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Another Reason to Kick the Habit (General Skin Care)
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Another Reason to Kick the Habit

Richard Thomas, MD, FRCPC

Aging is influenced by two factors: Intrinsic aging and extrinsic aging. Intrinsic factors are natural processes of the body that are related to the natural changes within the body. Extrinsic aging refers to environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight, excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to other contaminants such as air pollution. Some studies have pointed out that diet can also influence skin aging. Low fat diets centered on vegetables and legumes tend to reduce sunspots while high fat, meat based diets tend to produce more. In particular, smoking is found to be one of the most significant environmental factors in accelerating aging.

In addition to the well known dangers of smoking such as increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer, it also damages your skin and hair. Smoking greatly increases wrinkling, especially for women, and can produce patches of pale or yellow skin. Smoking also encourages premature aging in a variety of other ways, such as thinning hair in men, gray hair, and puffiness of the skin. It can also make your complexion orange or red. Finally, smoking poses other health risks, such as increased likelihood of developing squamous cell cancer, and slowing of wound healing capabilities.

How does smoking accelerate aging?

Smoking affects many areas of the body in complex ways, and has many negative effects on the human body. First, as nicotine is a diuretic, it causes dehydration, and drying of the surface of the skin. Smoking reduces vitamin A levels in the skin, and causes collagen and elastin to degrade and fragment. In addition, the degraded collagen is not replaced as smoking reduces the blood supply to the skin, which is necessary to produce collagen. As such, healing of damaged skin is also slowed down. Smoking also speeds up the development of wrinkles. Nicotine also has toxic effects on healing tissues, and suppresses the immune system, increasing the skin’s susceptibility to viral infections that affect the skin. For these reasons, cosmetic surgeries are often best for individuals who do not smoke, as the body’s ability to heal is impaired or slowed down by smoking, greatly increasing the risk of complications.

The negative effect of smoking on the skin is amplified with prolonged exposure. Those that have smoked for more than 15 years are at increased risk and this is especially the case for people who smoke more than half a pack a day. The negative effects of smoking are universal, but some are more prone to its effects than others. Women’s skins are often more easily affected by smoking than men, and the effects tend to be more pronounced on those with a fair skin tone. 

Smoking is never a good idea if you consider the various health implications. If you add the negative effects that it has on your skin, hair, and general appearance, there is no time like the present to kick the habit.


aging skin,   skincare,   smoking,