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How smoking affects your skin

This month it’s Stoptober – the traditional time of year when smokers are encouraged to quit.

Unless you’ve been in a cave for the last 30 years, you’ll be well aware of the damage that smoking can do to your health! But do you know what smoking does to your skin?

For example, did you know that smoking is the second strongest predictor of facial wrinkling? What’s the first? Time…and there’s not a lot you can do about that!

Read on to find out how smoking affects your skin and why it’s never too late to slap on a nicotine patch and give up the ciggies!

The science bit

Just under your skin (in the epidermis) runs a network of tiny blood vessels which feed your skin with oxygen and nutrients, as well as carrying away any cellular waste.

The nicotine in cigarettes causes these blood vessels to narrow, so they become less efficient. This means that you’re starving your skin of the oxygen and nutrients it needs, particularly vitamin A.

And it doesn’t stop there. The chemicals in cigarette smoke (and you’re inhaling thousands of different ones with each puff) reduce the levels of collagen in your skin and damage the elastin fibres, which makes your skin less plump and less able to ‘bounce back’ into shape.

If that’s not scary enough, then a study by the University of Nottingham has found that smokers have a 52% increase in their risk of developing squamous cell cancer – a form of skin cancer.

On top of the direct damage done by the nasties in cigarettes, you’ll also find that repeatedly pursing your lips when you draw on a cigarette and squinting your eyes to avoid the smoke will gradually cause permanent wrinkles to form.

And quantity matters – the more you smoke the more damage you do.

What this means for your skin

The upshot of all this is that smoking will speed up the natural aging process, so you’ll look older sooner.

One report, by Action on Smoking and Health, suggests that if you’re a smoker in your 40s then you’ll have the wrinkles of a non-smoker in their 60s – yikes!

Specifically it can cause age-related wrinkles to be deeper, your underlying bone structure to become more prominent (giving you a sunken look) and your skin to thin.

Your complexion will also appear uneven, sallow and dehydrated, and you’ll have an increased risk of pigmentation issues.

And it’s not just your face that bears the brunt of the damage. The premature wrinkling will also occur on other parts of your body such as your arms.

You’re also at an increased risk of skin conditions such as psoriasis (scaly patches on the skin) because smoking has a detrimental impact on your immune system.

And beyond your skin you’ll also have to deal with yellowing teeth, gum disease, thinning hair, greying prematurely, and discoloured fingers and nails.

Have we convinced you?!

Quitting smoking

The sooner you quit smoking the sooner you stop damaging your skin.

There is a wealth of advice and support out there to help you stop smoking. Here are a few tips from the NHS:

  • Planning is essential. Make yourself a promise to stop, set a date and stick to it. Decide what you’re going to do when you get that craving and make a list of five minute strategies to fill the time (perhaps a quick exfoliation or paint your nails?). If you have a clear plan for quitting then you’re more likely to succeed.
  • Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks all make cigarettes taste better, so stick to water and juice instead. We particularly like this tip as it means lots of lovely extra hydration for your skin!
  • Exercise. Yes, we know that this seems to be the answer to everything (well, that and drinking more water, see above!) but just a five minute walk can help to cut the cravings.
  • Have something to hold instead of your cigarette to keep your hands busy. Vaping is an obvious answer, but a bracelet or even an elastic band around your wrist can give you something to fiddle with when your fingers get twitchy.
  • Make a list of reasons to quit (perhaps print out this article?) and pin it up somewhere you’ll see it often to give you motivation in difficult moments.
  • Don’t do it alone – see if you have a friend or family member who also wants to quit, so you can share the ups and downs together.

You can find plenty more helpful advice like this from the NHS SmokeFree website.

There may also be a local stop smoking service near you which can provide support as you quit – and you’re up to four times more likely to be successful if you use their help.

While we’re not experts in helping you stop smoking, we can certainly help to undo some of that damage…

How to deal with the damage done

Sagging/sunken skin

The damage to collagen and elastin from smoking can cause your skin to lose its youthful plumpness and start to sag. The CACI non-surgical facelift can help to tighten and lift your skin by boosting blood circulation and stimulating collagen production.

To deal with sunken skin which is making your bone structure too prominent, targeted injections of our Juvéderm Voluma volumising filler will help you achieve softer and fuller cheeks, jaw and chin.

Our Venus Freeze treatment uses magnetic pulses and radio frequency to induce collagen production to contour and tighten your skin. It doesn’t just work on the face, it can be used anywhere on the body, for example for those wrinkly batwings!

Expression wrinkles

Pursing your lips around your cigarette and squinting when the smoke gets in your eyes can cause permanent wrinkles to form where you make these expressions. The fine lines caused above your top lip are even known as ‘smoker’s lines’ because they’re so intrinsically linked with this bad habit.

Botox is an effective treatment for these, as it relaxes the muscles used to make these expressions, gently smoothing out your skin. For very deep lines botox can be used in conjunction with dermal fillers to plump out the skin.

Dull/sallow complexion

The overall effect of smoking can dull your skin as a result of the reduced blood flow under the surface. Once you’ve quit smoking you can bring your skin back to life with our brightening treatments which include Profhilo, skin boosters, traditional mesotherapy and fractional mesotherapy.

Skin pigmentation

Smoking can also increase your risk of having problematic pigmentation. Depending on the nature of your hyperpigmentation our laser rejuvenation treatment, Venus Viva or chemical peels will be best to reduce the pigmentation and give your complexion an overall refresh.

Quitting smoking this month? Let’s plan your skin’s recovery!

If you’re quitting smoking this month then come and see us for a free consultation so we can review any skin damage caused by smoking and plan a schedule of treatments to help your skin recover as soon as possible.

Call us on 0330 024 1300 or complete our booking form for a free consultation with one of our experts.