The second leading cause of skin damage and premature aging is cigarette smoking. Smoking robs the skin of its vitality and potential for being youthful and attractive. People who smoke tend to have a depleted, pallid appearance .
The American Medical Association refers to this condition as “cigarette face,” characterized by deep lines around the corners of the mouth, vertical lines in the upper lip, and deep lines around the eyes.
The skin has a grayish cast and “tired” appearance attributed to the poor oxygen supply This lack of oxygen leads to dehydration and dryness, causing premature wrinkling. A smoker’s skin at forty years of age is similar to a non-smoker’s skin at sixty years or more.
In addition, smoker’s skin does not heal well or rejuvenate quickly. In fact, it is not uncommon for plastic surgeons to refuse to perform cosmetic surgery on people who smoke because of the likelihood of slowly unsuccessful healing.
Approximately 4,000 chemical compounds are produced when tobacco burns. Among those considered harmful when smoke is inhaled or comes in contact with the skin are acetone, ammonia, arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, and nicotine.
With cigarette smoking, carbon monoxide and nicotine impede the circulatory system, depriving the skin of much needed oxygen and vital nutrients. There are other unfavorable aesthetic consequences to smoking. Women who smoke at least one pack of cigarettes a day have a fifty percent greater chance of developing increased facial hair. This was discovered by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin and is considered related to the effects of smoking on the ovaries and/or hormonal metabolism.
In addition, smokers (male and female) are more likely to develop gum disease than non smokers. In a recent study it was found that smokers had fewer teeth with more and deeper periodontal pockets than non smokers. Smoking is also linked to bone loss, which contributes to the loss of teeth.
Although these cosmetic reasons for not smoking may appeal to vanity smoking’s ultimate curse is to overall health. Linked to a variety of health problems, smoking is the largest single cause of preventable death. It kills more than 300,000 people a year in the United States.
Lung diseases such as cancer, emphysema, and bronchitis can be caused by smoking. One pack of cigarettes a day in a year’s time, deposits one cup of chemical laden tar into the lungs where it attaches to the lining. This tar cripples the lungs’ natural cleansing ability. In addition, when cigarette smoke is inhaled, the air passageways become irritated and produce excess mucus which provides a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
Smoking is also considered to be a leading cause of coronary artery disease. It damages the lining of the arteries and encourages plaque formation. Nicotine makes the heart beat faster and require more oxygen, while carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen the blood can carry.
This impairs the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to blood disease, ulcers, and a decline in immune function. Smoking’s debilitating effect on the body worsens almost every health condition or disease.
The best advice: If you don’t smoke, don’t start, if you do smoke, quit!