Friday, January 23, 2015

Smoking & Skin

I’m a daily smoker. Honestly, I’m not going to stop smoking, but I am concerned about what it is doing to my skin. Is there anything I can do to get rid of the redness in my skin?

You don’t need me to tell you that smoking isn’t good for you. There are no two ways around it: smoking cigarettes causes numerous physical problems. I do appreciate this woman’s honesty, although I hope she is concerned about what smoking is doing to her entire body—not just her skin.

When it comes to smoking, there are definitely effects to the skin, long- and short-term. Smoking causes a constriction or closing of the vascular system, including the already weak capillaries that carry blood to and from your face. What you are doing by smoking is, in essence, suffocating your cells by causing less oxygen and vital nutrients to be transported throughout your body. Less oxygen to the cells means less nourishment and a decreased ability to get rid of toxins. This can show up as gray-looking skin—skin that is lacking oxygen.

Smoking affects collagen, and if you’ve ever seen a heavy smoker’s skin up close, they tend to have a lot of fine lines and wrinkles. Smoking causes a loss of healthy collagen, which creates wrinkles through collagen breakdown. Add to this the constant pursing that occurs around the lips as the mouth hugs the cigarette, and you have a recipe for increased wrinkling; it happens partly from the cigarettes themselves and partly due to the constant motion smoking causes with the facial muscles.

As if this wasn’t enough, nicotine is a neurostimulant, which can cause problems with getting sound sleep, yet another potential consequence from smoking. Not getting adequate rest brings with it a whole host of problems, not the least of which is that the body doesn’t have enough quality time to recuperate and regenerate. This can age you whether you smoke or not.

The tar that accumulates in your lungs inhibits their natural ability to self-clean. Do you get sick frequently? Perhaps smoking is to blame. Not only does smoking deplete your immune system, inhibiting its ability to fend off foreign invaders, it also causes excess mucus to form, narrowing the air passageway and leaving you susceptible to infections like bronchitis, colds, and the flu.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of coronary artery disease, lung cancer, and emphysema. Even if you don’t smoke but you live with a smoker, you are not immune to the effects of his or her cigarette smoke. You are still breathing in the toxic chemicals that are being thrown off by the burning tobacco and paper. Although you are not drawing the same amounts of tar and nicotine into your lungs, make no mistake about it—you are exposing your body to the harmful effects of smoking. This of course is known as secondhand smoke.

As far as the emailer’s concern with redness, depending on the severity of her condition and the doctor she goes to (what lasers they have available), getting the broken capillaries lasered may help her skin look less red. Obviously, as long as the cause (smoking) is ongoing, so too will be the aftereffects (redness, among other things).

If you are going to do things that are known to be harmful (or less than healthy) to the body, at least get familiar with the side effects, whether from alcohol, medications (prescription and OTC), or cigarettes. No matter your habit, be smart and know how it is affecting your body. Then take measures to try to make up for the imbalance by trying to balance things out nutritionally and supplementally.

Of course, the best course of treatment would be to remove the offending habit, and in this case it is smoking. Luckily, there are many different programs available today to kick the habit and enable you to enjoy better health—and skin.

For more skin care no-nos, see: