Intensifier (SkinCeuticals) to nourish and help with skin dryness and the skin elasticity.
  • Retinoids (0.25, 0.5, 1%) to repair.
  • In-office procedures such as Chemical Peels and Fraxel Dual Laser can help repair by removing the most damaged outer layers of the skin and stimulating the production of new cells.
  • Thermage CPT to tighten sagging skin.
  • Botox to soften lines and wrinkles
  • Dermal Fillers to re-volumize where volume is lost and fill in deeper wrinkles and folds.

By far the best solution will always remain to stop smoking, though! If you currently smoke, I am hoping that this knowledge might give you that extra kick needed to add “STOP SMOKING” to your 2018 New Years Resolution!

~Dr. C. Tosoni

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